A hundred years ago, when drivers first started to organise races against each other, they did so on circuits made up of roads closed to public access. Often these would be in rural locations across Europe, with high-speed inclines followed by tight hairpin bends.
In 1929, it was decided a race should be held on a city’s streets, which would increase the number of spectators that could attend the event. A round-the-houses course was drawn up on the roads of Monte Carlo and with the blessing of the Prince, the famous Monaco Grand Prix was born.
It instantly became a hit as the route featured some of the Principality’s most spectacular locations, such as the casino, the harbour side and even took the cars through a tunnel. The glamorous setting on the French Riviera attracted famous movie stars and became an unmissable event for spectators and drivers. It was the race to see and be seen at.
Racing at high speeds in such tight confines, means that behind the wheel, drivers are tested to the limit when they compete on street circuits. With unyielding walls lining the sides of the track, even the slightest of mistakes is punished. Incidents where drivers clatter into the barriers are frequent which adds to the intensity and drama of street track racing.
This December, when Jeddah hosts the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on its Corniche, the 20 competing F1 drivers will relish the test to tame their 200mph machines on the 6.1km course.
Jeddah will be the latest city in a long line of prestigious venues to have hosted a Formula 1 World Championship street race. While Monaco has been a permanent fixture, in the 1980s the sport expanded by taking its races to the people of numerous cities in the USA, including Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and the Californian city of Long Beach.
In the following decades, there was an appetite for more cities to host races and one venue set a new standard in 2008. The city state of Singapore played host to a new 5km street circuit around its Marina Bay and did so under floodlights.
An 8pm start was perfect for the local audience and with the time difference, kept the race in its traditional European lunchtime TV slot. Since 2008, the Singapore night race has established itself as one of the most popular on the F1 calendar as the combination of the city’s streets and floodlit atmosphere combine to make dramatic spectacle.
For the fans in the grandstands, senses are heightened when they experience the sheer majesty of watching a Formula 1 car compete in the hours of darkness. With the new Saudi Arabian Grand Prix set to be held under floodlights, it will undoubtably rank along with Singapore as one of the most-spectacular races in Formula 1 history.