Top 5 weirdest Grand Prix venues

Hawthorn again, powering along the Ain-Diab circuit

Formula 1 has races in some very strange places. Countries that have no racing heritage whatsoever but do have a very big bag of cash to pay for the right to hold the race.

Purists hate the situation, but such is the reality of F1 these days. However, there is a long list of unlikely venues that have held F1 races throughout its history.

Here are five Grand Prix held in places you really wouldn’t expect.

Moroccan Grand Prix

North Africa has a long motorsport history stretching back to the 1920s. The Moroccan Grand Prix was a prestigious event, held on circuits near Casablanca. A non-championship race for F1 cars was held in 1957 on the new Ain-Diab circuit, made up of closed public roads through the desert. A world-class field entered and the race was added to the World Championship calendar for ’58.

Stirling Moss won the race ahead of ’58 champion Mike Hawthorn and Phil Hill. But the race was marred a fiery crash involving Vanwall driver Stuart Lewis-Evans who died six days later from his injuries. The race was never held again, though the World Touring Car Championship now runs on a street circuit in Marrakesh.

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Caesars Palace Grand Prix

F1 wanted a second race in the USA for 1981 and found a home in Las Vegas, using a circuit laid out around the car park of the Caesars Palace hotel. It was very well built for a temporary track, but the drivers pretty much hated it.

The circuit ran anti-clockwise, put huge strain on the drivers’ necks and the massive desert heat caused a litany of problems. Nelson Piquet famously had to be lifted from his car after the inaugural race in ’81, suffering heat exhaustion. The race returned in ’82, but tiny crowds meant that was that. No-one shed a tear.

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Dallas Grand Prix

An F1 race in Texas in July – what could possibly go wrong. City officials in Dallas wanted to advertise it as a “world-class city” and secured a slot on the World Championship schedule for 1984. Run on the roads of Fair Park, there were a string of problems and persistent rumours that the race would be cancelled.

With temperatures in the high thirties, the track surface broke up after only a few laps. Morning warm up on race day had to be cancelled after a support race on Saturday completely destroyed the track. Rushed repairs were made with cement. Just eight cars finished, most of the field spinning out of the race. They didn’t go back.

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Swiss Grand Prix

Switzerland banned circuit racing after the 1955 Le Mans disaster. Before then the Swiss Grand Prix had been a regular fixture on the F1 calendar from ’50 to ’54. Held in gorgeous countryside at the Bremgarten circuit, it was widely regarded as one of the most dangerous races, with tree-lined roads, poor light conditions and a changeable surface.

Juan Manuel Fangio won the race twice, driving for Alfa Romeo and Mercedes. For reasons no-one can explain, the race was revived for the ’82 season at the Dijon circuit in France, about 100 miles from Switzerland…

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Luxembourg Grand Prix

Luxembourg is a very tiny country with no race circuits. And yet it hosted Grand Prix twice in 1997 and ’98. Except it didn’t. The race was actually held at the Nurburgring in Germany, 60 miles away.

The race came about as a result of an FIA rule stipulating that any country could only hold one Grand Prix, but more could be held under a different name. In ’97 both Spain and Germany had two races. Barcelona held the Spanish GP, Jerez the European and Hockenheim hosted the German GP. That left the Nurburgring with Luxembourg, a non-championship race it had held from ’49 to ’52. The name was used again in ’98 as the organisers had been refused the European GP title, despite having used it the past. Hope that’s all clear.

The races themselves weren’t especially thrilling, but do hold a few distinctions. Jacques Villeneuve picked his last F1 win in the ’97 race, leading home an all-Renault-powered top four. And Mika Hakkinen won in ’98, meaning that, uniquely, every winner of the Luxembourg GP went on to win that year’s championship.

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