The F1 season opener is always an exciting race. There’s the anticipation of the season ahead, the unknown of what’s to come and plenty of drama as the new cars hit the track.
But, the first races of F1 seasons are always made better if they take place at great circuits and locations.
Not all of them hit the mark, but there have been some awesome venues for F1 season openers through the years. Here are a few of them:
The Brazilian GP last hosted the F1 season opener in 1995, having done so quite a few times previously. The Interlagos circuit has changed a fair bit since joining the schedule, but the layout raced at the season opener in 1995 remains largely unchanged to what’s raced on now.
It remains a favourite with the drivers. Brazil has some of the most passionate F1 fans around and that always makes for a lively and fun weekend. The track often throws up unusual weather and exciting racing too, so it made the perfect season-opening venue (and a great finale location too).
Back in the day, the South African Grand Prix was a very popular race on the F1 calendar. The Kyalami track used to be terrifyingly quick and a monstrous challenge for the grid. It hosted the season opener many times on and off from the 60s to the 90s.
Having exited the F1 calendar for a little while, it returned for 1992 and 1993 as the first round for both seasons. But the track had been modified drastically and it wasn’t quite the same, with more twisty and technical elements.
The Silverstone circuit looked very different when it first hosted a F1 season opener, more specifically the maiden race in the F1 world championship. The layout was far from the track we see today, but then again, it was 1950.
Hay bales and oil drums lined the circuit and there was little to no protection for the fans. But, that was the norm back then. The British Grand Prix is one of the most historic races in F1 but since hosting the season opener in 1950, it’s picked up a position on the calendar more towards the middle alongside other European rounds.
The Australian Grand Prix has been the F1 season opener since 1996, apart from a few trips to Bahrain to kick-start new campaigns.
Melbourne is a great, vibrant and bustling city. F1’s usually graced with lovely weather for the Australian GP and the grandstands are always packed. Few races can match the atmosphere.
The Albert Park Circuit is always a pretty cool circuit, mixing some street race elements as it winds its way around the lake and parkland. There’s a great array of fast and slow corners, making it a real challenge.
It’s usually a bit of an anomaly too on the F1 calendar, in that the track is so different, it usually mixes up the actual pecking order – we saw McLaren finish second and third in 2014, but the rest of the year they were midfield at best.
Yes, for a short period of time in the late 50s and early 60s Monaco was the F1 season opener. The Circuit de Monaco, again, was pretty different back then. The tunnel wasn’t as long, there was no La Rascasse and there weren’t as many barriers protecting cars from shunting into buildings and the harbour.
It’s a pretty cool place to kick-start the season, anyway. Can you imagine that now? It also meant the season started later than it does now, giving drivers a longer time to rest and recharge before the new F1 campaign. They’d need it anyway, with such a fast and dangerous circuit hosting the first race.
It’s always nice to see races moving around on the schedule and having previously held a mid-race slot, the United States Grand Prix moved to the season opening round for 1990. The Phoenix track was a tough one to master, a challenging street circuit with some long straights and technical sections.
The race proved to be a hugely exciting one, with youngster Jean Alesi and the great Ayrton Senna battling at the front before Senna eventually moved clear and won the race. Conditions were sweltering and attendance figures were pretty low. It stayed on the calendar for one more year before being ditched. It wasn’t surprising, but the location and track was unique and threw up drama.
What has been your favourite F1 season-opening venue? Let us know in the comments.