Most Formula 1 fans can probably agree that the Spanish Grand Prix, held since 1991 at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, is rarely a highlight of the calendar. In fact, the race has gained a reputation in recent years as a bit of a snooze-fest.
Well, now there’s some hope on the horizon, although we wouldn’t get too excited just yet. Formula 1 announced today that, from 2026, the Spanish Grand Prix will move to a new circuit in the country’s capital Madrid. The catch? It’s yet another on the increasingly long list of street circuits to join the F1 calendar in recent years. Sigh.
The circuit, which has long been rumoured but was today made official, features 20 corners and has a lap length of 3.4 miles. F1 projects qualifying times of just over a minute and a half. It’s set to run around IFEMA, a massive convention centre on the outskirts of the city, close to its international airport. It’s described as incorporating “both street and non-street” sections, so expect some purpose-built parts along the lines of other recent additions like Jeddah and Miami.
F1’s president, Stefano Domenicali, calls the track “an exciting new chapter for F1 in Spain.” Naturally, a great emphasis is placed on sustainability - it’s expected that 90 per cent of spectators will be able to travel to the circuit by public transport, and the IFEMA centre already uses renewable electricity.
This is far from the first Spanish street circuit in F1’s history. Between 2008 and 2012, the European Grand Prix was held on a street circuit in Valencia, which was… pretty terrible, actually, with the races only enlivened by the cars occasionally taking off (oh hi Mark Webber in 2010). That circuit also featured a purpose-built section, which now sits abandoned and has become a popular spot for F1 fans visiting the city.
Even further back, the Spanish Grand Prix was held on the Pedralbes and Montjuic street circuits, both in Barcelona.
We’ll have to wait until 2026 to see if this new track can change the Spanish Grand Prix’s recent reputation as the sort of race you might nap through. While lots of fans have bemoaned the recent influx of street circuits to the calendar, some, like Baku and Las Vegas, have proved able to create properly entertaining races. The circuit has an initial contract running all the way to 2035, so we’ll have plenty of time to see if Madrid ends up with the hits or the misses.