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Madrid to host F1 race from 2026. New track could have banked turn and indoor section

The Spanish capital signed on with F1 until 2035. Barcelona’s current contract ends in 2026, but the race in Catalonia could remain on the calendar

CEO of Formula One Group Stefano Domenicali speaks during a press conference at the IFEMA congress centre in Madrid, Spain, Jan. 23, 2024.
CEO of Formula One Group Stefano Domenicali speaks during a press conference at the IFEMA congress centre in Madrid, Spain, Jan. 23, 2024.Rodrigo Jiménez (EFE)

Formula One will return to Madrid after 45 years when the city stages the Spanish Grand Prix from 2026 on a hybrid track that will include a banked turn and potential indoor sections.

F1 president Stefano Domenicali was in Madrid on Tuesday for the lavish announcement of the 10-year deal that will bring the series back to the Madrid region.

The Spanish capital signed on with F1 until 2035. Barcelona’s current contract ends in 2026, but Domenicali said the race in Catalonia could remain on the calendar.

“The fact we are in Madrid is not excluding the fact we could stay in Barcelona for the future,” he said. “There are discussions in place to see if we can really extend our collaboration with Barcelona, with whom we have a very good relationship.”

The Madrid circuit, subject to approval from the FIA, will include street and non-street sections around the city exhibition center, as well as F1′s first indoor paddock.

Track designer Jarno Zaffelli said they were still working on the track. He could not comment on possible changes to the design announced on Tuesday, including racing through pavilions in the exhibition center. That was not in the current proposed layout.

The new 5.4-kilometer (3.3-mile) circuit, which won’t go near the city’s main tourist attractions, is expected to feature 20 corners, two tunnels and four passing zones. The F1 cars are expected to reach a top speed of 300 kph (186 mph). The qualifying lap is expected to be 1 minute, 32 seconds.

The circuit will also include a paddock building, a new race tower, office spaces, VIP hospitality and entertainment areas.

The project will be organized by IFEMA, the leading fair operator in Spain, and will not involve public financing.

The exhibition center hosted the NATO summit in 2022 and was converted into a temporary hospital dedicated to COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.

F1 said the venue was projected to have capacity for more than 110,000 fans per day across grandstand, general admission and VIP hospitality. There were also plans to grow the circuit capacity to 140,000 per day over the first half of the contract, “making Madrid one of the largest venues on the F1 calendar.”

The new track is about five minutes from the Madrid airport, near a main metro station, and with easy access by buses. F1 said the Spanish GP will become “one of the most accessible races on the F1 calendar,” with nearly 90% of fans able to travel to the track via public transportation.

“Madrid is an incredible city with amazing sporting and cultural heritage, and today’s announcement begins an exciting new chapter for F1 in Spain,” Domenicali said. “It truly epitomises Formula One’s vision to create a multi-day spectacle of sport and entertainment that delivers maximum value for fans and embraces innovation and sustainability.”

Among those at the ceremony was Dakar Rally winner Carlos Sainz. He is the father of Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz. The other Spanish driver in F1 was two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

The last F1 race in the Madrid region was in 1981 at the Jarama circuit. The Jerez de la Frontera track in southern Spain hosted races from 1986-90, and in 1994 and 1997.

The country also hosted the European Grand Prix on a street circuit in Valencia from 2008-12.

The contract with Barcelona was extended to 2026 five years ago after the track committed to improvements ahead of the 2022 season. The Barcelona-Catalunya track has been hosting the Spanish GP since 1991.

Spanish media said there were negotiations between F1 and Barcelona to have Madrid taking its spot on the calendar in 2026. Barcelona organizers have said they hoped to extend their contract with F1 beyond 2026. Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won last year’s Spanish GP at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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