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As the finishing touches are applied to India's new Buddh International Circuit and F1 prepares to visit a new location, we look at the track records of some of the most recent additions to the F1 circuit. We like to call it: the good, the bad and the butt-ugly…

The Buddh International Circuit got the thumbs-up from chief inspector Charlie Whiting of the FIA, who visited after the race in Spa. It means the Indian Grand Prix is officially a go (pending a safety sign off).

So will Buddh be another firecracker circuit like Istanbul Park, or another damp squib like the Valencia Street Circuit? On paper it looks good: there’s a couple of likely passing places, a monster triple (or quadruple) apex corner and, while not built into the side of a mountain like an F1 circuit should be, it has plenty of elevation change – but you never know until the cars hit the track.

Of the 19 races on this year’s calendar, seven are new for this Century so let’s look at F1's new track record…

 

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Valencia Street Circuit – since 2008

Valencia is a typical example of an F1 track that looks great but just doesn’t deliver. In 2008 we walked a reconnaissance lap with Toro Rosso’s young upstart Sebastian Vettel. Seb scampered from corner to corner optimistic about how good the track was going to be, and the overtaking opportunities it was sure to afford. Well, even future world champions can get things wrong.

The only thing that’s stopped four pole positions being converted into four victories is that rare thing: a messy McLaren pitstop in 2009. Other than that, it’s been strictly regulation. Despite its long straights and tight braking points, Valencia doesn’t do overtaking. Even this season.

 

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Facilities: The fish market is quirky, but the harbour is empty and a little bit lacking in soul.
Circuit: Awful, processional street circuit where nothing much happens.
Audience: Getting smaller every year Fernando Alonso doesn’t win.
Location: Fabulous city, shame about the track. The beach is nice, though.

 

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Korea International Circuit – debut 2010

Throughout 2010, stories circulated that the Korean Grand Prix track wouldn’t be ready. But in the end it was – just – though there wasn’t much that worked apart from the asphalt. Suddenly the Las Vegas Grand Prix held in Caesar’s Palace parking lot didn’t look so bad. Hopefully things will be better this year, and it’s difficult to judge the circuit, given the race was held practically underwater and mostly in the dark…

 

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Facilities: Last year, a building site – this year who knows?
Circuit: The jury is still out
Audience: Mostly fish and ducks
Location: …and you thought Magny Cours didn’t have many hotels…

 

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Shanghai International Circuit – debut 2004

Probably the least loved race by the regulars, thanks to its combination of gun-totting military security, remote rural location and enormous atmosphere-destroying paddock, Shanghai nevertheless has the saving grace of throwing up more interesting races that it has any right to. That’s mainly thanks to following the rules and having the right combinations of slow corners enclosing long straights, which even before DRS allowed drivers a sniff of a pass

 

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Facilities: Fine – so long as you don’t have to walk anywhere
Circuit: Rewarding for the bravest of the late brakers
Audience: Room for 200,000; struggles to get a tenth of that.
Location: A long way from Shanghai down the most terrifying motorway in world.

 

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Istanbul Park – debut 2005

If you watched the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix on TV, you may have thought the broadcast was a bit low-rent. No swooping helicopter shots, no wide pans across the expressive expanse of circuit, just tightly focussed shots of the track and the cars. The reason? Nothing kills atmosphere like empty grandstands and if there’s one thing Istanbul Park has plenty of, it’s spare seats. After a promising start, the crowds deserted the Turkish Grand Prix in a hurry – which is a shame because it’s probably the best of the new circuits, though that hasn’t proved enough to save it.

 

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Facilities: Good. Another paddock so huge you could play polo in it, but some clever architecture hides it well.
Circuit: Very good. Nice dips and swirls and the best of the 21st Century corners: Turn Eight.
Audience: Missing, presumed bored
Location: Rubbish. 40km from Istanbul and on the unglamorous side of the Bosphorus – and it takes two hours to cross the Bosphorus.

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Marina Bay Street Circuit – debut 2008

Singapore got nearly everything right. The location is fabulous, the facilities are great, the crowd is huge and even F1’s first floodlights worked perfectly – in fact the only thing Singapore forgot to do was build a decent circuit. Unfortunately that’s quite important…

Or is it? Street tracks in F1 tend to be bad, filled as they are with short straights and slow – usually right-angle – corners. Singapore doesn’t suffer any worse than Monaco and nobody particularly cares that Monaco generally doesn’t throw up anything more edge-of-the-seat than a grumpy Lewis Hamilton.

 

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Facilities: Oddly unpretentious. Every other new track tends to build paddocks in the style of Ming The Merciless but Singapore, being temporary, gets away with a fairly standard pit building and odd team wigwams.
Circuit: Boring – but very pretty when lit up
Audience: Excellent. Full grandstands filled with enthusiast people.
Location: Fabulous city to play in – just a shame we’re stuck at the track…

 

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Yas Marina Circuit – debut 2009

The circuit on Yas Island is an example of what you get if you cherry-pick the best features of every other circuit. It was plenty of hotels, a race in the cool of the evening, a harbour filled with mega-yachts, a tight, intimate paddock perfect for rumour-mongering and team buildings big enough that engineers are spared the horror of having to share their space with corporate guests.

Yas picked up a bit of a reputation as a circuit that didn’t allow overtaking – but in reality the only overtaking it didn’t allow was Fernando Alonso passing Vitaly Petrov, so maybe Petrov just had a very quick car that race – it did, after all, share an engine with the Red Bulls that have so far won every grand prix in the UAE…

 

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Facilities: Very, very good. The Emirati seem to have grasped that big isn’t necessarily better when it comes to paddock design. Also features F1’s only air-conditioned garages – making most mechanics prefer Yas Marina to Christmas.
Circuit: Could use a couple more fast corners, but basically good. Unless you’re Fernando Alonso, in which case, terrible.
Audience: Grandstands look quite full but there's not many of them, plus F1 is only part of the attraction: many people come for the rock concerts.
Location: With hotels on the island, plus the airport and the Ferrari theme park, not many people even bother going into town.

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