Red Bull Motorsports
The number of F1 Grand Prix hosted at street circuits has seen a steep rise with the introduction of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last year in 2021 and the eagerly anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix to be held down ‘The Strip’ this year. Add these to the Australian, Monaco, Azerbaijan, and Singapore Grand Prix (with part of the Miami Grand Prix taking place on public roads), and there are 7 street circuits that will be featured in the 23-race calendar in 2023 - almost a third of all races.
Street circuits have captivated the F1 community and there are many reasons why this change has occurred. Last year's Singapore Grand Prix, which took the world by storm, is a perfect example of why fans are falling in love with street circuits. Not only are the race tracks far more accessible for the majority of the population, but it allows them to be incredibly up close and personal with the sheer marvels of engineering that Formula 1 cars are. There are some tracks worldwide that are in extreme locations which mean fans have to spend a lot of money to get to a Grand Prix itself. When you compare this to a 20-minute bus or MRT ride to the track, the street circuit option feels far more compelling.
Beyond the convenience though, street circuits have garnered a reputation for hosting numerous exciting races. The inaugural 2008 Singapore Grand Prix for example, which was the first race in history to be held under lights, is still one of the most talked about races to date with fans debating the merits of Ferrari asking Felipe Massa to make way for Fernando Alonso to take his first win under lights. The 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix where Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took his first victory for the team was a nail-biter with a red flag being brought out so close to the end of the race. The 2018 Monaco Grand Prix when Daniel Ricciardo nursed his car — which had a loss of power for 50 laps — back home to take the checkered flag ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. The tight nature of street circuits also meant that the number of incidents occurring per race is higher leading to increased chances for safety cars to make an appearance. By neutralising the race, safety cars allow for a fresh start which excites fans because they want to see as much action and wheel-to-wheel racing as possible out on track. Moreover, the thrill that fans experience as drivers drive on the limit through the tight corners of street circuits elevates the overall atmosphere of these Grand Prix and is why they are in such high demand worldwide.
All Eyes On Us
The favoritism towards street circuits has also stemmed from the involvement that people living in cities have with Formula 1. This involvement is exemplified in Singapore where the majority of the population is not only made aware of Formula 1 but gain interest in the pinnacle of motorsport. By hosting Formula 1 on a street circuit in a popular city like Singapore, it boosts the economy not only because so many eyes are on the little red dot, but because thousands of people travel from all over the globe to be in the city for the most popular race under lights. The jobs provided in the tourism sector along with the food and beverage industry are extremely important as we emerge from the 2-year-long pandemic that certainly rocked Singapore. Last year’s Grand Prix turnout is a testament to its popularity with 302 thousand fans turning up over the weekend, the most in Singapore GP history.
It is not just the fans that get excited about street races, but the drivers themselves too. The anticipation and eagerness to drive in Singapore last year were expressed at great lengths by all drivers on the grid who also feel the thrill of being so close to the walls with the chance of crashing if they break a tenth of a second too late. It is this constant, on-the-limit driving that raises heartbeats, makes your hair stand on end, and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
The universal admiration for street circuits has led to more of them appearing this year in 2023. Sergio Perez, who took last year's Singapore Grand Prix is one driver who will definitely relish these opportunities after making his presence known up and down the grid as a master of street circuits following his wins in Baku and Monaco. The same goes for his teammate Max Verstappen who has taken victories in Monaco and Baku too. With the incredible atmosphere that captivates fans, galore of nail-biting racing and the economical benefits of host cities, there is no surprise why Formula 1 is also such a big advocate for them.