Chicago Skyline

Formula 1 News: The best location for a F1 track in Chicago

With the rumors about a possible Chicago Formula 1 race, and since I live on the outskirts of Chicago and know the city well, I developed a hypothetical track layout for F1.

If NASCAR could do a street race in Chicago, F1 could certainly do it bigger and better. The NASCAR track layout was too Mickey Mouse for F1, so I have developed a better one.

There is some indication the city has held initial talks with F1 about a possible Chicago race, downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd District) says.

“I’m told that F1 typically requires a 10-year minimum deal. And that appears to be non-negotiable. The conversation [with the city] did not get much past that,” Hopkins said.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd District) said he doesn’t think the city could handle both F1 and NASCAR.

“It would have to be one or the other,” Reilly said.

Hosting an F1 race would likely be more complicated than NASCAR’s street race, which shut down Grant Park and surrounding streets for weeks last summer. F1 tracks tend to be longer than NASCAR’s 2.2-mile course around Buckingham Fountain. F1’s recent events in Austin, Las Vegas and Miami were all between 3 and 4 miles long.

A race at a track like this COULD have happened about 40 years ago when Jane Byrne was mayor.  There were some talks about having a race through downtown Chicago, but it never occurred.

Having a race along Chicago’s treasured lakefront would provide great views.  It would be something like the Monaco of the Midwest with all the boats in the Chicago Harbor and the views of Lake Michigan.

TV viewing would show what a great city Chicago is to about 70 million worldwide viewers.  The City would benefit from increased tourism because the race would be a 2.5-hour advertisement for the City.  Also, the City would benefit from increased tax revenue due to increased hotel, restaurant, and concessions revenue.

Other Benefits of this Location

  • Mass Transit – 90% of the fans in attendance can use mass transit to/from the race
  • Hotels – There are many large hotels within walking distance of the track
  • Grandstands – there is easily enough space to construct 150,000 grandstand seats
  • Pair with Montreal – Where Miami cannot be paired with Montreal for many reasons, Chicago can certainly be back-to-back with Montreal
  • Day Race – I do not see making this event a night race. The Central Time Zone does not warrant it, and the city skyline will show better on TV in the daylight. A 2:00 pm race start in Chicago would be 8:00 pm in Europe.

Soldier Field Concept: 3.7-miles long

Chicago Soldier Field Concept
Chicago Soldier Field Concept

The Start/Finish would be somewhere along Lake Shore Drive (LSD), adjacent to the Pit Lane shown in yellow.  I think the race would need to run in a counter clockwise-direction for the best DRS and braking zones:

    1. Turn 1 is a hard braking zone into a left-hander onto Monroe Street and a short spurt down to Turn 2, another left-hander onto S. Columbus Ave.
    2. S. Columbus Ave heading south would be the longest 100% throttle straight on the circuit, which runs 1.25 miles (2 km). It includes a kink I label Turn 3, that would be 100% throttle
    3. The drivers would then brake hard for the Turn 4-5 chicane that takes the cars from S. Columbus Dr. onto S. Lakeshore Drive and past Soldier Field on the driver’s left.
    4. Turn 6 is another 100% throttle kink down to hard braking at Turn 7. This would be another DRS zone
    5. Turn 7 is a left-hander onto E. 18th Drive that loops around into sweeping S-Curves 8-9-10 and 11  before hard braking at Turn 12
    6. Turn 12 is a hard left-hander onto E. McFedridge westbound to Turn 13. Here the cars run behind the Field Museum of Natural History.  Before Turn 13 I show a quick right-left chicane to slow the cars for Turn 13 because otherwise there would not be enough runoff should a driver need to use the escape road.
    7. Turn 13 is a right-hander back onto S. Lakeshore Drive northbound
    8. Turn 14 is a fast right hand sweeper. There is a pedestrian tunnel with access to the “Museum Campus” where I show Turn 14.  The Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium would be on the driver’s right as they flatfoot it through Turn 14.
    9. Turn 14 leads into the left-hand Turn 15 sweeper that brings the drivers back onto the pit straight, another great DRS zone until braking for Turn 1.
    10. The length of this layout is 3.7 miles (6 km).  Non-race goers would still be able to access their boats in Burnham Harbor (between Turns 8 to 12 and Northerly Island) if they park in a lot south of Turns 7 and 8.
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