Do you have a favourite F1 corner? Some are hated by drivers but loved by spectators, some have fearsome reputations, others have been relegated to the annals of F1 history, branded too dangerous to be driven, whilst others continue to push drivers to their limits to this day. Corners can make or break a driver’s Grand Prix and give those of us watching inside the racing venues or on our screens at home the most thrilling moments of a drive.
There are plenty of contenders for the best corners in Formula One, but here, in no particular order, are our top 7 most famous picks.
Eau Rouge, Circuit Spa-Francorchamps
Without a doubt, the Eau Rouge corner (meaning red water) at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium is one of the most famous corners in the F1 calendar. The plunging right-left-right kink that has challenged the bravery of F1 drivers for decades is one of the toughest corners in Formula One. However, some pundits have argued that the Eau Rouge no longer warrants being named amongst Formula One’s best corners because the aerodynamic advances that have transformed cars have reduced the overall difficulty of corners like Eau Rouge.
Steady improvements in aerodynamics and grip now allow drivers to take it flat, while runoff areas have also decreased the danger level over the years. But then, this argument doesn’t in any way reduce the thrill of the corner, the spectacle or the sheer bravery required to reach the foot of the hill and keep your right foot planted on the floor, all the way to the top, a feat which is significantly more challenging in reality than it ever looks on the television.
As Martin Brundle remarked, “You had better hold onto your heart in Eau Rouge, otherwise it will come out of your throat.” The Mark Webber pass on Fernando Alonso in 2011 at the Belgian Grand Prix is a testament to the bravery and skill required to manoeuver Eau Rouge. It might be an obvious choice, but there’s a reason for that. It’s a remarkable corner.
While the track layout may have changed somewhat over the years, the Becketts complex at Silverstone retains its place as one of the greatest corners in the world. There is arguably nowhere better to view an F1 car at full capacity. Aside from the fact that cornering at Becketts pushes cars to their absolute limits, this sector of the track is so make-or-break for the lap that it gives it an extra element of excitement.
It’s a seventh-gear entry at just shy of 300km/h which will reduce to fourth gear and 180km/h by the time you reach the turn’s climax and shoot out onto the Hangar Straight. A perfect execution on these sweeping turns will not only give you an advantage on a key part of the lap, but also gives you a stellar run going into the longest straight on the track. By comparison, a nightmare on these turns can result in a lead being lost. It’s a mighty challenge.
130R – Suzuka Circuit
The Suzuka Circuit in Japan has hosted some of the most classic championship-deciding races in F1 history. Suzuka’s most important and intimidating corner is the oddly but appropriately-named 130R, indicating a 130 meter (427ft) radius turn starting past the crossover. The run down to the greatest corner at Suzuka is long, and it slopes down and then up again.
Drivers need to build up to a fantastic speed in excess of 315km/h and need to trust their cars to make the left-hander that is 130R. The seventh-gear entry needs total commitment; get it right and you’ll still be doing 300km/h on the exit, which is tough. Following two spectacular accidents (in 2002, Toyota driver Allan McNish suffered a high-speed crash in qualifying which sent him through the metal catch fence), the 130R was slightly redesigned to add a straighter entry, making it essentially a double-apex, left-hand corner. These improvements in handling and downforce have made this corner less imposing, because the added grip and stability makes it less challenging to throw the car in and make it stick. The 130R however still retains its place as one of the fastest turns in F1, taken at speeds approaching 305kph (190mph).
Any driver that takes this corner at full speed, with all the nerve that takes, deserves special respect. Fernando Alonso’s magnificent outside pass of Michael Schumacher on this corner in 2005 deserves special mention here.
The “cathedral of speed”, Monza is famous for its high-speed nature, historic banking and incredible braking zones for the chicanes. However, the Parabolica has to be the most popular corner at Monza.
The sweeping left-right and flick left onto the penultimate straight before the start-finish line and Monza’s legendary main straight ensures that the cars are at full pelt as they arrive at the Parabolica. Full pelt here means 330km/h, which means the drivers drop three gears to fourth for the apex, drifting the cars to the very outside of the tarmac at the exit, still doing in excess of 200km/h (150mph). Perfect execution with maximum exit speed is thus vital for a quick lap. Following this is a long straight thereby intensifying the pressure. That’s why you see either so many mistakes, or so many conservative runs through the Parabolica.
The Parabolica remains a test of precision and bravery. It is also the venue of Derek Warwick’s miraculous escape after a devastating 1990 shunt in his Lotus and, sadly, the place where 20 years earlier, Jochen Rindt was killed during practice in his own Lotus 72 before winning the World Championship posthumously.
Senna S – Interlagos, Sao Paulo.
Interlagos is another great circuit with another all-time great F1 corner. The fifth-gear left-hander of Mergulho and the Senna S is arguably the best corner in F1. So it’s appropriate that this corner takes its name from the sport’s greatest driver and begins one of the most underrated mega laps on the calendar.
The slight crest on entry, the change in camber through, the lack of grip due to a below-par surface and low usage (to be candid) alone makes it a tough, thrilling corner for drivers to approach. However, taking caution on this corner is crucial to having a good lap as well as your run down to Turn 3, a chief overtaking spot. Cars top more than 300km/h at the end of the start-finish straight, and then drivers need to try to find the stability and grip to heave it down into third gear, shedding 200km/h in a matter of metres.
A quick blast through will have them up to 170km/h as they flick into the second part of the Esses. A feat that demands courage and skill.
The Swimming Pool, Monaco.
Of all Monaco’s wonderful features, impressive backdrops and challenging facets, the Swimming Pool corner is one of the most popular. This is because of its awesome on-screen view and of course, it even looks more exquisite in reality. However, the Swimming Pool corner is more than just a nice view. Like the rest of Monaco, any mistake here and you can pay the ultimate price. None of that fancy run-off like at Ste Devote or the chicane, this is the real deal.
So when you see a driver thread their car through the corner, on the limit, it’s sheer poetry in motion. A fifth-gear entry can turn into fourth gear just to maximize the rev range through the corner, but speeds will remain around 220km/h if you get it right.
The brilliant thing about Monaco, above all else, is that it is unparalleled on the F1 calendar in terms of being able to see F1 cars up close. If you miss the privilege of being on the trackside, the television super slow motion, high-definition shots of an F1 car at full speed, squirming on the exit of the Swimming Pool, millimeters from crashing, is also an extremely pretty sight to behold.
Pouhon – Circuit Spa-Francorchamps
Spa-Francorchamps is a monumental circuit, probably the greatest in the sport. But Eau Rouge gets all of the attention and credit. However, an equally crucial component to a fast lap around Spa-Francorchamps is Pouhon. It’s a high-speed entry that dips downhill and requires total commitment as the driver flings the car left and powers past the scenic Ardennes Forest.
Sadly, an overly long run-off has reduced the importance of nailing this quality corner, but Pouhon in itself remains an epic, traditional F1 challenge corner.
Seven great corners, seven reasons amongst hundreds why Formula One is the most thrilling sport on the planet.