Motor racing is one of the world’s most popular sports, and Formula One is seen by many as the pinnacle of motorsport. From their sheer speed to the high-tech engineering, F1 cars are often at the forefront of design. While most of us are unlikely to have the chance to drive one of these cars, we can content ourselves by taking a trip around some of the street circuits which are open to the public when the pros aren’t flying around them. Here we’ve provided the low-down on the tracks you can actually drive on from the current F1 calendar.
Australia has held the first race of the season for a number of years now, and Melbourne’s F1 track is a loop around the city’s picturesque Albert Park Lake. Not far from the city centre and the shores of Port Phillip Bay, you can drive a whole lap of the circuit until a barrier turns you back round. Notice how the gentle kinks in the road are actually challenging corners at the breakneck racing speeds.
A recent addition to the F1 calendar, the Sochi Autodrom has been hosting races since 2014. It sits right on Russia’s Black Sea coast, and runs around the Olympic Park built for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Cruise past features like the impressive Bolshoy Ice Dome, then soak up the views out across the water from Olympic Avenue.
Perhaps the most famous of all the F1 circuits, and certainly the race with the most glamorous reputation. Monte Carlo’s iconic track is steeped in history, and is considered the most difficult for drivers thanks to the tight corners and unforgiving barriers which line the circuit. When Monaco’s F1 extravaganza isn’t in town, you can go for a spin through renowned corners like Mirabeau, the Fairmont Hairpin and La Rascasse. Drive through the darkness of the famous tunnel before emerging into the sunshine, and check out the luxury yachts moored in the harbour.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
The Canadian Grand Prix is held in the city of Montreal, and what a setting it has. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve twists around Notre Dame Island on the St Lawrence River, meaning it’s completely surrounded by water. On a nice day the track's popular among walkers, cyclists and rollerbladers, so go for a pootle around the track and stop for some great pictures at the start/finish line.
Baku City Circuit
Although it’s currently the newest of the circuits used in F1, the Baku City Circuit is steeped in history and runs right beside the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan. A track renowned for its speed, you’ll need to take things a little easier when you cruise through the UNESCO-listed old city and past landmarks such as Sabayil Castle, the Maiden Tower and Government House.
Marina Bay Street Circuit
Singapore’s F1 track zips around Marina Bay, giving it a picture-perfect harbourside location. It was F1’s first ever night race, so replicate the atmosphere of the Grand Prix by going for a drive along the track once darkness falls. If you want an extra-special experience, there are companies that offer the chance to drive one of their supercars around the track. Just make sure you don’t get carried away though, and remember to stick to the speed limits!
As well as this collection of race tracks from the current calendar, there’s many street circuits that used to hold F1 events. These can be found in places like Aintree in Liverpool, which hosted the British Grand Prix five times in the fifties and sixties, and Valencia, which was home to the European Grand Prix between 2008 and 2012. See if you can pick your way around the layouts of the old tracks, and note how the streets may have changed down the years. An honourable mention goes to the Nurburgring too, a Grand Prix track you can pay to drive around in your own car.