Who doesn’t enjoy a weekend off? When you work in motorsport, they’re the critical moments when you can recharge the batteries and pack the suitcase for next week’s trip to another racetrack.
But with eight solid weekends of motorsport action in the calendar, it’ll be August before we next get out in the garden to mow the lawn, fire up the BBQ and catch some rays…
While hardly perfect for the home-loving mechanic, it’s great news for race fans across the world, who have eight blue-riband events all headed their way over the next eight weeks.
So let’s see how the rest of our summer is looking:
Canadian Grand Prix
08 – 10 June
The contrast between the flat-out blasts of Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and the twisting confines of Monaco couldn’t be greater. But both circuits share one thing in common: the proximity of the barriers and walls to the racetrack, which significantly raises the stakes. Thing is, it’s arguably easier to miss the barriers when you’re tip-toeing through in first or second gear; it’s quite a bit harder when you’re jumping kerbs and getting the hammer down in fourth or fifth gear. As always, this is a must-see race.
Le Mans 24 Hours
16 - 17 June
McLaren kinda has skin in the game for this one. How so? Because it marks the second outing of the year for Fernando Alonso as he fights to win the World Endurance Championship with Toyota. The little Spaniard is performing at the top level – he won the opening race of the year, at Spa, alongside team-mates Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi, and will contest the classic enduro with the same line-up. He has to be considered one of the favourites for overall victory, too, further validating his ambition to win motorsport’s fabled ‘triple crown’ of Le Mans, the Monaco GP, and the Indy 500.
French Grand Prix
22 – 24 June
Yes, we’ve only just had a grand prix in ‘France’ (in Monaco, to be precise – Ed), but this is different. The French Grand Prix is the grand old dame of motorsport – the oldest motor race in the world, actually, having first been held way back in 1906, when it was a two-day affair, won by Ferenc Szisz. It’s a race that’s been missing from the F1 calendar since 2008, but finally returns this year, to its former home at Paul Ricard. Its famed Mistral Straight may have been emasculated by the addition of a chicane, but this will be the first time since 1985 that the full-length track has been used. For that alone, it’ll be worthy of your attention.
Austrian Grand Prix
29 June – 01 July
There’s no use in even pretending that the revamped A1/Red Bull Ring can hold a candle to its former incarnation as the mighty Osterreichring, which used a layout that, let’s say, favoured the throttle far more than the brake pedal. But that’s to miss the point – the new circuit is neat and fun, and eminently raceable, and that’s all that matters. What’s more, the local scenery is beautifully idyllic, the race a purist’s dream, and the local towns full of pastoral authenticity. It may not be top of your F1 bucket-list, but there’s a lot to like about a weekend in rural Austria. Bring your mountain bike and this could be the perfect place to kick-start your summer.
British Grand Prix
06 – 08 July
Another daddy of the grand prix scene. The British Grand Prix, like the Italian race, has been a permanent fixture on all 69 seasons of the Formula 1 calendar – and no other race, not even Monaco, can boast that length of service. But whereas Monza has remained largely unaltered since hosting its first F1 race in 1950, Silverstone has had many face-lifts – and while the most recent has arguably not been its best, the Northamptonshire venue somehow still retains the spirit it has had since it was built. For fandom like no other, head to the spectator banks on Sunday morning for unrivalled camaraderie, bonhomie and sheer good vibes.
Goodwood Festival of Speed
14 – 15 July
If your thirst for motorsport heritage has failed to be quenched by five previous race weekends with a collective age of 329, then Goodwood’s glorious Festival of Speed should finally sate you. A four-day celebration of the racing vehicle, this year there’s likely to be even more of a feel of pageantry about the event. On its 25th anniversary, the Duke of Richmond has hand-picked his 25 favourite moments from the festival, with those selected cars and drivers all forming individual many centrepieces around the 2018 edition. Whichever way you swing, there’ll be something at Goodwood to amaze, delight and astound you, and McLaren Formula 1 will be there as usual.
German Grand Prix
20 – 22 July
Again, it would be easy to try and compare the contemporary German Grand Prix to its golden era in, ooh, take your pick from the 1930s to the 1980s, really. Again, you don’t really think of the mighty grandeur of the old high-speed Hockenheim when you visit its modern incarnation, but like the Red Bull Ring, the new track is fun and raceable, and there’s still nothing like that stadium section when it’s rammed to the rafters with 100,000 rocket-firing Germans intent on a good time. Like France, this is a great race to have back on the calendar.
Hungarian Grand Prix
27 – 29 July
The Budapest race may be the younger brother in this esteemed company, but it’s easy to forget that it has held 32 consecutive Hungarian Grands Prix – that’s more than the likes of South Africa, Holland or San Marino. Over the years, the Hungaroring has grown in stature as its facilities have gradually aged and matured, a bit like Malaysia’s Sepang, which developed its own character once it grew a little hair on its chest. It’s never going to be a great track – it’s too slow and too difficult to overtake – but it’s usually brimful of passionate European fans, the weather is hot, and it’s a great place from which to begin F1’s summer break.
And that seems like the perfect place for us to bow out, find some firelighters and get that barbecue going… after the Hungary in-season F1 test the following week, of course.