A Grand Prix World Tour

Sebastian Vettel at the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix. Photograph ©2018 Tyayaki Suzuki. CC BY-SA 2.0.

From Melbourne, Australia to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Formula 1 is a truly global sporting event. Over the course of a 10-month-season and 21 Grand Prix, each car will race more than 3,360 kilometers (plus additional distance during testing, practice, and qualifying).

Map by Leanne Abraham, Planet.

These dynamic, high definition satellite photographs (each collected by one of Planet’s SkySats) from around the Globe establish a new perspective on Formula 1. From the oldest (Monaco, Monza, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone) to the newest (Baku City Circuit) each Grand Prix site provides an incredible pattern as seen from space, while also revealing a deeper story about its history and unique challenges.

Australian Grand Prix

Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, December 24, 2017 (left) & March 22, 2018 (right). ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

A common location for the first race of the season, the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit winds 5.3 km through Albert Park. Utilizing primarily public roads, the track looks markedly different on a typical day [December 24, 2017 (left)] than it does just before race weekend [March 22, 2018 (right)].

Bahrain Grand Prix

Bahrain International Circuit, November 2, 2017. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Constructed for the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix on April 4, 2004, the Bahrain International Circuit is an early example of a “modern” GP track, featuring medium-length straights broken up by tight curves and wide runoff areas—elements that help ensure driver safety.

Chinese Grand Prix

Shanghai International Circuit, April 7, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Surrounded by rice paddies when it was completed in 2004, the environs of Shanghai International Circuit are now thoroughly suburban. The racetrack itself is notable for two “snails”—a series of decreasing radius turns positioned at the end of the pit strait, and an increasing radius turn that opens onto the 1.2-km-long back straight.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Baku City Circuit, April 9, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Despite its recent debut—the European/Azerbaijan Grand Prix started in 2016—the Baku City Circuit departs sharply from the current trends in track design. It’s a mix of very high-speed straights paralleling the Caspian Sea shoreline, and sharp corners on narrow streets in the old city—including a chicane bound by the walls of a medieval fortress.

Spanish Grand Prix

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, April 19, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Located in a relatively warm and sunny part of Europe, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya hosts many Formula 1 teams during pre-season testing. Locations where red-and-white curbs line the track (typically on the inside of turns) indicate where drivers are making use of every inch available to them.

Monaco Grand Prix

Circuit de Monaco, April 1, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

The most glamorous race on the F1 calendar—and likely the most famous motor race in the world—the Circuit de Monaco wraps Port Hercules and its assortment of yachts. Tight and narrow with no true straights, the racecourse is among the most interesting to drive but least interesting to watch, due to the lack of good opportunities for passing.

Canadian Grand Prix

Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, May 29, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Like the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Montreal’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is located in an urban park. Drivers brake heavily for the chicane that links the back straight with the pit straight, which makes it a prime overtaking spot.

French Grand Prix

Circuit Paul Ricard, April 22, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Although it’s not a new location for a world championship race—having first hosted the French Grand Prix in 1970—the F1 Circus has been absent from the Circuit Paul Ricard for almost 30 years (since 1990). The stretched-out racecourse is built for safety—the prominent blue and red stripes outlining the track are composed of high-grip asphalt designed to securely slow cars that leave the roadway.

Austrian Grand Prix

Red Bull Ring, April 18, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Another new/old track is the Red Bull Ring, which has hosted the Austrian Grand Prix off and on (under several different names) since 1970, with the most recent sequence of races starting in 2014. Once substantially longer, vestiges of the old track are visible to the left of the wooded area behind the grandstands.

British Grand Prix

Silverstone Circuit, July 2, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Silverstone Circuit hosted the first ever FIA World Championship of Drivers on May 13, 1950, and since has hosted the British Grand Prix a total of 52 times. Built around the perimeter of a World War II airfield, Silverstone has seen many modifications over the years, transforming it from a track with a handful of fast corners into the current demanding layout.

German Grand Prix

Hockenheimring, April 29, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Hockenheimring took over hosting duties of the German Grand Prix in the 1970s. Like Silverstone, it has undergone extensive modifications over the years—most notably in 2002 when a lengthy high-speed section that looped through the Black Forest was removed. The current track is much tighter and slower, and fans can now see more of the racing from the stadium seating that lines the pit straight.

Hungarian Grand Prix

Hungaroring, April 28, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Located in a suburb of Budapest, the seldom-used Hungaroring is notorious as a race where passing is difficult to impossible. Dry and dusty conditions contribute to a slippery track surface, compounding the course’s tight and twisty geometry.

Belgian Grand Prix

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, April 22, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Spa-Francochamps is a legendary circuit, famous for the Eau Rouge corner—where drivers rely on compression of their car’s chassis at the bottom of a steep downhill. Spa is the longest track on the 2018 Formula 1 schedule, just a hair over 7 km long.

Italian Grand Prix

Autodromo Nazionale Monza, April 22, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Monza has hosted more Formula One World Drivers’ Championships than any other track. It’s been the site of the Italian Grand Prix every year since the series’ inception in 1950, save one (1980).

Like other historic racecourses, Monza has evolved over the years. In the 50s and 60s the Grand Prix course included a section of steep-banked oval track, which is currently unused but remains intertwined with the current layout.

Singapore Grand Prix

Marina Bay Street Circuit, May 8, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Singapore hosted its first Grand Prix—and Formula 1’s first night race—in 2009. The Marina Bay Street Circuit primarily consists of public roads threading through some of the city-state’s most distinctive architecture.

Russian Grand Prix

Sochi Autodrom, July 10, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Russia’s Grand Prix is contested at the Sochi Autodrom, a circuit built in and around the Sochi Olympic Park. Opened in 2014, the track’s most distinctive feature is a 650-meter-long semicircular turn that wraps around the Central Square, used as a medal plaza during the Olympics.

Japanese Grand Prix

Suzuka International Racing Course, July 10, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Suzuka International Racing Course is (along with Spa) one of the most challenging tracks in Formula 1. Built in the early 1960s by Soichiro Honda, the circuit’s hallmarks are its figure-8 layout and nearby amusement park, complete with a Ferris Wheel.

United States Grand Prix

Circuit of the Americas, April 22, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas is the only purpose-built Formula 1 track in the United States. A relatively modern design, the course features extra-wide corners to provide multiple racing lines to encourage passing.

The satellite image above was taken during the 2018 Motorcycle Grand Prix of the Americas, and shows the immense crowds present at a popular race.

Mexican Grand Prix

Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, June 4, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

At a max elevation of 2,229 meters above sea level, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is by far Formula 1’s highest track. The circuit is notorious for a bumpy surface that keeps drivers on edge.

Brazilian Grand Prix

Autódromo José Carlos Pace, July 3, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Commonly known as “Interlagos”, after the track’s São Paulo neighborhood, Autódromo José Carlos Pace has hosted the Brazilian Grand Prix since 1973. The first two turns on the track, “Senna’s S”, are some of the most challenging in the sport, each featuring changes in elevation, radius, and camber.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Yas Marina Circuit, October 12, 2018. ©2018 Planet Labs, Inc. CC BY-SA 4.0.

The final event of the 2018 Formula 1 season is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on the Yas Marina Circuit. A key corner is the hairpin (visible at the top of the image above) which leads immediately to the long back straight—drivers must maximize exit speed to minimize lap times.

These pictures show the incredible diversity of Formula 1 racetracks; Urban and rural, modern and historic, temporary and permanent — each has its own story to tell. High-resolution satellite photos like these can help you understand our Earth in a new dimension.