Grand Prix racing is now a worldwide event, with Formula One events held across North and South America, Asia, Australia, Russia and South Africa. But Europe will always be considered the home and birthplace of Grand Prix motor racing and Formula One, and for this reason the continent’s racetracks will always hold a special place in the hearts of avid motor racing fans. Even circuits that are no longer active on the Grand Prix calendar are often rich with history and significance to the sport, with the names of certain stretches and corners alone possessing an iconic power. So if you’re a racing fan planning a visit to Europe, what are the must-see circuits? Here are a few suggestions.
If it’s glamour you’re after, this Monaco street race is the place to be. The lack of overtaking on the narrow roads doesn’t make Monte Carlo any less challenging, as corners like Ste Devote, Mirabeau, Loews Hairpin and Nouvelle Chicane are legendary obstacles in their own right. The Monaco Grand Prix takes place in the last weekend in May and is attended by A-list celebrities and rich socialites, watching from locations like the Ermano Palace Penthouse before partying the night away on their private yachts.
This legendary Italian venue is an F1 mainstay, and the 137,000 capacity Autodromo Nazionale Monza just north of Milan actually hosts three separate tracks in the woodland setting of the Royal Villa of Monza Park. The 3.6 mile Grand Prix track is complemented by the 1.494 mile junior track and a shorter high speed oval track that is now unused and falling into decay, but it is still a fascinating site to visit. In 1968, Monza was the location of future FIA president Max Mosley’s greatest triumph as a racing driver, when he came eighth in a non-championship race. Mosley retired from Formula 2 racing the following year to co-found racing car manufacturers March Engineering. His legal skills and background eventually led to him becoming president of FISA’s manufacturing commission, and in 1991 he was elected FISA president, then FIA president two years’ later.
Spa Francorchamps in Belgium, popularly known simply as Spa, is one of the most challenging and hair raising of Formula 1 circuits. Set in the Ardennes Mountains, the original eight-mile length was reduced to barely half that for safety reasons, but it still retains its reputation for breath-taking rises and falls, stunning sweeps and tight corners. Spa is considered one of the best places in the world to watch the Grand Prix, and it’s also famous for its 24 and 6 hour races. Bear in mind however that the weather can be unpredictable at the best of times.
Other popular circuits include Nurburgring in the Eifel Mountains, Le Mans, and Brands Hatch and Silverstone in the UK. Wherever you choose to visit, make sure you plan ahead and book appropriate accommodation. That way you can see all the sights and catch all the races that will make this a European road trip to remember.