Ranked: Five locations F1 should race at next after Madrid Grand Prix addition

Thomas Maher
The 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao gets underway.

Portimao is one of PlanetF1.com's picks for a circuit that should be on the F1 calendar.

The arrival of Madrid onto the F1 calendar is a sideways move, given Spain already has a Grand Prix. Where are the obvious locations F1 should be visiting?

Formula 1’s calendar is now bursting at the seams with 24 races – especially given that some countries are holding (or attempting to hold onto) two races and, in the United States’ case, three races.

But some very obvious destinations don’t feature on the F1 calendar that really should, so let’s explore five tracks/countries that F1 should be prioritising for a return.

Exploring the destinations and circuits that F1 should have on the calendar

In recent years, F1 has become all about the location of the circuit rather than focusing on the quality of the racetrack itself. Let’s be honest, if the new Las Vegas circuit layout was on some anonymous tarmac in a field plonked in the middle of France, it would never have held a race.

But, put that same layout in the middle of Las Vegas and, suddenly, it becomes far more desirable to pay a visit.

The focus on the destination, rather than the circuit itself, has resulted in some nondescript venues getting a chance to hold Grands Prix – which is a shame, given there are some pretty amazing racetracks being overlooked in favour of Formula E-esque street-style circuits.

There’s a quick and easy way to fix the problem too, given the huge amount of tracks that are available – simply rotate them, depending on who can stump up the cash on any given season.

European tracks could share the European Grand Prix moniker, as was a solution regularly used 20 years ago. Just think – one year it could be Jerez, the following year Portimao, the next year Hockenheim and so on. An easy solution, even if it’s not the ideal of having an annual race.

Let’s have a go at ranking the obvious omissions from the F1 calendar, shall we?

5. Sepang (Malaysia)

Perhaps the circuit that separates ‘old’ and ‘new’ F1, the confirmation of Malaysia onto the F1 calendar for 1999 was seen as a major leap into the unknown.

Hermann Tilke, whose work hadn’t yet become synonymous with F1 circuit building, oversaw the design and construction of Sepang, which proved to be one of Tilke’s finest moments with a wide variety of corners and overtaking spots.

Added to that was a unique aesthetic that means Sepang remains easily identifiable, even in still photos, and sweeping elevation changes that made it a classic venue for both car and motorbike racing.

But the event itself couldn’t attract local fans, with the organisers struggling to come up with the fees commanded by F1 to stage a race. With Singapore holding a ‘destination race’ a 300 kilometre drive away, Sepang made less and less sense to stage a race.

But, four years ago, Sepang added street lighting to make it viable to hold a night race, and the desire to hold an F1 race remains unabated – it’s also one of the tracks F1 fans constantly point to as deserving a return.

But Sepang needs someone to help pay the costs and, despite pleas for corporate sponsors, it appears it’s a step too far for now given Malaysia’s involvement in F1 goes no further than Petronas’ title sponsorship of Mercedes.

4. Portimao (Portugal)

There’s a plethora of circuits across Spain and Portugal that could all have legitimate arguments made for their inclusion – just think of the likes of Jerez, Estoril, Jarama, and Valencia (Ricardo Tormo).

But, for the sake of this list, my choice would be Portimao – the track that played host to the Portuguese Grand Prix in 2020 and ’21.

It’s a magnificent track that, like Sepang, boasts plenty of variety in terms of pace and elevation, offers ample overtaking opportunities, and is incredibly picturesque.

Added to that is the fact that it is a modern facility that has all the ‘mod-cons’ F1 wants nowadays.

But, having lost out on a slot for 2023 following the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix that gave both Portimao and Istanbul a shot at another race, Portimao’s momentum has been lost.

Ni Amorim, president of the Portuguese Automobile and Karting Federation (FPAK), has said “This decision harms Portugal because F1 has grown immensely in the media.

“It’s like it’s never been. At the last GP, there were 400 thousand people, a record. In Portugal we had two races in eight months, in 2020 and 2021, and Portugal was talked about all over the world.”

But the decision, like so many others, appears to come down to funding, although Amorim stressed there is still plenty of support for the race to return to the region if money can be pulled together.

3. Hockenheim/Nurburgring (Germany)

Given Germany’s long and storied history in Formula 1, together with ongoing German representation with Mercedes (and soon, Audi), it seems inconceivable that there is no German Grand Prix.

Once mainstays on the calendar, both circuits fell out of fashion during the 2000s and, while an alternative agreement kept a race in Germany for a while, a change of ownership at the Nurburgring resulted in this arrangement losing its stride.

Added to that were the ongoing financial issues to hold a Grand Prix – initially halting the Nurburgring’s efforts and, later, Hockenheim.

The 2019 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim was the last regularly scheduled race in the country, although the Nurburgring managed to arrange a race for 2020 as F1 scrambled for circuits to hold a championship in the COVID-affected 2020 season.

But, with Hockenheim and the Nurburgring proving loss-making ventures for the organisers, there’s no easy way back for either venue, as Hockenheim manager Jorn Teske explained last year.

“Formula 1 must first decide for itself whether it wants an annual race in Germany,” he said.

“After that, a financial solution would have to be found. Once all of that is in place, we would be very open to a change of direction. My colleagues from the Nurburgring see it the same way. But: If Formula 1 only wants a race in Germany every two years, then I would fight for us to be the chosen track.”

2. Istanbul (Turkey)

Perhaps Hermann Tilke’s finest hour in F1, the Istanbul Park circuit proved a sensation when it was first introduced to the calendar in 2005.

Holding regular races until 2011, the circuit fell off the calendar as organisers couldn’t agree on a hosting fee with F1 and Bernie Ecclestone. With the organisers saying the fee was too high, Ecclestone pointed the finger back at poor promotion being the reason for low attendance figures.

With the government pulling funding, the track fell off the calendar and largely into disuse on the international scene. It earned a reprieve for 2020 during the chaos of the COVID seasons and held a stonking race that resulted in Lewis Hamilton winning his seventh title, but this wasn’t enough to secure a full-time return.

Despite being a circuit of universal appeal to both drivers and fans, and being a race that had cross-continental appeal between Europe and Asia, there’s no easy way back onto the calendar given the demand for a race and the exorbitant costs other governments are proving willing to pay.

1. Africa

Having not held a Grand Prix on the continent since 1993’s race at Kyalami, it’s high time that Africa gets a Grand Prix to make the World Championship truly that.

It’s the most glaring omission on the calendar, one that is constantly highlighted by leading figures – including recent comments by both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen as the biggest voices in the sport to clamour for a race.

In recent years, a return to Kyalami looked near-certain as a deal almost made it across the line – only for it to fall apart at the 11th hour as South Africa aligned itself with Vladimir Putin and Russia following the country’s beginning military action in Ukraine.

For now, there’s no easy way for Africa to find a place on the calendar, although Stefano Domenicali has identified it as a priority going forward. Speaking in late 2022, he said: “We need to make sure when we do something new, that it has to be with the right partners and be stable fundamentals to stay longer.

“The only thing that I can say that after the first contact with Kyalami is that there are other places in Africa that are interested on Formula 1.

“That’s a very clear target: Africa will come back and hopefully very soon on our calendar.”

There are umpteen other examples that could be included on the calendar, such as having a race in France – think about an F1 Grand Prix being held at the Circuit de la Sarthe, rather than a return to Magny-Cours or Paul Ricard.

Mugello proved a beast of a track during its 2020 event, and why hasn’t Scandinavia got a race? After all, the region currently has two drivers on the grid – just like Spain, and one more than Germany!

Where would you like to see included on the F1 calendar?

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