Top 5 US Grand Prix tracks
Updated: May 15
Before every race of the 2023 F1 season, I’ll be taking you on a trip down memory lane and ranking the top five races to ever happen at each respective track.
This week though, that presents a slight issue, as we visit the Miami circuit in the United States for only the second ever time.
So, rather than rank one race, or the best United States Grands Prix (save that for Austin), it’s time to rank the five best circuits to host a race in the land of the free and the home of the brave in the history of the Formula One World Championship.
There have been 11 tracks to host an official round of the F1 World Championship in the USA, with a 12th to join later this year in Las Vegas. But only five can make the cut this time around.
Which make the list? It’s time to find out.
5. Circuit of the Americas – 2012 to present
A popular track as soon as it entered the F1 calendar in 2012, the sweeping fast Hermann Tilke track surpassed many of his then boring ‘tilkedromes’ to be a standout amongst fans and drivers alike.
Located just outside the city of Austin, this 5.513km circuit has produced several exciting races over the years and other incredible memories including cowboy hats on the podium, Gerard Butler doing a shooey and WWE style grid introductions.
It also has arguably the best first turn in all of Formula One, with that steep descent leading off the grid a sight to be seen.
4. Sebring – 1959
While it only ever held one World Championship race, the popular Sebring track in Florida actually hosted the first ever United States Grand Prix in 1959, if of course you don’t count the Indy 500 which was weirdly counted as an F1 race in the 1950s.
The one race it did host however was a barnstormer and a historic Grand Prix for Australia.
Jack Brabham finished fourth to claim his, and Australia’s, first ever Formula One World Championship. And while that in itself is amazing, the fact that he lead the entire race and ran out of fuel on the last lap before pushing his car over the finishing line to finish fourth is even more incredible.
New Zealand racing icon Bruce McLaren won his first ever Grand Prix after Brabham’s misfortune and cemented the circuit as a track to surely remain part of the F1 furniture for quite some time.
However poor attendance and bad financial dealings saw the race scrapped a year later, and the United States Grand Prix was moved to California in Riverside.
3. Long Beach – 1976 to 1983
This popular Californian track has been sadly missed since it last saw F1 cars grace it in 1983, with several attempts since to bring it back over the years.
The 3.275km circuit was originally sold as the “Monaco GP of the United States” and held some incredible memorable races and was always a popular visit by the drivers and fans alike.
It was initially constructed after the then home of the US Grand Prix, Watkins Glen, looked doubtful, and lead to a weird boom of multiple tracks hosting multiple US Grands Prix in the early 1980s.
In fact 1982 created history as the first ever year one country has hosted three races in a single season, with the US having races at Long Beach Detroit and Caesers Palace in Las Vegas. This feat was repeated in 2020 when Italy hosted three races, and will happen again this season in the US once again.
Aussie Alan Jones won the 1980 race at Long Beach, with no driver ever winning at the circuit more than once. In fact in the eight races held at the circuit, drivers from eight different nationalities won each time.
2. Indianapolis – 2000 to 2007
Yes, I know, I know. Technically F1 also raced at Indianapolis between 1950 and 1960. But that is still a contentious statistic among many F1 historians, so for this instance I’m simply rating the “midfield version” from the early 2000s.
While it is probably best known for that race in 2005, the Indianapolis circuit always produced great racing in front of bumper crowds and an electric atmosphere.
When it debuted in 2000, it was the first time in nearly a decade that F1 had been seen in the United States, and it was a welcome return that was embraced immediately.
Who could forget Mika Hakkinen’s last ever F1 victory in 2001? Rubens Barrichello winning in 2002 after Michael Schumacher accidently let him pass on the finish line after a botched attempt at a dead heat?
Juan Pablo Montoya losing his shot at a World Championship in 2003, and then his final ever F1 race in 2006 after taking out his then McLaren teammate Kimi Raikkonen? And Lewis Hamilton’s ding-dong battle with Fernando Alonso to claim his second ever F1 victory?
The sight of modern F1 cars driving on the famed banked turns at Indy was incredible to watch, but it was never able to recover from the farcical scenes that came from the infamous 2005 race.
There have been whispers of a potential return in the future, something which I’m sure no F1 fan would be against.
1. Watkins Glen – 1961 to 1980
When you think F1 and the United States, you think of Watkins Glen in New York.
For 20 years the circuit hosted the US Grand Prix, and to this day holds the record for most F1 races held at a single venue in the country.
It was hugely popular among drivers and fans, and was referred to as the “Mecca” of road racing in America, a country dominated by oval racing. So popular was the race that it was awarded the best-staged race of the season three times in 1965, 1970 and 1971.
Initially a short 3.78km circuit with only eight corners, a longer layout of 5.435km was introduced in 1971 and included the famous “boot section”, an up-and-downhill hammerhead section with aptly named corners of “heel” and “toe.”
The new variation of the circuit sadly saw two fatalities occur, with Francois Cevert killed in 1973 at turn 4, and Helmuth Koinigg killed at turn 7 in 1974.
Safety improvements over the years were not enough to save the circuit’s spot on the calendar, and mixed with financial difficulties it was scrapped after the 1980 race, which was won by Alan Jones.
To this day the circuit remains a popular fixture on several domestic racing calendars in the United States, and remains the ultimate circuit to have seen F1 cars grace it in the country.
Do you agree with this list? Which F1 track in the United States is your favourite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here