New circuits, new challenges

New circuits, new challenges

As we all know by now, two new circuits join the F1 calendar this season, China and Bahrain, and there's also the return of Spa-Francorchamps after its absence last year. The Bahrain International Circuit, located in Sakhir, hosts its inaugural ...

As we all know by now, two new circuits join the F1 calendar this season, China and Bahrain, and there's also the return of Spa-Francorchamps after its absence last year. The Bahrain International Circuit, located in Sakhir, hosts its inaugural event on the 4th of April, giving it a catchy tag-line date of "04-04-04". The Shanghai circuit, located in Anting in the north-west of the city, welcomes F1 for the first time on September 26th.

The Bahrain International Circuit construction site.
Photo by LAT Photographic.
Both circuits are designed by Herman Tilke, the German architect responsible for Sepang (Malaysia). Bahrain, the third race on the calendar, is 5.4km long, has 15 turns, one long straight and two shorter ones. The race will be 57 laps. "Obviously this is the first time we will race in Bahrain so no one knows anything about the track," said Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya on the team website.

"Everyone will be on a total learning curve when we get there, so it's going to be pretty interesting, but exciting too. I know a few of the drivers have visited the track and given it the thumbs up. It's a Tilke-designed circuit so it should be one of the best on the calendar. As long as it's fast and challenging, I'll be happy!"

Shanghai is a similar distance to Bahrain and will be the 16th race of the season. It has 15 turns, two straights and is designed to represent the Chinese character "shang", which means to rise, or ascend. "It's difficult to judge a circuit you've never driven on," said Ralf Schumacher. "However I was there in October 2003 and I've also talked to Herman Tilke, who has designed some excellent circuits. This layout looks even more promising."

"There are some long straights and some extended curves where you'll almost certainly be able to overtake. There are also a number of tight curves so it all promises to be very exciting. When you step back and take a look at the project, it seems as if money is no object. I think that in many respects, Shanghai will set new standards."

Spa, one of the most popular tracks, returns on 29th August as the 14th race of the year. The 6.9 km lap distance means only 44 laps for the race and is the longest track on the calendar. "Spa is one of the last 'natural' tracks and this gives it a particular character," said Schumacher. "It's really like a roller-coaster, only you're the driver. Spa has the longest lap on the current calendar, there are many fast sections, and then there are those tight curves and the compression at Eau-Rouge."

"I find the myths that have evolved around this dip a little exaggerated. It underwent minor reconstruction a few years ago, and was updated to make it less dangerous. Now any modern Formula One car with a good set-up can go through it at full throttle. For all the charm that Spa undoubtedly has, you have to admit that the run-off areas are no longer state of the art. Modern racing tracks look different -- some of them are more boring, but generally speaking they're safer."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Williams