Lewis Hamilton recently described Singapore’s Turn 10 ‘Singapore Sling’ chicane as “the worst corner I’ve ever driver in F1”, and this caused us to ponder what are some of the other truly awful corners that have graced the F1 stage in his 60-year history.
Granted, the rise and rise of the ‘Tilkedrome’ would probably give us cause for plenty of nominations, and you might find a smattering of his design ideas gracing this countdown article.
Were we to list a countdown of the worst tracks in Formula 1 history – and this is a feature piece we’ll run soon – then there would certainly be a few of his efforts gracing that article.
However, in spite of his reputation for producing generally bland, soulless autodromes, Tilke is a good corner designer, and some of his works – Turkey’s Turn 8 is an obvious example – are truly incredible.
But what about the corners that are an utterly pointless interruption to a Formula 1 lap? Those that are ugly, badly-designed, clumsy messes that create ill will among the drivers and fans alike? This is the focus of our analysis today.
As safety measure have increased, those wonderful edifices designed to slow cars down – and I speak of chicanes here – are swiftly become a pox on the Formula 1 landscape. They are an unfortunately hideous adornment to what were many a classic circuit, and you’ll recognise quite a few of these monstrosities in this feature.
However, we’ll start immediately by stating that Singapore’s Turn 10 chicane does not grace this feature. It might be a dangerous chicane – hence the reason for Hamilton citing it – but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad corner in our eyes. It is a supreme challenge for drivers, who have to dance over the kerbing and keep it off the wall at the exit of the corner. That’s a serious test for anyone behind the wheel.
Countdown articles like this inherently promote debate and that is exactly what I hope will occur. Your top-ten could be completely different, and that’s why I welcome your thoughts and comments.
So, in the spirit of all things subjective, here is our top-ten list of the worst corners to have graced a Formula 1 circuit…
10. ‘Beirut’, Circuit de Catalunya (1994)
The deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna coupled with the serious injuries to Rubens Barrichello, Pedro Lamy and Karl Wendlinger forced a frantic reformation of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association to review all upcoming circuits’ risks for causing further injuries to drivers.
Following Wendlinger’s coma-induced shunt at Monaco, the next port of call was Spain’s Circuit de Catalunya, where the GPDA representatives demanded a mechanism to slow the cars down between the Campsa right-hander and the right-left Nissan kink leading onto the back straight.
The best (or worst) solution the officials could come by was an horrific chicane comprised of tyre bundles with a permanent yellow flag declaration.
Resembling a security checkpoint, it earned the nickname ‘Beirut’ among many drivers, media representatives and fans – and Bertrand Gachot gave the circuit it’s first test of awfulness when he clobbered the tyre bundle in his execrable Pacific Ilmor.
Thankfully, by the time the 1995 round came by, the Nissan kink had been straightened and the tyre bundle was mercifully put to death.
9. Turn 3, Hungaroring (1986-8)
You think the Hungaroring is a dull, slow circuit today? It used to be worse…
When Formula 1 ventured beyond the Iron Curtain in 1986, drivers and fans were greeted with a purpose-built circuit located some 20km from the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Set in a valley, the circuit was a great amphitheatre that provided great views for spectators from many vantage points.
That, however, was generally as good as its been. Tight, twisty and very slow in nature – Alan Jones likened it to “Monaco in a paddock” one time! – overtaking is next to impossible and the races have generally been very processional.
The first version of the circuit was even slower than its current configuration, with the Turn 3 right-hander tightened into a left-right chicane before heading up the hill to the impressive and dangerous Turn 4, the site of Felipe Massa’s near-fatal smash last year.
The reason for this detour? Construction workers found an underground spring at that point, and the track was reconfigured so as not to destroy it. Thankfully, construction work after the 1988 race saw the chicane dumped and Turn 3 reconfigured into a more conventional right-hand corner.
8. La Piscine / Swimming Pool 2, Monte Carlo (2003-present)
Extensions to the the pit lane complex at Monaco saw sections of the Monte Carlo harbourfront being reclaimed from the bay, and one of the victims of this was the emasculation of the second Swimming Pool chicane at the world’s most famous street circuit.
Following the brilliant left-right flick entering the complex, drivers would have to get the car under control to navigate the right-left flick that constituted the second part of the complex. With Armco barriers framing its every inch, accuracy and precision were everything, and many drivers came a cropper trying to thread their way through.
However, modifications ahead of the 2003 race saw the barriers pushed back and a run-off area created, which the chicane itself was simplified into a simply hop over the kerbs. Much of the challenge in the corner had all but gone, and many drivers have enjoyed the ‘get-out’ option the speed-bump laden run-off area provides if they get it wrong.
7. Bus Stop Chicane, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (2007-present)
‘What?’, I hear you cry – ‘A corner on F1’s best track is on the worst corners list?’. Yes, sadly so…
… to this…
[Original images via Spa-Francorchamps Circuit]
With the might Spa-Francorchamps circuit off the calendar in 2006, the Formula 1 circus returned to find that considerable renovations had occurred to the site. In came a nice new pit lane and paddock facilities, Eau Rouge had the sting taken out of it with some resurfacing and barrier relocation, and the iconic Bus Stop chicane had been tinkered with.
Since the shortened version of the Belgian circuit had made its debut on the F1 calendar in 1983, drivers were faced with the daunting task of trying to slow their cars down after a blast through Blanchimont and flick their cars through a double-chicane complex closely frames by cement walls. Couple that with trying to overtaking another car on the way in, and this was a super little corner complex.
But in the name of safety, circuit designers elected to reprofile the entire complex, inserting a clumsy and slow right-left sequence that ruined the fast-flowing rhythm of the circuit.
Bar the odd crash and for being the site of Lewis Hamilton’s controversial penalty for passing Kimi Räikkönen in the 2008 race, it is an unnecessary change to a grand circuit.
6. Acque Minerali Chicane, Imola (1980-94)
The tragic deaths of Ratzenberger and Senna at San Marino in 1994 precipitated a wave of safety changes to cars and circuits in the years that followed.
And as the circuit where these two drivers perished, the Imola circuit underwent a host of safety modifications and remains a prime example of the ‘Chicane Fever’ that seemed to grip motorsport in the subsequent years.
Chicanes installed at Tamburello and Villeneuve disrupted the rhythm of the circuit, but one sensible thing the organisers did was to get rid of the Acque Minerali chicane in time for the 1995 race, which improved that section of the circuit enormously.
Driuvers would plunge downhill into the valley and be faced with this clumsy, high-kerbed right-left-right treble before they headed uphill to the Variante Alta (yes, another chicane). It was a truly awful chicane.
Now, Acque Minerali is probably the most daunting corner on the circuit, with the slow corners replaced by a sudden direction change before the sharper right-hander of the corner, all while trying to brake and downshift. In its current form, it is a true challenge for the drivers.
5. Eau Rouge Chicane, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (1994)
Yet another corner to have the life killed from in the safety-conscious post-Senna 1994 was the mighty Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps.
The altered version what a horrible chicane made up of plastic barricades that the drivers found themselves having to thread their way through, as opposed to the ‘hang on for dear life’ plunge that the original sweeps presented the drivers. The barricades – similar to the ‘Beirut’ tyre bundles – were hardly what you would consider as a safe object to collect at high speed…
Mercifully, the corner returned to its former configuration the following year, and further modifications have seen a an extension of the run-off areas and resurfacing for better grip. Sadly, much of the challenge from the corner has now well and truly gone.
[Original image via The Cahier Archive]
4. Bremskurve 2 / Ostkurve Chicane, Hockenheimring (1982-91)
Following Patrick Depailler’s fatal crash at the flat-out Ostkurve right-hander in 1980, officials decreed that the speeds through the corner had to be slowed with the addition of a chicane.
However, their first construction effort was appalling. The design basically consisted of two parallel lanes of the track joined together by a quick left-right flick surrounded by vicious kerbs and a mountain of tyres at its edge.
“It’s bloody ridiculous – and dangerous,” Keke Rosberg said of it before the 1982 German Grand Prix. “I tell you, on the first lap, I’m going to keep out of the way. For sure, four cars written off there. At least.”
While Rosberg’s prediction didn’t quite come true that year, the Ostkurve Chicane was the scene of one of F1’s most famous punch-ups, when Nelson Piquet laid into Eliseo Salazar after the pair collided during the race.
By the time the 1990 race came along, circuit officials decided that the existing chicane wasn’t any good, so they nonsensically relocated the existing design further back along the straight.
Finally, circuit designers saw sense to insert a more conventional chicane – with run-off! – that was used until the circuit was butchered by Hermann Tilke after the 2001 race.
[Original image via The Cahier Archive]
3. Turns 9 & 10, Indianapolis (2000-7)
Listing these successive hairpins as two separate corners would deny another awful corner the inclusion it rightfully deserves in this countdown, and so commonsense has prevailed in planting this shining example in awful circuit design in one listing.
This is probably one of the most pointless corner complexes in Formula 1 history: an unattractive, awfully slow right-left double-hairpin would be an embarrassment on any circuit, and particularly so on the much-vaunted Indianapolis circuit.
The dropping of the Indianapolis circuit spared the F1 community and fans at large of the ‘follow-my-leader’ procession that was the hallmark of the entire infield section of the oval circuit.
The only incident of note that occurred there was in the 2000 race, where Michael Schumacher had a quick spin while comfortably in the lead. It had probably bored him to death…
[Original image via LAT]
2. Lycee Chicane, Circuit de Magny Cours (1991-2003, and 2004-8)
With the small fortune the Mitterand government spent on getting a Formula 1-spec circuit on the calendar in the rural Nevers region, why on earth they opted for some of their circuit design decisions is a mystery.
Upon viewing the circuit for the first time, David Coulthard said: “[That] corner before the pits is ridiculous compared to the rest of the track. It is far too tight and twisty and that sort of corner should be outlawed.”
Then, after the 2003 race, Hermann Tilke reprofiled the final corners of the Magny Cours circuit who thankfully scrapped that chicane, only to – our horror of horrors – add an even worse high-kerbed right-left chicane positioned after the new Lycee corner. It’s almost like he couldn’t help himself…
[Original image via The Cahier Archive]
1. New (nameless) chicane, Circuit de Catalunya (2007-present)
Another blot on the F1 landscape by the one and only Hermann Tilke, this high-kerbed left-right chicane was added between the penultimate and last corners on the Circuit de Catalunya ostensibly with the aid of improving driver safety.
The idea was to reduce cornering speeds through the final corner and onto the main straight, which was also hoped to give the added benefit of allowing a following driver the opportunity to pass the driver ahead on the way into Turn 1.
However, hopes that this corner might actually improving the overtaking situation – on one of the least passing-friendly tracks where 80% of the races won have been from pole position – are yet to materialise.
As for the corner not having a name? May I suggest either the ‘Tilke Chicane’, or ‘Mierda’ (the local translation for the French, ‘merde’).
[Original image via The Cahier Archive]