10 different American circuits have hosted F1 races – that’s more than any other country (France is next up with seven), and doesn’t even include the different layouts that were used. There was a time when F1 loved going to America – in 1982, three of the 16 races were held in the US!
The tracks have all been quite varied too, from undulating road courses to unforgiving street circuits, and even a car park. With that in mind, we thought we’d put together some onboards so you can see what they’re all like and compare them.
It looks like F1 has finally found a good home in the USA thanks to COTA. It’s a damn good track too, taking some of the best aspects of other circuits around the world and combining them all together to create a challenge the drivers love. Here’s Sebastian Vettel’s mega pole lap from back in 2012.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course was built especially for F1, and although the layout was a bit meh, fans turned out in huge numbers for the early runnings. The 2005 farce totally ruined the appeal of the event though, and the race was eventually dropped as a result.
Still, seeing F1 cars blast through the banked turn and down the pit straight was a pretty mega sight. Michael Schumacher had a tendency to dominate races at the circuit – here’s his pole lap from 2006.
The Phoenix street circuit was pretty much unloved during its three years on the F1 calendar. Apart from an epic duel between Ayrton Senna and a young Jean Alesi in 1990 the races were largely forgettable, and attendance was seriously low.
Even a slight layout change for 1991 couldn’t help things, and after a local ostrich race drew a bigger crowd (no, really!) Phoenix dropped off the calendar.
The Detroit street circuit was so slow that in its first year, the average lap speed was slower than that of even Monaco. On top of that, the narrow and bumpy layout often caused a huge strain on both cars and drivers, and like Dallas, the surface was prone to breaking up. Another thing that broke up was Nelson Piquet’s Lotus in this onboard from 1988 – whoops!
By 1988 the facilities were well out of date, and when the organisers refused to spend money on updating them F1 said goodbye to the Detroit Grand Prix to the delight of pretty much everyone – except for maybe Ayrton Senna, who’d won there for the last three years.
The one-off Dallas Grand Prix in 1984 was one of the most bonkers F1 races of all time. The weather was so hot that the track surface started to break up and the drivers tried to boycott the race. Bernie ensured it went ahead, but most of the drivers ended up crashing out as the track literally crumbled beneath them.
Keke Rosberg won the two-hour slog, and Rene Arnoux somehow went from last to second. But even though drivers quite liked the track, the event had gone too badly for F1 to even entertain the thought of going back, and so the race ended up being a one-off.
As Watkins Glen held the ‘regular’ US GP, for eight years the Long Beach street circuit in California held the US GP West. Incredibly each of those eight races was won by a different driver, and although the layout continually changed over those years, the event remained popular. Unusually for an F1 track, the pit lane was in a completely different place to the start-finish straight.
Nowadays Long Beach is still used for IndyCar and sportscar racing, but there are rumours that it could make a return to the F1 calendar. We’d certainly love to see it back!
Unfortunately we couldn’t find any actual onboard footage from the Caesars Palace circuit in Las Vegas, but hopefully this rFactor video will give you an idea of the layout.
The track was literally laid out in the car park of the Caesars Palace hotel and, unsurprisingly, it’s frequently referred to as one of the worst circuits in F1 history. The hot weather and anti-clockwise layout put a huge strain on the drivers and it wasn’t very well liked, and despite being in Las Vegas, attendance was pitiful. After just two events, F1 ditched the Caesars Palace GP.
With 20 races, Watkins Glen is America’s longest serving track in F1, and with good reason. The layout is awesome, the scenery spectacular, and for years the amount of prize money on offer for the drivers was, well, massive.
Unfortunately, the ground effect cars of the late 1970s meant safety was becoming a concern, and to make matters worse the circuit ended up in serious financial trouble, leading to it being dropped from the F1 calendar after the 1980 race.
Onboard footage from 1960? Well, maybe, because although this overly-dramatic footage is of a 1960 F1 Scarab being thrown around Riverside seems period correct, we’re not 100% what year it’s actually from. It gives a great impression of the Californian circuit though, which hosted the US GP in 1960 and was won by Stirling Moss. Sadly it doesn’t exist anymore, as a shopping mall was built on top of it.
Again, we’ve had to use a game to show you the Sebring layout since the one still in use today is quite a bit different to the one used when F1 visited the Florida back in 1959, but we hope it gives you an idea.
Yup, although Sebring is now a legendary sports car course, it was the scene of the first ever United States Grand Prix back in 1959. It was a dramatic race too, as Jack Brabham ended up pushing his car across the line to win his first world championship.