Formula 1 Regulations Applied to the New US Tracks

Cora Leeuwenburg

Journal of Regulatory Compliance

Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, JD 2022

Formula 1 is a sport governed by extensive rules and regulations covering everything from the structure of the car, the engine, and the track. The 2022 season saw a new round of regulations that have the potential to change the game yet again with new budget caps for teams, a new chassis and safety car procedures with more changes expected in 2023. One of the biggest changes for the 2022 and 2023 seasons is the addition of two new United States (US) Grand Prixes with the addition of Miami for the 2022 season and Las Vegas for the 2023 season. This is just one of the many recent steps attempting to integrate the sport in the US market, but the track requirements for the new races are strict.

FIA track requirements

In order to host a Formula 1 (F1) Grand Prix, a circuit must meet the governing body, the FIA’s (Federation International de l’Automobile) strict requirements and obtain a Grade 1 license. In order to gain a Grade 1 license, the track itself is subject to a long list of standards and the surrounding facilities must meet another series of requirements all of which must pass mandatory inspections and the circuit must pay a hefty fee to the FIA.

The track guidelines issued by the FIA include over one hundred pages of requirements, detailing every aspect of the track, facilities and operations. Generally, these guidelines regulate the weight of cars permitted to race at the track coupled with the power they produce, with F1 cars producing over 1,000hp and weighing 752-795kg in 2022.

While the cars vary in weight and power season to season, there are certain track requirements that, broadly speaking, remain consistent. There are no rules governing the shape of the track but there are regulations concerning certain characteristics of the track. For example, straights must be at least 3.5km long in total with straights being less than 2km, with Monaco’s historic track being the only exception at a total length of 3.337km. It is also recommended that new tracks not exceed 7km in length.

The width of the tracks is also regulated with different requirements for street circuits and permanent tracks. Permanent tracks must be at least 12 meters wide at all points but there is more leniency permitted for street circuits such as Baku which is only 7.6 meters wide at its narrowest point. These track requirements continue throughout the race where the starting grid spots must be 6 meters apart and maintain a width of fifteen meters through the first corner, required to have a change of direction of at least 45 degrees and have a radius of under 300 meters.

FIA recommendations

The FIA guidelines have countless specific requirements, but they also offer a number of recommendations that the track doesn’t necessarily need to meet in order to gain a license. However, it does improve their chances of being granted a Grade 1 license. One of the recommendations being that tracks not exceed 7km in length and that the start line be at least 250 meters from the first corner. These recommendations also cover the gradient of the track, the entry and exit points of the pit lane, the degree of banking in corners, barriers along the track allowing for a variety of different materials and types of barriers, and the drainage on the track.

The Miami track

The Miami Grand Prix will be a three-day event on May 6-8, 2022, with a temporary street-like circuit in the Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium complex and Miami Gardens. The race will cover 308.37km over fifty-seven laps of a 5.41km track.  The track, which was planned with the help of Formula 1 and Apex Circuit Design, features 19 turns and a long straight expected to see average speeds of approximately 223kph (138mph).

The Las Vegas track

The newly accepted Las Vegas street circuit has been granted a Grade 1 license and will host their inaugural Grand Prix in the 2023 season. The track is unusual with a 6.12km length, 14 turns and a 2km straight down the Las Vegas strip. The track will be F1’s third longest circuit and with 50 laps, will cover over 300km in total. The most memorable portion of the track is the 2km straight which is expected to allow drivers to reach speeds of approximately 342kph (212mph), among the highest speeds expected to be seen on the 2023 calendar.

The US and Formula 1

With Miami and Las Vegas joining Austin on the F1 2023 calendar, the US is set to be the only country hosting more than two races. It is clear that F1 intends to continue to develop the market in the US where the sport has grown in popularity despite there being no US drivers and only one US team, Haas. While the inclusion of the additional US circuits is exciting for US fans, it shows a shift in the sport under the management of Liberty Media, that has F1 moving away from the challenging and historic tracks that are at risk of losing their Grand Prixes, in favor of new, wider and faster tracks like Las Vegas and Baku. But change is a constant in F1 and should be expected as cars evolve, seasons grow longer, and new circuits are established.  The sport shows no sign of slowing down.