HomeCar CultureCommentaryF1’s return to classic tracks – reality?

F1’s return to classic tracks – reality?

The cars have changed but the tracks remain classic. Is this a trend?


Formula One announced last week that it will race at the famed Mugello circuit in September. That’s a thrill as the Tuscany circuit is well-known as one of Ferrari’s test tracks and has a great heritage of racing history. Could this signal F1’s return to the more classic, ‘natural’ circuits?

A Ferrari testing lap of the Mugello Circuit | F1.com

Formula 1, in its now 70-year existence, has raced at many legendary venues. Much of the early racing was on public roads in Europe, which evolved into several classic circuits that are still active today. Mugello, during the September weekend, also will host Scuderia Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix since the modern age of F1, beginning in 1950.

But in the past two decades, not surprisingly, Formula 1 has followed the money. Bernie Ecclestone did not get richer than the Queen by bowing to lack of funds by countries that didn’t want to provide deep enough pockets to host and adapt safety to keep going to the classic tracks. Most of the financing for promoting a Grand Prix comes from that country’s government.

It seemed that every year, you could set your watch by the British Racing Drivers’ Club and Ecclestone in heated negotiations to keep a British Grand Prix – let alone keep it at Silverstone. Other great circuits had gone by the wayside and major modifications were made to others.

The once high speed forest section of the Hockenheimring as it looks today

I would just about gag every time race-driver-turned-track-designer Herman Tilke revealed another cookie-cutter, exaggerated go-kart track for F1. The worst of these offenses was modifying and bulldozing the Hockenheimring’s long-looping forest section, retaining only the stadium portion – I still haven’t gotten over that.

In a conversation I had a few years ago with mechanic-turned-television-commentator Steve Matchett, he pondedred, “You can build manmade islands (in the UAE) but you can’t build racetracks with any elevation change.”

The shortened Red Bull Ring in Austria. The old Österreichring is the expansive track surface to the left | Google maps

Fortunately, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, does have elevation changes, but few of the tracks built in China, Russia, United Arab Emerates and India have much personality. I love tracks like Road America, Laguna Seca, Spa Franchorchamps and Watkins Glen that flow with the topography. John Morton, famed Datsun racer told me, “I love Road America because every lap is like going on a trip.”

Rudolf Caracciola in the Mercedes at Monaco in 1937. The track has changed little from back in the day. | Wikimedia

Mugello is one of those circuits. It is amazing that it has never hosted a Grand Prix before. Needless to say, it is well known – and has hosted MotoGP. It has natural terrain and beauty around it like many of the classic circuits built or adapted at the same time.

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There are the great street circuits as well. Monaco, Long Beach. At one time, Long Beach even had elevation change as the circuit climbed and descended from Ocean Avenue.

Entering Eu Rouge at Spa Francochamps | Spa Francorchamps Circuit photo

It is also pleasing that F1 has committed to return to Zandvoort in the Netherlands. They would have this year, however, it’s 2020. The circus also visits Spa Francorchamps (modified); Monza; the A1-Ring, formerly known as the Österreichring (modified); what’s left of the Hockenheimring (modified); Autódromo José Carlos Pace at Interlagos; Circuit Paul Ricard (modified) and Silverstone.

It may be just me, but I would love to see them go back to Reims…

Tom Stahler
Tom Stahler
Tom Stahler is the Managing Editor of the ClassicCars.com Journal. Tom has a lifelong love of cars and motor racing – beginning with the 1968 USRRC race at Road America, in a stroller, at eight months of age. His words, photos and broadcasts can can be found on a myriad of media. He has won the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and a Gold Medal in the International Automotive Media Awards.


  1. why doesn’t anyone run an enduro like they did at reims? big dinner and party…race starts at midnight. folks go to hotels and sleep; come back for noontime finish. fantastic idea!


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