6 F1 Tracks Named After Famous Drivers – WTF1

6 F1 Tracks Named After Famous Drivers

If a racing driver is really good and really popular, chances are they might end up with a corner named after them. Think of the Jochen Rindt Kurve at the Osterriechring, Graham Hill Bend at Brands Hatch, or the Senna S at Interlagos.

But some drivers are so legendary that they are honoured with having an entire circuit named after them. Here are six such circuits, and the story of the drivers behind the names.

With the Canadian Grand Prix’s previous home at Mosport becoming unsuitable for F1 a new track was built in Montreal. Then known as the Île Notre-Dame Circuit, it held its first Formula 1 race in 1978.

Mario Andretti believed the new track had been designed to favour the style of Canada’s new hero, Gilles Villeneuve, and funnily enough it was Gilles who won the first race there in 1978, also his first Grand Prix win.

Over the next few years Gilles’ incredible ability and attacking style made him something of a hero, and when he was killed at Zolder in 1982 Formula 1 had lost one of its all-time greats.

Soon after his death his home track was named in his honour, and to this day it carries the ‘Salut Gilles’ message on the start/finish line.

There’s no shortage of great Brazilian drivers to name the country’s most famous race track after, so you might wonder why Interlagos is called named after a bloke with only one Grand Prix victory to his name.

But in the 1970s Carlos Pace was one of Formula 1’s rising stars. He put in some seriously impressive drivers for March and Surtees, including an impressive podium in Austria in 1973.

His driving was good enough to impress Bernie Ecclestone, and mid-way through 1974 he left Surtees to join Brabham. The following year Pace won his only race – fittingly at Interlagos in his home town of São Paolo – and he instantly became a local hero.

For the rest of 1975 he was a regular front-runner and even outpaced teammate Carlos Reutemann, but from then on uncompetitive and unreliable machinery meant that Pace couldn’t achieve the results his talent deserved. He’d never get the chance to either, as he died in a plane crash early in 1977.

In 1985 Interlagos was officially renamed the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, and a bronze bust of him sits outside the circuit.

When you think of legendary Argentinian drivers, only one name comes to mind: Esteban Tuero. But he doesn’t have a race track named after him (yet). Juan Manuel Fangio does, but it’s a small circuit in his home town of Balcarce. So why isn’t the circuit most associated with Formula 1 in Argentina named after the five-time World Champion, and just who are the Galvez brothers?

When Fangio was making a name for himself in Argentina in the 1930s and 1940s, there was another driver who was at least Fangio’s equal – Oscar Galvez. In fact both Fangio and Galvez went to Europe to examine the possibility of racing there in 1948 but Galvez didn’t like the look of it and decided to stay in Argentina.

Galvez was hugely talented though, and in 1949 he won a single-seater race, beating not only Fangio but also some of the visiting stars of Europe, such as Alberto Ascari, Giuseppe Farina and Luigi Villoresi.

But whilst Fangio went off to pretty much dominate Formula 1 Oscar Galvez stayed in Argentina, winning the national Turismo Carretera championship multiple times. He did compete in the 1953 Argentine Grand Prix, finishing fifth, but he mostly stayed away from single-seaters.

He was a hugely popular driver in his home country and a few months before his death in 1989, the Buenos Aires circuit that hosted Grands Prix on and off until 1998 was named after him. Oscar’s brother Juan was also a highly successful driver in Argentina, and in 2008 the track was renamed again to include him.

Whilst Enzo Ferrari is most well-known for his eponymous racing team, before that he actually wanted to be a racing driver. He pursued his dream throughout the early 1920s but began to take a step back to focus on team management, eventually retiring from driving completely in 1932 following the birth of his son, Dino.

In fact Imola was initially named after Dino Ferrari (who died in 1956) first, and his fathers name was only added after Enzo’s death in 1988. The track dropped off the calendar following the 2006 event but rumours of its return persist. Hopefully it isn’t too long until we see F1 cars racing there once more.

When Interlagos lost the Brazilian Grand Prix after the 1980 race following safety concerns it was replaced with the Jacarapaguá circuit in Rio de Janeiro, which had also hosted the race in 1978.

It was a track where Nelson Piquet was always pretty handy, winning there in 1983 and 1986 (he also won in 1982 but was disqualified for being underweight). Following on from Piquet’s third World Championship in 1987 the circuit was renamed Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet, and he therefore became the only driver to race in a Grand Prix on a track bearing his own name, which he did in 1988 (when he finished third for Lotus) and 1989.

For 1990 F1 returned to a shortened version of Interlagos, and the Jacarapaguá circuit was eventually demolished to make way for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Funnily enough though there’s also another Brazilian circuit named after Nelson Piquet, in Brasilia, meaning that for a time he had two race tracks named after him. Greedy much?!

Mexico’s premier race venue is named after two brothers who were both brilliant, and who both died far too young.

The younger brother, Ricardo Rodríguez took to racing very young, and held a number of age related records. In 1960 he became the youngest driver to finish on the podium at Le Mans at just 18 years and 133 days old. The following year he made his F1 debut at Monza driving for Ferrari and qualified on the front row, becoming the youngest driver to do so until Max Verstappen in 2016, 55 years later!

The following year he scored points at Spa, again becoming the youngest to do so until Jenson Button in 2000. Sadly his promising career was cut short at the end of 1962 when he crashed and died during a practice session for a non-championship Grand Prix at the track which would later bear his name.

Ricardo’s older brother Pedro was one of the great drivers of his era, winning a couple of Grands Prix and also the Le Mans 24 Hours during his career. He was a fine wet-weather driver and his skills behind the wheel of the fearsome Porsche 917 have become legendary.

Sadly just like his brother he was also killed in a race car when he collided with a backmarker during a sportscar race at the Norisring in 1971. Shortly afterwards the track formerly known as the Magdalena Mixhuaca circuit was renamed the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in honour of Ricardo and Pedro.

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