Sun. Sand. Surf... Sidepods?
While everybody in the Formula 1 paddock is rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of a few hard-earned weeks away from the racetrack, for the rest of us, the prospect of a whole month without a grand prix is a long and empty one.
So why not combine the two? After all, the history of Formula 1 is littered with classic seaside tracks. Or, to be more precise, it’s full of great circuits located just close enough to the beach to make staying late for that end-of-day set-up meeting seem rather less palatable than a quick dip in the sea and a lazy siesta in the sun.
So if you’re about to set off on your summer hols, let McLaren’s very own FifthDriver guide you through our list of Formula 1’s most memorable beachside venues…
Rio de Janeiro
The Copacabana is arguably the most famous beach in the world (any location name-checked in a Barry Manilow song has to be big-time, right?) and Jacarepagua – the venue for the Brazilian Grand Prix inbetween its two stints at Interlagos – is literally just down the road. Sadly, Barry never wrote a song entitled ‘Jacarepagua’, although it probably would’ve scanned a bit better than the track’s other name – the Autodromo Internacional Nelson Piquet…
What could be more pleasant that a tram ride out of downtown Melbourne into St Kilda’s Albert Park, followed by a walk down Fitzroy Street with an ice-cream before watching the sunset over Port Philip Bay accompanied by a meal of freshly caught seafood and a nice cold glass of Yarra Valley Sauvignon Blanc? Not much really, which is why the F1 paddock collectively adores its annual visit to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix – there is no better venue at which to kick off a new season.
Even though it’s built on an island (Yas Island), there aren’t any beaches around the stunning Yas Marina circuit. However, a quick blast down one of Abu Dhabi’s broad and usually empty motorways will transport you into the capital city, where a wealth of stunning strips of white sand and turquoise waters await. The hot, dry climate – even in November, when the race visits – makes it the perfect location for a spot of winter sun. And if beach holidays aren’t your thing, there are miles and miles of desert to explore in dune-buggies!
To be fair, despite its fantastic coasts, few people head to Monaco for the sand. After all, there’s a lot to pull you away from the beach – the vertigo-inducing hills around La Turbie are ready to lure cyclists away into Tour de France territory, the infamous Casino is a nightlife magnet, and Monte-Carlo boasts some of the best restaurants on the Med. Anyway, why bother with a beach if you can get out on a super-yacht?
It’s not exactly within spitting distance of the coast (the circuit lies on the flats above Marseille, about 12km from the seaside, and is accessed by a sinuous rock-lined road), but there can be few more classic holiday locations that the south of France in high summer. The region of Provence is a culinary and artistic mecca, too – check out the works of Paul Cezanne, who famously painted the villages and mountains of the region at the end of the 19th century.
Built among the sand dunes (Zandvoort translates as, literally, ‘sand fort’, fact fans!), this classic Dutch venue is just a stone’s throw from the beach. Indeed, the sand often blows onto the track, causing problems as racers struggle for grip. While the bracing North Sea winds and cold waters aren’t for everyone, Zandvoort is a major coastal resort, with all sorts of shops and hotels populating the seafront. For those of a more adventurous disposition, the bigger cities of Haarlem and Amsterdam are easy bus rides away.
Most would probably claim the name is rather over-optimistic – after all, the Long Beach race was created to revive the prospects of an industrial portside area of downtown Los Angeles, injecting it with a fizz and glamour that it was sadly missing. Still, there is a beach there, and it is long, and it’s simply a hop over the Armco from the curving straight of Shoreline Drive, so it definitely joins our list of contenders. And the lights and sparkle of Tinseltown LA are just a short drive away.
This beautiful and historic port town made a name for itself as the host venue of the America’s Cup between 2007 and 2010, but its bland and unforgiving circuit failed to ignite passions when it held the European Grand Prix between 2008 and 2012. While we wouldn’t recommend you dip into the marina (too many boats!), a wide strip of golden sand lies just a few hundred metres to the north of the track. Need more tempting? Well, the local area’s tapas and paella are both fantastic, and who can resist some Spanish sol?
So, we didn’t pick all of Formula 1’s seaside venues – we could have included Casablanca’s Ain Diab, East London in South Africa, Estoril – a few miles from Portugal’s capital city Lisbon, and even the Sakhir circuit on the tiny island of Bahrain – but we picked the ones where you’d most likely spend an afternoon gazing at the Tarmac while applying the suntan lotion.
Have we missed any? Get in touch with us @McLarenF1 and let us know what else we should have included!