Racing Lines: Why an unfamiliar race schedule is good for F1

That never really caught on in an era when testing is so heavily restricted, but those who travel out for the annual historic racing festival rave about it as a lovely place to go motor racing. Portugal hasn’t held a grand prix since Jacques Villeneuve won at Estoril for Williams in 1996, so Portimão, on 25 October, is another refreshing addition.

Next stop, Imola and Istanbul

For many, the return to Imola on 1 November – yes, a third race in Italy – will be the highlight of the autumn marathon. For most of three decades, this stunning circuit – I’d argue one of the finest in the world – opened the European F1 season each spring, but it dropped off the schedule after 2006. Okay, it’s the track where Ayrton Senna died, but Imola should never be defined by such tragedy. It’s a return that should be made permanent.

Then, on 15 November, F1 travels to Turkey for the first time since 2011 for a proper Lazarus moment. It’s not that Istanbul Park was unpopular. Quite the contrary: by new-circuit standards, F1 track designer Hermann Tilke produced one of his finest on the Asian side of the Bosphorous.

But given Turkey’s lack of obvious motorsport connections, no one in F1 ever expected to go back when the place hit financial strife. The fabled multi-apex Turn 8 and the long drag up to Turn 12, where Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber famously collided in 2010, will offer a pleasing spectacle in this hybrid era.

Arabian promise

A triple-header in the desert is hardly a shock, considering the climate advantages – not to mention how the region is awash with oil money. Two rounds at Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit, on 29 November and 6 December, doesn’t sound special; the place is hardly Silverstone. But Ross Brawn and his team have come up with a great idea to enliven the prospect.

The second race will be held on an alternative layout, Sakhir’s so-called ‘outer track’, that promises a spectacle as close to American oval racing as F1 has experienced since Monza’s ancient banking was still in use. At just 2.2 miles in length and featuring barely a left-hand bend of any significance, sub-60sec lap times should make this race a classic slip-streamer, over 87 laps of a circuit that’s longer than only Monaco.

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