Friday, April 7, 2017

F1's Fastest Circuits

Most Formula 1 fans would be aware that the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix, is the fastest Formula 1 circuit on the modern calendar.  It's not called "The Temple of Speed" for nothing!

F1's fastest ever lap was completed there by Juan Pablo Montoya driving a Williams in 2004.  He averaged 262 km/h (163 mph) over one lap.  So yes this beautiful Monza circuit, set in parklands outside Milan, is super fast!

That question answered, how do the other circuits rank?  The table below shows all of the circuits in the 2016 calendar, ranked fastest to slowest.  The figures show the average lap speed of the fastest lap in the race.


Looking at the figures, Monza - the last of the true "low downforce" circuits left - is clearly a lot faster than the next circuit on the list: Austria's Red Bull Ring.  The revamped circuit - itself an emasculated version of the frightening quick Österreichring - rejoined the F1 calendar in 2014 and finds itself taking second place, knocking-off both Spa Francorchamps and Silverstone.

The Belgian circuit has been largely unchanged since the shorter 7 kilometre layout debuted in 1983.  Silverstone, meanwhile, has existed in a multitude of configurations, with it's latest "Arena" layout debuting in 2010.  It's average speed, however, hasn't changed too much.

During 2016, both Monaco and Brazilian Grand Prix were rain affected races but the historical statistics show that this wouldn't materially change the table rankings above for the former, as the Monte Carlo street circuit is easily the slowest circuit on the calendar.

Brazil's Interlagos circuit, however, would slot itself somewhere between Russia's Sochi Autodrom and Germany's Hockenheimring in dry conditions.  The fastest race lap recorded there under the current V6 turbo hybrid regulations was Lewis Hamilton's 1:13.555 (210.895 km/h) in 2014.

Some circuits with long straights such as China's Shanghai International Circuit and Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit seem to be fast, however their sequences of slower corners or sectors reduce the overall average speed.

Australia's Albert Park is impressively high up the list based on last year's fastest race laps, with the sixth-fastest overall average speed.  It ranks comfortably as the quickest temporary or street circuit on the schedule.

A footnote to this story is that this year Monza is getting even faster should planned changes being completed occur in time for September's Italian Grand Prix. 

Work is underway that will see the field bypass the first Rettifilo chicane.  Instead, drivers will go through a fast right hand kink before the Curva Grande and rejoin the existing layout at the exit of the Curva Grande via a new fast left-right chicane.  The result is expected to reduce the lap time by over one second.

We need a variety of tracks in F1 and we certainly have that.  Overall lap speed is, of course, not everything.  Watching an F1 car fly through the swimming pool complex at Monaco is proof of that!

Thanks for reading, please leave your comments.

Jason Goodacre.

Pep, F1Podcast

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