Ranking the 7 Best Corners in Formula One

Scott MitchellContributor IAugust 20, 2013

Ranking the 7 Best Corners in Formula One

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    You cannot replicate quality, you can only try to imitate it.

    And so, we bring you a list of Formula One’s oldest, greatest corners.

    You won’t find any Hermann Tilke circuits on here.

    It’s not an intentional shun of F1’s favourite modern designer, merely an indication of how fabulous the sport’s traditional tracks are and the challenges they offer.

    Of course, there are those who miss out. Tabac and Ste Devote, not to mention the Loews Hairpin, are Monaco highlights, while cases could be made for Turn 8 at Catalunya (a ridiculously fast and blind 220km/h right-hander, with the apex right on the crest), the Lesmo turns at Monza and the final chicane in Montreal.

7. The Swimming Pool, Monaco

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    Gear: 4/5

    Speed: 215km/h

    Of all Monaco’s wonderful features, impressive backdrops and challenging facets, the Swimming Pool section is one of the most well-known.

    There’s a reason for that. It looks fantastic on the screen, and even more remarkable in person. But there’s another facet to the Swimming Pool which makes it an awesome corner.

    Like the rest of Monaco, Armco barriers are in close attendance. Make a mistake, and you pay the ultimate price. None of that fancy run-off like at Ste Devote or the chicane, this is the real deal.

    So when you see a driver thread their car through the corner, on the limit, it’s sheer poetry in motion. A fifth-gear entry can turn into fourth gear just to maximise the rev range through the corner, but speeds will remain around 220km/h if you get it right.

    The brilliant thing about Monaco, above all else, is that its unparalleled on the F1 calendar in terms of being able to see F1 cars up close.

    For those of us not fortunate enough to be trackside, the super slo-mo, high-definition shots of a Formula One car at full tilt, squirming on the exit of the Swimming Pool millimetres from crashing is a close second, I suppose.

6. Senna S, Interlagos

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    Gear: 3

    Speed: 110 km/h

    There are few, if any, better first corners in F1.

    So it’s appropriate that this corner takes its name from the sport’s greatest driver and begins one of the most underrated mega laps on the calendar.

    The slight crest on entry, the change in camber through, the lack of grip due to a (quite frankly) below-par surface and low usage…that alone makes it a tough, thrilling corner for drivers to attack at 100 percent with their cars.

    Throw in the usual caveat of it being crucial to A) a good lap and B) your run down to Turn 3, a chief overtaking spot, and you’ve got a legendary corner, my friend.

    Cars will top more than 300km/h at the end of the start-finish straight, and then drivers need to try to find the stability and grip to heave it down into the third gear, shedding 200km/h in a matter of metres.

    A quick blast through will have them up to 170km/h as they flick into the second part of the Esses. That takes bravery and skill. That so much is required just to make a passing move stick is just another feather in the cap of the Senna Esses.

5. Parabolica, Monza

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    Gear: 4

    Speed: 210km/h

    Monza’s known for its high-speed nature, historic banking and incredible braking zones for the chicanes.

    But I bet if you asked 100 people to name a corner at Monza, 99 of them (at least!) would say Parabolica.

    The sweeping left-right and flick left onto the penultimate straight before the long, long, long run down past the pits mean the cars are at full tilt as they arrive at the Parabolica.

    Full tilt here means 330km/h, which means the drivers drop three gears to fourth for the apex, still doing in excess of 200km/h...

    As if that's not enough, with such a long straight (and thus integral part of the lap) following, the pressure is really on. That’s why you see either so many mistakes, or so many conservative runs through the Parabolica.

    It’s so unforgiving that often, people will forfeit a couple of 10ths just to make it through securely, and those that do attack can get caught out oh so easily.

    But, see it hooked up, and it’s a beautiful thing. F1 at its best.

4. Pouhon, Spa

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    Gear: 5

    Speed: 290km/h

    Eau Rouge gets all the credit. Spa is a monumental track, the greatest on the calendar. Even La Source deserves a place on this list. Look at all the others too. But it’s always Eau Rouge.

    However, an equally crucial component to a fast lap round Spa-Franchoramps is Pouhon.

    It’s a high-speed entry that dips downhill and requires total commitment as the driver flings the car in left and powers past the scenic Ardennes Forest.

    An insulting amount of run-off has reduced the importance of nailing this quality corner, but Pouhon itself remains an epic, traditional F1 challenge.

3. 130R, Suzuka

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    Gear: 7

    Speed: 310km/h

    The run down to the greatest corner at Suzuka is long, and it slopes down and then up again.

    Drivers build to up to a fantastic speed in excess of 315km/h before needing complete faith in their car for the left-hander that is 130R.

    The seventh-gear entry needs total commitment; get it right and you'll still be doing 300km/h on the exit. Now that's ballsy.

    Improvements in handling and downforce have made this corner less imposing, because the added grip and stability makes it less challenging to throw the car in and make it stick.

    But any corner that requires that sort of bravery to not get out of the throttle deserves a special respect.

2. Becketts, Silverstone

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    Gear: 7 on entry, 5 at turn

    Speed: 210km/h (at turn)

    Silverstone’s greatest featureand no, by that I do not mean the Wing...OK, Maggots applies here too..

    The track layout may have changed over the year, but the Maggots/Becketts complex remains one of the greatest places in the world to view a Formula One car at full capacity.

    Not only are the cars entirely on the limit, thus making for fantastic viewing and a huge challenge, the fact this part of the track is so make-or-break for the lap gives it an added allure.

    It's a seventh-gear entry at just shy of 300km/h, but that'll reduce to fourth gear and 180km/h by the time you reach the turn's climax and shoot out onto the Hangar Straight. 

    Nail these sweeping turns and you’ll ace a key part of the lap, plus get a superb run onto the longest straight on the track.

    Get it wrong and you’ll probably still look spectacular, but your lap will be compromised. It's a mighty challenge.

1. Eau Rouge, Spa

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    Gear: 6

    Speed: 300km/h

    F1’s most famous corner? Almost certainly. But does it remain the most challenging?

    There are arguments each way. Of course, the same aerodynamic advances that have reduced the overall difficulty of corners like 130R are still applicable. You could, therefore, suggest that Eau Rouge has been tempered by F1’s technological development.

    But so what?

    That doesn’t reduce the thrill of the corner, the spectacle or the sheer bravery required to reach the foot of the hill (significantly steeper in reality than it ever looks on the television) and keep your right foot planted all the way to the top.

    Ask yourself: How many corners remain in F1 where you’d imagine your heart would need to be forcibly removed from your mouth, so powerful a thrill you think it would be?

    That Mark Webber pass on Fernando Alonso a few years ago is testimony to the bravery and skill Eau Rouge requires. It might be an obvious choice, but there’s a reason for that. It’s a remarkable corner.