City circuits are special. The demand is even greater on this type of track, as there is no room for big escapes and every mistake is paid for in the protections. It is said that city cars are true tests for drivers and F1 seems to be getting back into that fashion.
You don’t have to go back a long way to see that the track choices for the F1 calendar didn’t necessarily go through city circuits. The risks that this entailed were sometimes feared and, in fact, the projects for the new tracks became more attractive. Now we have several infrastructures around the world that were abandoned or forgotten by F1, after huge investments, to host half a dozen races, if that.
But F1 is now starting to go down an interesting path. The number of city circuits has been increasing and in 2022, the year of (relative) normality after two years of a pandemic, we can see this trend more pronounced. F1 is starting to look to city dwellers as a good formula for their business. If we look at the last ten, the number of city routes per season was four (2012 to 2014), rising to five (2016 to 2019), this including Sochi, which is a mixture of city and permanent route, but which we consider city. In a calendar that had an average of 20 races per year, we had 20 to 25% of city tracks per year. But this year, we see an increase in the number of city dwellers and in the 2022 season we have 7 tracks of this kind (already counting the departure from Sochi). We spent more than 30% of the season on city routes.
This trend cannot be overlooked and could indicate that F1 understands that urbanites are good for the show. Also, Formula E brought a different concept and instead of forcing people to go to the tracks, it took the tracks to the people. The impact that any car competition causes live is incomparably greater than on TV. And with city layouts, people are transported to a new dimension. Streets that normally travel at 50 km/h are traveled at 150 km/h, which is a shock. And it’s that shock that brings more magic to the competition. So it wouldn’t be surprising that F1 is trying, in its own way, to replicate a little of what Formula E does. Mention should also be made of Indycar, which also has several city riders on its calendar (5) and which also bets on this type of route to bring the show to people, without them having to travel.
Of course, this implies logistical challenges, and assembling a city car is complex, sometimes time-consuming and not always pleasing to everyone. But any racing fan admits that city dwellers are always special, drivers like the adrenaline and the show takes on even more color. No wonder F1 is betting more on this type of track.