These circuits that hosted Formula 1 in the United States / Exclusive Magazine Motorsinside.com
With the arrival of Miami and Las Vegas on the calendar, return to the circuits which have seen a Formula 1 Grand Prix take place on their tracks in the United States.
Formula 1 and the United States have a long and tumultuous love story in common. Even if today, the enthusiasm across the Atlantic for the queen discipline of motorsport continues to grow, it will have taken time for F1 to find a place in the hearts of American fans. If the first F1 Grands Prix disputed in the United States were held on the legendary Indianapolis circuit during the first years of the discipline, no less than nine other tracks have been visited since, not counting the newcomers, Miami this year and Las Vegas in 2023. This is a record for the same country. A retro look at these ten circuits in the country of Uncle Sam.
Indianapolis, Indiana (1950-1960 and 2000-2007)
Along with Le Mans and Monaco, Indianapolis is one of the three most legendary places in the history of motorsport. It is not for nothing that the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indy 500 constitute the Triple Crown that only Graham Hill has managed to win.
For eleven editions from 1950 to 1960, the most famous oval race in the world was integrated into the calendar of the F1 world championship. A preserve of American pilots, the event attracted very few pilots competing on the old continent. The double Italian world champion Alberto Ascari nevertheless made an appearance there in 1952.
From 2000 to 2007, Indianapolis made its return to the F1 calendar but on a road circuit drawn inside the speed ring. The oval is only used for the start/finish straight and part of the first and last corners. Out of eight contested editions, Michael Schumacher won five. In 2005, only six cars took the start following the withdrawal of the single-seaters equipped with Michelin tires at the end of the formation lap. The French manufacturer considering that its rubbers would not resist the pressure inflicted by the banking of the last corner. After the 2007 edition won by Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 left the United States for many years.
Sebring, Florida (1959)
Miami is not the first circuit to host Formula 1 in Florida. In 1959, Sebring hosted the elite of motorsport on an airfield. The circuit, still used today in particular by American championships, is mainly composed of long straight lines and tight turns.
During this unique edition of the United States Grand Prix at Sebring, Bruce McLaren won his first victory in the premier class. Moreover, it was also on this occasion that Jack Brabham became Formula 1 world champion for the first time.
Riverside, California (1960)
Like Sebring, Riverside has only hosted the United States Grand Prix once. And like at Sebring, it was here that Jack Brabham won a world championship title, his second in a row.
One of the peculiarities of the circuit is that it was located near a desert. The pilots had to deal with dusty track conditions. On Lotus, Stirling Moss did it twice by pocketing his fifteenth pole position and his fourteenth victory.
Unfortunately, this circuit appreciated by pilots no longer exists. Located about fifty kilometers east of Los Angeles, the Riverside International Speedway suffered from the extension of the Californian megalopolis.
It is finally here that Ken Miles, British sports car driver, died during a test session in 1966.
Watkins Glen, New York (1961-1980)
Watkins Glen is, to date, the American circuit having most often hosted the United States Grand Prix. From 1961 to 1980, Formula 1 stopped there without interruption, fifteen times as part of the United States Grand Prix and five times as part of the Eastern United States Grand Prix.
Considered one of the most beautiful circuits in North America, the track is made up of a “S” spectacular just after the start and several blind corners in banking.
After an inaugural victory for Britain’s Innes Ireland in 1961, double world champions Graham Hill and Jim Clark shared the laurels in the next six editions.
It was at Watkins Glen in 1970 that the future double world champion Emerson FIttipaldi won his first victory in F1 and that Jochen Rindt was crowned world champion posthumously, a unique event in the history of the discipline.
In 1971, the French driver François Cevert won his only victory in the discipline. It was also on this circuit that he died two years later during the qualifying session before a new tragedy bereaved this track in 1974, when the Austrian Helmut Koinigg, for whom it was the second start in F1, is killed in a terrible accident during the race.
The Watkins Glen circuit is still on the NASCAR championship calendar today.
Long Beach, California (1976-1983)
The second Californian city to host Formula 1, the Long Beach circuit hosted the West United States Grand Prix for eight editions. Long Beach is the first in a long line of American street circuits to host F1. Of the 10 circuits that have seen F1 single-seaters run in the United States, half are urban circuits.
The American Monaco was a circuit drawn both in town and along the sea. The straight line of the pits, slightly curved, had the old liner as a background « Queen Mary », permanently docked. Circuit much appreciated by drivers and where the spectacle was often present, Long Beach has seen eight drivers win on its track in as many editions. It was notably the scene of the first victory of the future three-time Brazilian world champion Nelson Piquet in 1980.
Today, Long Beach is still used by IndyCar and Formula E has been there twice.
Las Vegas Caesars Palace, Nevada (1981-1982)
In 1981 and 1982, Formula 1 stopped twice in the world capital of gambling. The circuit, laid out in the car park of the famous casino « Caesars Palace »whose name the race took, is considered one of the worst tracks in the history of motorsport.
Circuit unpopular with drivers and fans, the two editions took place in blazing heat. Composed of 14 corners, the track was physically demanding for the pilots. Patrick Tambay, for example, could not take the start of the race in 1982 because of intense neck pain.
The 1981 edition marked the last victory and the last podium of the 1980 world champion Alan Jones. This race also allowed Nelson Piquet to win the first of his three titles. That of 1982 marked the first victory in Formula 1 for the late Italian driver Michele Alboreto.
Detroit, Michigan (1982-1988)
Detroit, cradle of the American automobile industry, entered the F1 calendar from 1982 for seven editions (three under the name Grand Prix of the United States East, four under the name Grand Prix of the United States). That year, three races took place in the United States: Long Beach, Las Vegas and therefore Detroit. The only other season in which the same country organized three Grands Prix was 2020 with Italy (Monza, Mugello, Imola), during the reorganization of the calendar following the Covid-19 epidemic.
A circuit more popular with fans than Las Vegas, its layout was mainly made up of straight lines and right-angled turns. Despite some criticism from the drivers, this track delivered some interesting races, including three victories for Ayrton Senna in the last three editions.
Detroit still hosts the IndyCar Championship but in a different part of the Michigan city.
Dallas, Texas (1984)
The Dallas circuit has some commonalities with some previous circuits. Like Sebring and Riverside, Formula 1 only stopped there once, and like Las Vegas, the race was a fiasco.
Contested in the middle of July 1984 in the Texas heat wave, Dallas saw its asphalt deteriorate as the single-seaters passed. Only eight cars managed to cross the finish line, including the Williams of the winner, Keke Rosberg.
Several unusual anecdotes have nevertheless marked this unique Grand Prix disputed in Dallas. Despite taking the first pole of his career, Nigel Mansell had to push his car to the finish because of a gearbox problem and passed out on the line from the heat. .
Finally, rookie Ayrton Senna, forced to retire following a hit, assured his engineers with certainty that the wall he had just touched had moved. This was confirmed after analysis at the scene of the collision.
Phoenix, Arizona (1989-1991)
After Indiana, Florida, California, New York State, Nevada, Michigan and Texas, Formula 1 stopped in Arizona three times from 1989 to 1991. This period corresponds to the domination without division of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna on F1. They are also the ones who won the three editions of this Grand Prix in Phoenix.
1990 was undoubtedly the most interesting edition. It was indeed marked by the magnificent fight between Ayrton Senna and Jean Alesi. On a Tyrrell, the Frenchman made life difficult at the Brazilian’s McLaren and thus climbed on his first podium in F1.
The 1991 edition was the last of a Grand Prix in the United States before the return to Indianapolis in 2000. Phoenix was also the last American street circuit before the arrivals of Miami in 2022 and Las Vegas in 2023.
Austin, TX (Since 2012)
The second Texas city to integrate the F1 calendar after Dallas, the Austin circuit made a remarkable entrance from 2012. Circuit designed from the start to host Formula 1, its objective was to anchor F1 on American soil and allow him to make it popular with fans across the Atlantic.
Mission accomplished for COTA (“Circuit of the Americas”) since, in addition to offering a route inspired by the most circuits in the world, the public was present from the first edition. The atmosphere on the site and the pleasure provided at the wheel make it an unmissable event on the calendar where drivers like to go. Even IndyCar and MotoGP ended up racing in Austin.
The Texas circuit has seen some great editions since 2012. It was notably the scene of Kimi Räikkönen’s last victory in F1 in 2018 and Lewis Hamilton’s sixth coronation in 2019.