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5 lost treasures of F1

Over the years, many of our favourite turns and/or tracks have disappeared. Outlining those tracks is not an easy task, and many will have their own opinion, but we have to try.
Friday, June 8, 2012

Born in Adelaide during its 11 year long era of hosting Formula One, Jacob Polychronis has admired the sport his whole life. Along with his brother Gabriel, they share their educated opinion via articles and their podcast, F1 News & Views Podcast.

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June 2012 (F1plus / Jacob Polychronis).- Over the years, many of our favourite turns or tracks have disappeared. Much of this is a result of the growing requirement for extra safety in the sport which is understandable. Some fantastic F1 tracks however, have been the victim of financial dealings, or Hermann Tilke redevelopment. Here is my top 5:

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5. Silvertsone Circuit – Bridge layout

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Prior to renovations completed in 2010, Silverstone played host to a superb sequence of turns from Abbey to Brooklands, the latter being where the new layout rejoins. From Abbey (current turn 1), cars formerly entered a smooth left-right chicane and headed downhill towards a full-throttle, spine-tingling right hander known as Bridge. Priory succeeded which forced drivers to pull their cars over to the right immediately before negotiating the sweeping left-hander. Finally, ending the old sequence was a far more conventional Brooklands which is now a niggly left hander which gradually tightens.

The crowd just at the exit of Silverstone's Bridge.

As Silverstone looked to host MotoGP, the famous bridge section was scrubbed from the layout. Ironically, the bridge itself was seen to be the problem as its proximity to the track was deemed too dangerous for the two-wheelers.

Nowadays, cars enter what is known as the ‘Arena’ section of the track which includes two monotonous, low-speed hairpins. While the British Racing Driver’s Club tried to leave the high-speed essence of Silverstone intact, it simply isn’t the same without the astounding flowing sequence of turns which was the bridge layout. Silverstone states that “the old Bridge section of the circuit has been decommissioned and this has been sanctioned by the BRDC.” This can truly be seen as a loss to motorsport.

4. Hockenheimring – Ostkurve

The Ostkurve at the Hockenheimring was located at the furthest point away from the pit-straight, deep within the forest. Originally, the circuit was almost 8 kilometres in length with two extensive straights which the long Ostkurve served to connect. Two chicanes were added to improve safety following the death of Jim Clark in 1968, and a third added to the Ostkurve in 1982 after Patrick Depailler’s fatal accident. The concept of nailing it into the forest, rounding the Ostkurve and heading back to the stadium made the Hockenheimring an extremely stripped down, simple and raw experience for drivers.

While the track, lined with Armco and fitted with chicanes, was arguably safe enough for modern F1, many other problems arose. All overtaking moves almost exclusively occurred at the chicanes in the forest which meant poor spectator viewing at the race. Also, security measures within the forest were brought into question after the track was breached on the first main straight by a sacked Mercedes employee.

What is left today of the Ostkurve at Hockenheimring.

The FIA demanded a redevelopment of the Hockenheimring for the 2002 season and hired German engineer, Hermann Tilke, to redesign the track. After its redevelopment, it is widely believed that the Hockenheimring now belongs within Tilke’s growing list of characterless tracks. After the decision to abolish the Ostkurve and its accompanying long straights, the forest section of the track was controversially torn up and replanted with trees. The sight of the Ostkurve today is one that is truly depressing for F1 enthusiasts.

3. Adelaide Street Circuit

The Adelaide Street Circuit featured on the Formula One calendar between 1985 and 1995. During its tenure, it was considered to be the favourite destination on the calendar for drivers to visit, with the laidback party atmosphere as a key factor. Not only was this, but the circuit itself was widely regarded to be the best of its kind in the world.

1985 Australian GP, Keke Rosberg (Williams).

Unlike number 4 and 5 in the countdown, the disappearance of the Adelaide Street Circuit to Formula One was not caused by redevelopment, however, it was the casualty of ruthless wheeling and dealing. The Grand Prix was wrestled from South Australia and awarded to their bitter rivals from Victoria in a big money switch spearheaded by Melbourne Premier of the time, Jeff Kennett.

Although Melbourne’s era of hosting Formula One has been successful, a true regret of Victoria is the fact they have never been able to emulate the success the event enjoyed in Adelaide. While Melbourne still receives some of the best attendances in F1, it has never surmounted the figure of 520,000 over 4 days which was achieved by Adelaide in its final year. This sum was equivalent to half of Adelaide’s entire population at the time. The buzz of the city as V10 engines flew around East Terrace Bend, past the markets and through Stag Corner was immense and is certainly a lost treasure in F1.

As concerns arise over the Melbourne GP’s future though, there are one or two murmurs within the Adelaide community about recapturing the event. The South Australian government has just emptied their pockets to rebuild Adelaide Oval and a new hospital however, so a subsidised night race appears to be the most realistic possibility.

2. Nürburgring Nordschleife

The Nürburgring Nordschleife is widely known as the most demanding purpose-built track in the world. Although Formula One still visits the Nürburgring alternately with Hockenheim, F1 has not used the Nordschleife since 1976 and will never again. During the Nordschleife’s era of F1, it ran at a length of close to 23 km, consisting of 160 turns. The circuit was only ever lapped under 7 minutes once; by Niki Lauda in 1975 who posted a time of 6:58:6. The Nordschleife endured many criticisms from drivers due to its lack of safety. Drivers decided to boycott the 1970 Grand Prix unless changes were made. The track was so dangerous considering it had many sudden bumps, jumps and narrow track.

A section of the old Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Racing resumed at the slightly modified, Armco lined Nordschleife. This revival did not last long though as the FIA’s safety standards increased throughout the 70’s.

The impracticality of the track also came to light during the German Grand Prix of 1976. Lauda was unsatisfied with the track’s safety and proposed to drivers that they boycott the race. His request was denied though and the race went ahead. Ironically, on lap 2, Lauda crashed his Ferrari at a left-hand turn before Bergwerk. Lauda suffered burns yet was saved by fellow drivers. Considering the length of the track, both fire-engine and ambulance response to the crash was incredibly slow. For this reason, the safety of the track was thrown further into doubt, and it just so happened that the 1976 German Grand Prix was to be the last at the Nordschleife.

Although deciding to not race at the Nordschleife is a smart decision, its absence from the sport is still a great misfortune. The Nordschleife offers many unique challenges to drivers. Some of these challenges are not limited to its sheer length, high speed, narrowness and its banked corner; Karrussel. Keeping the Nordschleife from number 1 on the countdown though, is the fact that it would not be appropriate for spectators.

Unlike number 4 and 5 in the countdown, the track can still and will forever be enjoyed by other racing categories such as DTM and GT endurance racing. Also, the tack acts as a tollway for the public who wish to have their own Nordschleife experience. As for Formula One though, sadly it will remain confined to the Nordschleife’s shadow known as the GP-Strecke.

1. Imola

1st on the countdown is the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, better known simply as Imola. Imola played host to 26 San Marino Grands Prix between 1981 and 2006 and 1 Italian Grand Prix in 1980. The track, during its F1 hosting years, was well known for its high-speeds and tremendous flowing nature. After the tragic 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, the track underwent many changes in order to slow cars down and make it safer. This meant the inclusion of a chicane at Tamburello, site of Ayrton Senna’s fatal accident, and one at the Villeneuve Curve where Roland Ratzenberger suffered his.

Some may argue that the chicanes installed at Imola improved the track though in terms of excitement, as they acted more as 3-4th gear, high loaded sweeping turns rather than tedious 80 km/ph tasks. Some corners of the motoring community would still certainly prefer a flat out run from Rivazza through to Tosa though, understandably.

Unfortunately, the facilities at the track were beginning to become increasingly dilapidated and talk began to arise of its removal from the F1 calendar. In 2007, this became a reality as the great track was removed. F1 has not visited Imola since. After its rejection from the FIA, renovations went underway at Imola. The entire pit lane and paddock areas have been rebuilt which has seen the track recently regain its ‘1’ FIA homologation rating. This means that the track is up to standard to yet again host Formula One, something which they hope achieve within the next few years. With many other nations looking to gain a slice of Formula One though, the recapturing of the Grand Prix will be ultra competitive and may go unrewarded. At least in the short-term.

Sadly, for many the track will remain etched in infamy considering the events of 1994. Truth be told however, Imola was one of, if not the finest circuit to ever grace Formula One. Watching on-board footage of Imola from the early 00’s would bring goose bumps to many motor enthusiasts. This is a sensation which will hopefully be fulfilled once again.

The "Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari" also known as Imola from above.

Other notable lost treasures of Formula One:

Monza – High Speed Oval

In between 1922 and 1961, races at Monza featured a 4.25 km Oval which commenced parallel to the main straight, bridged over the back straight and then rejoined the track on the main straight again. Due to excessive speeds, the 10 km layout of the track was discontinued in 1961 after the death of Wolfgang von Trips and 15 spectators. Although this did not occur on the oval, it was deemed unsafe nonetheless. The banking remains to this day and is noticeable as cars pass under it on the back straight. It is used annually for the Monza Rally, despite its poor state.

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps – Original Layout

The original layout of Spa-Francorchamps spanned 14.1 km, yet only contained 21 turns. It was known as one of the fastest tracks in the world where drivers would average over 240 km/ph each lap. Similar to the Nordshleife, Spa became renowned for its high amount of fatal accidents though, culminating in 10 racing deaths during the 60’s. The track was forced to improve its safety measures which resulted in the track being reduced to the 7 km configuration it is today. The old layout, last used in 1970, would have been exhilarating for drivers today, however unlike the tracks in the countdown, it is not largely missed considering the affection for the modern track.

Circuit de Catalunya – Final Turns

Prior to 2007, the final two turns of the Circuit de Catalunya consisted of two flowing, high-speed right-handers. Today though, the flow of the lap is entirely destroyed by the new turns 13-15. This sees cars reduce their speed to a pedestrian 80 km/ph. The new final turns at Circuit de Catalunya was supposedly redesigned to promote overtaking. This attempt has undoubtedly failed though, as overtaking moves remain rare at the track.

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