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“Captivating” – How Classic F1 circuits have shown the way for new ones in 2017
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Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Sep 2017   |  4:39 pm GMT  |  228 comments

Although it was a painful weekend for Ferrari the real take home from the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last weekend was the enthusiasm of the crowd and, on reflection, this fits a pattern we have seen this season on the so called ‘classic’ circuits like Silverstone, Spa and Monza.

The drivers like Vettel and Hamilton praise them because of the unique challenges each presents from a driving point of view, but there is evidence that Liberty Media’s appointed bosses in F1 are getting the message too.

They had been saying the right things about the classic tracks at the start of the year, about how they must remain part of the calendar and how important they are for the historic value of the sport. But they hadn’t properly experienced them at that point.

Monaco was the first opportunity, although Chase Carey had discreetly visited in 2016. Silverstone, Spa and Monza this year were of a different level of magnitude in terms of enthusiasm from recent years and the message from the fans at the venue seems to have got through to the bosses.

So did the numbers: Silverstone saw 344,500 spectators over the four days from Thursday to Sunday, Spa had a crowd of 265,000 spectators (an increase of 11.8% over 2016), Monza received 185,000 spectators at the track over the four days of the event, up 32.8% on last year, according to F1 Management figures.

Sean Bratches said after Monza, “I think the passion and emotion and energy and excitement amongst this fanbase was captivating. It was very contagious, and I had a wonderful grand prix, not only on a business level, but on a personal level.”

This is important because these circuits need to be cut some slack. I’ve never understood how F1 under Bernie Ecclestone could reward the F1 teams so generously for being part of the history of the sport, especially Ferrari, when there was no value seemingly apportioned to the history that Monza or Silverstone bring to F1.

If the whole calendar were made up of races on new tracks like Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, it would still be a valid world championship, in attractive locations, but there would be no traditions to build on. And also those races don’t get crowd figures like Silverstone or Spa.

When I interviewed Carey back in April I asked him whether it was a priority to ensure that those “classic” races are properly sustainable and part of the ongoing fabric of the sport?

“Very much so,” he replied.

“We have great events around the world, but the foundation of this sport is Western Europe, which is largely where the tracks you’re talking about, exist. That’s tremendously important and what we want to do is to build.. but very much recognise that the foundation is critically important. So not grow at the expense of the foundation, but I think your foundation needs to be strong and continue to make it stronger and then we can add the dimension of further growth but those historic events are an incredibly important part.”

That was before he had seen any of it in action.

So for me, one of the most positive stories of the F1 2017 season so far has been the ‘bounce’ at the classic tracks and we can only hope that when contracts come to be renewed the unique contribution that these tracks make to the F1 story and the F1 ecosystem will be recognised.

What do you think of what we have seen from the classic venues this season? Leave your comment in the section below

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1

It looks more like Monza had half a million on race day alone 😀
I have been on 3 occasions and know very well that many access the race by unconventional means 😉 such is there lust to attend. The official figures will be way off. Brilliant to see though, that the classic tracks are still the best to attend. If I had to recommend one race to visit, Monza would be it. Sure James would agree.

2

Has anyone done the maths to explain why 344500 spectators isnt returning a profit at Silverstone?

3

Surely some reverse-Concord agreement could be arranged, where the more historic tracks are recognized for their unique value to the history of the sport and its continuing popularity. The longer-established Teams get more of a cut from the F1 coffers, so I don’t see why the same principle couldnt be applied to the circuits.

4

Classic tracks…love ’em.

Being South African, i am allowed to dream about a return for Kyalami. It won’t ever happen due to our currency…1 Dollar/Euro is a squidillion Rands…and politics, but a lad may dream, eh?

Porsche spent a small fortune remodelling the circuit, upgrading facilities etc and i thin it is certified for everything barring F1 – and for that some of the run-off needs to be looked at is all i imagine, as everything else is top notch.

It is great to see circuits like Mexico back, and Paul Ricard next year…the Glen would also be quite something i think, and Estoril.

I miss Estoril almost as much as the late, great Hockenheim (the daddy which blasted into the forest, not the neutered son-of….which we have now)

wait, work to do, let me take off the rose tints.

5

With so many great tracks and with some better design on new ones, F1 could run a series of 3. Europe, Asia, Americas, with drivers competing for the grand slam. 5 or 6 races over a similar number of weekends for each leg. It would save a lot of travelling back and forth.

6

Not sure how feasible that would be!

But I agree there are a lot of great tracks that don’t get used. It would be great if we had a completely mixed up calendar each year with new and different venues.. but I’m sure that would be a total nightmare to organise and finance!

7

James, how do you think liberty are doing. I remember reading earlier in the year you said they have been here a few months now and not a lot has changed. Do you think more has changed now? If so what has changed for better or worse?

From my point of view (watching sky and following the sport) nothing has changed really, I see they have more things for fans at the tracks. But everything else is just words. They have been in control for nearly a year and they are still saying the same things. I know the financial distribution and engine rules cannot be sorted until 2021. I just expected a step change in the sport.

8

Watkins Glen anybody?

9

Unless something can be done about the travesty of the Sky contract, in 2 years time there will be only a quarter of the fans to go to Silverstone. As a lifetime F1 fan, now a pensioner, I cannot afford Sky’s prices. We must have terrestrial coverage back.

10

While it’s great that the “classic” tracks are doing well, isn’t there a danger that we’re reading too much into this. It’s the first year in ages when there has been a realistic title battle between two teams, one of which in particular has legions of fans ready to crawl out of the woodwork at the slightest hint of success. The real test of progress will be if the numbers hold up after another snooze-fest intra-Mercedes battle for the championship. I hope the increase is “real” (I think Spa is what you’d get if the Almighty decided to build a racetrack) but I’m a bit skeptical at the moment.

11

It has always struck me as ridiculous that there is so much effort focused on ways to make racing more interesting when one after another tracks are built that are dull as dishwater, with the same failed designers employed time and again. Worse, there are decent tracks out there (including those through cities – remember Adelaide?) that languish simply because money talks louder at the bore fest locales. Welcome to F1 …

12

Yes – Adelaide is one of the truly great street & F1 circuits. Always put up great races & overall season ending carnival.

13

A balance of classic and new track is the preferred solution.

New tracks boost with state of the art design and facilities . that is F1.

Classic tracks have irrepressible history. Not to mention the unique atmosphere cannot be copied anywhere else.

For someone to sleep on the tree so to catch the following raceday in Monaco..that is really F1

14

In my view the historic circuits (Imola, Jerez, original Hockenheim & Sau Paulo included) are so valuable IMO that F1 should actually pay them a fee to race at those tracks. Those circuits should receive a royalty payment from the sport.

THEY SHOULD NOT BE PAYING EXORBITANT FEES BACK TO THE SPORT.

F1 management can just get a % share of the gate receipts.

That would make those circuits permanently sustainable.

The Indianapolis Circuit is so important to INDYCAR that it nearly destroyed Champcar in the 2000’s. The Western European circuits have similar power if they worked together.

15
Clarks4WheelDrift

Good article. Monza really looks good after the race with the ticker tape, confetti, flares and massive flags around that overhanging podium.

Beyond Spa, Silverstone and Monza…

Does anyone consider Brazil and Suzuka to be classic tracks or just they’ve provided some classic races?

Also, which of the newest/Tilke tracks would you class as the most ‘classic’?

16

Istanbul was a circuit-design classic. Makes for great wheel to wheel battles over several corners.

17

Suzuka and Brazil, along with Montreal, I consider classic tracks now.

Of the new ones, Malaysia and Fuji are top of my list, then probably Turkey.

18

Austin is the most likely to become classic in terms of design but it needs decades of history built up and passionate fans to become a classic.

19

Definitely classic tracks for me, especially Suzuka. Classic races give a track history. I think the best designed tracks generally become the classics along with tracks that have the best fanbases.

20

Watkins Glen.

As I have said before, Bernie’s removal of F1 from the Glen, chasing Sunbelt boom dollars across the country in Dallas, Las Vegas and Phoenix, prefigured the proliferation of desert Tilkedromes. Exactly the same pattern- tradition and passion be damned.

F1 should go back to the Glen. Forget NYC. Put it where it belongs. If Chase Carey and company “get” Monza, Spa, Silverstone; if they now appreciate that history and tradition are important, then get back to the Glen. I know it’s not “Grade 1,” but from what I can tell that’s not a safety issue. Surely if the track is safe enough for Indycar, it’s safe enough for F1.

21

Charlie visited the Glen last year and gave the circuit a thumbs up. The main issue is the Paddock (not fancy enough for F1), and the rest of the infrastructure to support the crowds.

It’s a brilliant opportunity for F1 though, it’d be a shame for them to miss it.

Indycar and IMSA have started to get a very good thing going with many of their events, making them family camping destinations year on year. Tracks like Sebring, Road America, Road Atlanta, have a great festival atmosphere at them. It’s a great way to get new people, young and old, into the sport as well.

22

Very appropriate to learn, James. Thanks for the perspective and the overview of what might come to be. Positive indeed.

Particularly relevant observations in the narrative include: “. . .I’ve never understood how F1. . .could reward the F1 teams so generously for being part of the history of the sport, . . . when there was no value seemingly apportioned to the history that Monza or Silverstone bring to F1.

And: “When I interviewed Carey back in April I asked him whether it was a priority to ensure that those “classic” races are properly sustainable and part of the ongoing fabric of the sport? . . . “Very much so,” he replied.

Let’s hope that the third leg of the stool to gain attention, after the Teams and the Tracks, will be the fans themselves and the opportunities for attendance from local fans can be assured. That would focus on “affordable pricing for families and working folks in order to build on the world-wide base. Seems that would be a critical piece of the puzzle when considering how “rewards” are distributed.

23

The issue of giving something back to the fans seems to have been a fairly common thought, in reading through posts this morning. Let’s hope it happens in some ways, and more fundamentally than adding concerts to the program.

24

when the v6 regulations were introduced all the teams agreed to the token and engine penalty systems..now the poorly performed teams have complained and managed to get the fia to scrap the token system, allowing teams to spend as the wish. they are now calling for the engine penalties to also be scrapped so that they can spend further.
the fia must be either stupid or spineless. the idea behind those rules was to prevent spending from spiralling into infonity.
i just don’t get the logic behind those calling for a change. the rules are the same for everyone so let them get on with it.
looks like everybody wants to run the fia. i thought there is a elected president with a council of officials to run motorsport. those who are asking for a change should campaign for elections to get themselves in the position to bring about changes. i don’t like the idea of everybody agreeing to a set of rules only for some to ask for the rules to be changed to favour them. that’s not right jean tod. pitbtjose tokens back on. getting rid of them has done nothing to help honda and now everyone things they can ask for the rest of the rules to be changed..

25

Every year F1 should have a one off 24hr endurance race. The two main drivers (if they want to drive) with two other test/young drivers.

Have it at Spa, the NurbF1 or Silverstone.

26

I’ve been to all the classic tracks bar Monaco after visiting Monza last weekend and I can concur. The Italians are a delightful and happy bunch though queuing isn’t perhaps their forte. I sat amongst them on Parabolica and Lewis got as good a round of applause as anyone. Maybe the kids who rush the start finish straight afterwards boo but there was no animosity in it, that I could read.

Part of Monza’s magic is the setting, in amongst the trees with (my) campsite right on the 1st chicane. The best tracks, I think, have a certain element of hardcore, 4 days in the woods eating out of cans about them. Hockenheim has lost a great deal of its magic since the old blast through the trees and beer drinking campers was gotten rid of.

27

I hate the fact you can just run off the first chicane at Monza without much penalty.

There’s no bravery needed in the braking zones now.

28

If it was down to me, and not everyone is going to have the same tastes, I’d do the following (not all currently realistic for a variety of reasons!):

Keep at all costs:

Montreal, Silverstone, Spa, Monaco, Monza, Singapore, Suzuka, Austin, Interlagos.

Bin as soon as possible:

Bahrain, China, Abu Dhabi, Sochi, Malaysia (disappearing anyway).

Bring back:

Estoril, Imola, Adelaide, Istanbul.

The rest I’m ambivalent about, could take them or leave them.

29

Singapore as a venue is ok, but the circuit is balls. It’s worse that an Indycar circuit from the 90s. The original Tilke design, run clockwise as opposed to anti-clockwise, with a high speed blast along the harbour, instead of the Micky mouse chicanes under the grandstands, was a far superior circuit layout.

Austin? Really? Each to their own I guess. I’d much rather see Watkins Glen or Road America, but, the Texas Parking Lot it is.

Malaysia is a fanstastic circuit, its a shame we’ll loose it. For a modern circuit, it has character and challenge deserving of being on the F1 calander.

I don’t think Adelaide is possible anymore. The V8SC series run a shortened version of the original GP layout, lap times would be too low for F1 standards. Changes to the layout of the city prevent the original GP layout from being built again.

30

There’s nothing stopping the original Adelaide layout from being used again.

The V8 Supercar race (The Clipsal 500) uses a shortened version of the track simply to reduce costs – the reduction of the northern loop of the circuit requires less barriers & fencing etc to be set-up and leaves open a number of more important thoroughfares in that part of the city.

31

I like Austin, though maybe “keep at all costs” is a bit strong for that one. I’d rather a street race in Detroit or Vegas again personally, but I can’t see that happening. Adelaide is a pipe dream I know, I just have very fond memories of it!

32

Some good suggestions. I’d keep Bahrain, China and Malaysia as the tracks are pretty good. I’d be happy to see the demise of Abu Dhabi and Sochi.

33

I’ve been to quite a few different F1 circuits and I find that their ‘greatness’ can be measured in two ways – quality of the actual track/racing and the atmosphere. Tracks like Silverstone and Spa are classic racing circuits and the atmosphere is always good. Somewhere like Barcelona may not provide such exciting racing but the atmosphere is generally good (especially in the days when Alonso was in a competitive car). One of my all time favourite tracks is the Hungaroring – you can see a lot of the track from any given vantage point, the weather is usually hot and sunny and the atmosphere is fantastic. I was there again last year and it was disappointing to see that there were less bars/food outlets outside the track. This would suggest that the Hungarian GP hasn’t been as well attended in the past couple of years.

34
Davefromdownunder

I would like to know without sounding sarcastic “what defines a classic F1 circuit?” and at what point did they become classic.

35

It is great that these classic venues have performed so well this year, but Silverstone has remained well attended throughout Hamilton’s career, Spa is surging with Verstappen’s rise and Monza had a Ferrari driver leading the championship for the first time in several years right up until the moment the chequered flag waved. At least Liberty are seeing the better side of F1 this year and the point in the article that they are expressing support for these circuits is a breath of fresh air. Hopefully that will ultimately result in a new contract for Silverstone too.

36

can anyone explain why silverstone has the most attendance, the most expensive tickets and yet say they can’t afford to stage a race?

37

It’s obviously that the hosting fee is the main culprit!

38

Silverstone Spa Monza Rules (including japan and Canada )
Monaco still is a rich man’s trouser pocket.
I know it’s where F1 business takes place.
Old Money and New Money and Celebs mingle and the majority of Plebs (we the F1 fans) watch on tv or listen on radio. It’s too expensive unless you travel via France for the day.
But Monaco should be treated like the Olympics. Once every 4 years.
Have a guest street/race circui each year for 3 years instead .
The newer tracks in the schedule especially the middle eastern ones are dull as dishwater.
Heritage tracks are where the *Wild Things rock (*spectators). That’s where you find F1s Soul .

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