Can the longest track in F1 be rubbish?

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One of the compelling facet of Formula One’s Belgian Grand Prix is the circuit called Spa Francorchamps. The historic track is incredibly appealing due to its layout but one of the key factors is the sense of actually “going somewhere” due to the length of the circuit. For years Spa has been the longest track on the calendar but it will have some competition when Russia enters the grand prix world with their 2014 race in Sochi.

Like most things Russian, the expansiveness of the track is like to country itself…huge. It is a street course, which has become de rigueur amongst recent additions, and will comprise of 5.872 km.  That’s a long track and most drivers like the length of a circuit as it adds to the feeling of actually driving somewhere. Circuits such as Spa, Japan, Silverstone and even Austin are driver favorites for a reason and much of it is the length and flow of the circuits.

According to track developers, CEO of Formula Sochi, Alexander Bogdanov, the circuit is on target and construction has ramped up:

“The construction of the racing track in Sochi is going into high gear,” he said. “The 5854 m long circuit is one of the longest in the Formula One World Championship. The autodrome will also host different racing series such as FIA GT World Series, FIA WEC, WTCC, Formula 3, and Russian national championships. We are working through the possibility of hosting motorcycle racing of highest level: Moto GP, World Superbike, and others”.

It’s good news but what do you think about one of the longest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar being a street circuit? Track designer, Herman Tilke, says that it should be fast and interesting and after the success of his efforts in Austin Texas, we’re more apt to believe he has gotten away from his sterile circuit design.

I tend to think long circuits should be sweeping, fast affairs set amongst the forest or landscape but that’s a notion born from my exposure to Spa, Monza or even the old Nurburgring and Hockenheim ring. Today’s tracks lack that nuance and many seem to ignore the reason Spa is so great…it’s far from perfect.

The best circuits aren’t designed with a protractor to make all corners the same radius and all straights as flat as a cookie sheet. Spa’s imperfection is what makes it a challenge and difficult to drive. Brian Redman has always maintained that Sir Jackie Stewart is wrong, the Green Hell is not the scariest circuit, Spa was due to the speed and undulations of the landscape. Can perfect symmetry be appealing when it comes to a Grand Prix circuit?

Can a street circuit posses the distance that makes a track great like Spa but also include the nuance, imperfections and elevation that also makes a truly historic Grand Prix? Let us know what you think of the concept of Sochi. Are you growing weary of street circuits or is it time to find the next Monaco?

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