Ranking the 10 Greatest Tracks No Longer on the F1 Calendar

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2014

Ranking the 10 Greatest Tracks No Longer on the F1 Calendar

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    Modern Formula One is a global super-sport with races on five continents and a safety record which could put any rival to shame.

    But some fans yearn for a return to the days gone by, when the best drivers in the world drove on circuits a million miles away from today's soulless, benign "Tilkedromes."

    Tracks like the Osterreichring, Zandvoort, Watkins Glen and Clermont-Ferrand.

    Even recent years have had some quality circuits.

    From the best of the modern era to the beasts of the 1960s, here are 10 of the greatest circuits the sport has ever seen, but which no longer welcome F1 to their doors.

Honourable Mentions

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    Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

    Some grand old circuits didn't make it onto the list.

    The old Spa-Francorchamps circuit is the highest-profile omission. It isn't included because the existing Spa circuit is so goodunlike the new versions of circuits which are listed.

    The French Rouen circuit was the victim of a desire to limit the number of old-style public road circuits, which could easily have dominated the list, to a more representative two.

    Reims, Montjuic, Pedralbes and Pescara were likewise reluctantly overlooked.

    Also missing is a less grand but still greatly appreciated street circuit. Long Beach is fondly remembered by many but didn't make the cut.

    Kyalami was very close and let down slightly by what it became in later years, and Paul Ricard almost made it too.

    So, here are the final 10.

    Early warning: You might not like No. 10, but don't let it put you off.

10. Istanbul Park

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    It's unfortunate that Hermann Tilke chose to put what is arguably his greatest work to date in a country with little appetite for F1.

    Istanbul Park sits east of the Turkish capital, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Featuring some beautiful elevation changes and a brilliant mixture of corners, the track soon became a favourite with fans and drivers alike.

    Turn 8 in particular drew praise. The downhill, quadruple-apex left-hander was unique on the F1 calendar. Even today, if an F1 fan refers to "Turn 8"a designation shared by hundreds of corners the world overa fellow fan will know exactly which corner he is referring to.

    Sadly, hardly anyone bothered to turn up in person to see the cars driving through it.

    As race fees rose and attendances fell to embarrassingly low levels, the Turkish government would not provide the assistance needed to keep the event going.

    But maybe one day it'll return.

9. Imola

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    Imola will always be remembered as the venue which saw the last two F1 driver deathsthose of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna in 1994.

    But we should also remember it as a beautiful, characterful venue which saw the F1 world painted red for one weekend of the year every season between 1980 and 2006.

    Imola hosted the Italian Grand Prix in 1980, and the powers-that-be liked it so much they gave Italy a second annual race, the San Marino Grand Prix.

    Featuring a wide variety of corners and some magnificent elevation changes in the second half of the lap, Imola was an interesting and challenging addition to the calendar.

    But it didn't last. The final F1 race at Imola was held in 2006.

    The circuit has now been renovated to modern standards and could host a race tomorrow. But with the sport focusing on global expansion, a return is unlikely in the near future.

8. Old Hockenheim

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    The old Hockenheim was a masterpiece of simplicity.

    Cutting through the forest of Baden-Wurttemberg in south-west Germany, the bulk of the circuit which first hosted the German Grand Prix in 1970 was made up of three long straights, punctuated by two chicanes and a single high-speed corner.

    A third chicane, added in 1982, did little to spoil the layout.

    But it wasn't all about speed. The end of the lap featured a slow "stadium" section, which challenged the teams to find a compromise between high speed and high grip.

    It was a great track, but the end came in 2001.

    Safety concerns forced the track owners to slash Hockenheim in two, leaving behind a circuit which is a shadow of its former self.

7. Watkins Glen

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    In the early years of the world championship, the Indy 500 was, absurdly, counted as a points-scoring round. This record-book ruining presence came to an end in 1960, just in time for the 1961 United States Grand Prix.

    The venue could hardly have been better.

    Watkins Glen already had a long history before F1 arrived, and in the 20 years that followed it carved out a special place in the hearts of fans and drivers alike.

    Fast, undulating and challenging, the race quickly wiped out memories of the less-successful US Grands Prix in 1959 and 1960. It held an F1 event every year until 1980.

    But that was it.

    As with many of the circuits on this list, safety concerns forced Watkins Glen from the calendar, and a return is out of the question.

6. Zandvoort

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    The Dutch Grand Prix was once a regular fixture on the F1 calendar, and the only venue it was ever held at was Zandvoort.

    Built in the style of many circuits of the day, Zandvoort put speed and flow ahead of variety and technical challenge. The 2.6-mile high-speed layout made its world championship debut in 1952.

    But as the sport progressed, Zandvoort did not. Limited safety upgrades were made in the 1970s, but even with chicanes at key points the cars were rapidly outgrowing the venue.

    The final Dutch Grand Prix was held in 1985.

    Part of the old circuit is now occupied by a golf course and football pitches, but a new, more compact and modern Zandvoort is still in use today.

5. Brands Hatch

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    Brands Hatch hosted 14 rounds of the F1 world championship between 1964 and 198612 British and two European.

    It was, and remains, one of the United Kingdom's best circuits.

    A lap begins with the awesome downhill right of Paddock Hill Bend and continues through some spectacular elevation changes and a rich variety of corners.

    Unfortunately, Brands has a downside. The track is narrow by modern standards, and at only 3.9 kilometres (2.4 miles) in length, it's very short. Furthermore, space constraints mean modern run-off areas are impossible to install.

    The original will never host F1 again, but if someone had a huge pile of money to build a scaled-up replica somewhere, it would be a fine addition to the modern calendar.

    Brunei Grand Prix, maybe?

4. Adelaide Street Circuit

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    They don't make them like this anymore.

    The Adelaide Street Circuit first held the Australian Grand Prix in 1985. In a departure from the usual street circuit fare, the track featured some quick corners, an almost-flowing final sector and the very long Brabham straight.

    It was, quite simply, a thing of beauty.

    The circuit never failed to produce good racing, except perhaps in 1991. That year's grand prix was red-flagged due to heavy rain after just 16 laps, and it remains the shortest grand prix in history.

    F1's safety push was gaining ground in the mid-1990s, and with Melbourne wanting a piece of the action, Adelaide was on borrowed time. The final race here was held in 1995, in front of a then-record crowd of 210,000 spectators.

    The sport will never return, but more than a few fans wish it could.

3. Osterreichring

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    The circuit now known as the Red Bull Ring was Hermann Tilke's first real job in F1. It's not a bad circuit, considering it only has nine corners.

    But the original track which occupied this piece of Austria was even better. Built in 1969, the Osterreichring was a truly beautiful circuit which threaded through the foothills of the Alps.

    This one only had eight corners, raised to nine in 1977. But what it lacked in turns it more than made up for in excitement and challenge.

    Unfortunately, it was also highly dangerous.

    The nature of the fast, flowing circuit, coupled with inadequate safety measures, meant it was dropped from the calendar at the end of 1987.

2. Clermont-Ferrand

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    Made up of public roads on the side of a long-extinct volcano, the Charade Circuitmore commonly known as Clermont-Ferrandstands out even among the ranks of classic public road layouts.

    The 48-turn, eight-kilometre (five-mile) circuit was first used for the French Grand Prix in 1965. The event marked the final victory for the revolutionary Lotus 25, which was driven to victory by Jim Clark.

    With tight and twisty sections married to high-speed stretches, Clermont-Ferrand was one of the greatest tests of a driver's skill F1 has ever seen.

    But like so many of its public-road peers, it was dangerous. The safer Paul Ricard opened in 1970, and Dijon-Prenois came along shortly after.

    The final race at Charade was held in 1972, and F1 will never be back.

    A real on-board lap was unavailable, so a simulator video was the best alternative.

1. Nurburgring Nordschleife

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    There will never be a finer racing circuit than the Nurburgring.

    The first German Grand Prix race on the layout, which would become a part of F1 legend, was in 1931, and the Nordschleife hosted its first world championship event in 1951.

    A 22.8-kilometre (14.1-mile) blast through the German countryside, the Nordschleife had 160 corners. Though most often remembered for its fast, flowing sectors, the circuit also had plenty of slower, technical corners.

    But as brilliant and challenging as this circuit was, it was also extremely dangerous. Three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart called it "The Green Hell"an apt name for a circuit which has claimed so many lives over the years.

    The final race here was held in 1976and as great as the circuit was, the drivers probably breathed a huge sigh of relief.

    It was truly the end of an era.

    The partial video above seemed the best fit, but a full lap of the modern Nordschleife in a cruising F1 car is available here.

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