Formula 1 has announced that the Spanish Grand Prix will move from Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to a new semi-permanent circuit in Madrid from 2026.
Madrid will join the Formula 1 calendar from 2026 onwards as the new host of the Spanish Grand Prix, it has been announced. The new semi-permanent circuit will take over from Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which has been ever-present on the F1 calendar since 1991.
The 5.47km circuit will join the schedule on a 10-year deal. With projected qualifying lap times of 92 seconds, the track will feature 20 corners and will run around the IFEMA exhibition centre, which was host to the first ever official Formula 1 exhibition in 2023.
It is expected that the ‘hybrid’ circuit – incorporating elements of both street tracks and road courses – will have grandstand capacity for up to 110,000 fans. F1 will also offer general admission access and hospitality tickets for the race weekend, which will raise the total capacity to 140,000 per day – one of the largest on the calendar.
In a statement about the news, Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali spoke about the ‘new chapter’ in Spain’s relationship with F1:
“Madrid is an incredible city with amazing sporting and cultural heritage, and today’s announcement begins an exciting new chapter for F1 in Spain. I would like to thank the team at IFEMA MADRID, the Regional Government of Madrid and the city’s Mayor for putting together a fantastic proposal. It truly epitomises Formula 1’s vision to create a multi-day spectacle of sport and entertainment that delivers maximum value for fans and embraces innovation and sustainability.”
Speculation Grows Before Madrid Announced
There has been speculation on Madrid’s inclusion on the Formula 1 calendar for months, which intensified in December. Earlier in 2023, we suggested that the Spanish city could join the schedule before the end of the decade. It came after the city had publicly expressed interest in hosting the sport.
Also in early 2023, Formula 1 hosted its first-ever official F1 Exhibition at the IFEMA convention centre, which the new circuit is set to race around.
In July, Sergio Perez demonstrated Sebastian Vettel’s title-winning Red Bull cars on the streets of Madrid in front of 50,000 fans. Perez was quoted as saying “Madrid deserves a Formula 1 race”. Around the same time, Formula 1 trademarked the “Madrid Grand Prix” name.
Spanish Grand Prix to Meet Sustainability Targets
With the new track located just five minutes from the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport, F1 has high ambitions for the Spanish Grand Prix to become the most sustainable event on the calendar.
It’s estimated that 90% of race-going fans will use public transport to access the venue on race weekend. The venue is already well-linked by both Metro and train. Formula 1’s aim is to be Net Zero Carbon by 2030 and the vision for the new Spanish Grand Prix should help the sport on its quest to meet its target.
End of the Road for Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?
Madrid’s arrival on the F1 schedule will likely bring to an end Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya’s 35-year tenure as host of the Spanish Grand Prix. The circuit, near Barcelona, has hosted the Spanish Grand Prix in every season since 1991. It has also been used extensively for testing purposes and was a regular host of pre-season winter testing up until the coronavirus pandemic.
The track has become a popular venue, especially with international visitors, with weekend attendance at the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix reaching 284,000 – the highest figure since 2008. Attendance at the track peaked in 2006 and 2007, with 140,000 fans turning out on race day alone to support local hero – and then reigning champion – Fernando Alonso.
The Catalunya track currently holds a contract to remain on the calendar until 2026, meaning that both the Spanish Grand Prix and the Catalunya race (under a different title) should appear together on the schedule for one season in 2026. F1 is believed to be continuing discussions with race organisers at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over its future on the calendar beyond 2026.
Speaking to F1.com, Domenicali said that “the fact we are in Madrid is not excluding the fact we could stay in Barcelona for the future”, adding that “there are discussions in place to see if we can really extend our collaboration with Barcelona, with whom we have a very good relationship”.
Madrid to be Sixth Host of the Spanish Grand Prix
The new circuit in Madrid will be the sixth host of the Spanish Grand Prix and the seventh venue in Spain to host a round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The Spanish Grand Prix has existed since 1913 and first appeared on the F1 calendar in 1951. Pedralbes, Jarama and Montjuïc Park hosted the event between 1951 and 1981.
The race returned at the Jerez circuit in 1986, where it remained until 1991 when the newly-built Circuit de Catalunya first joined the schedule. Jerez would later make appearances on the calendar under the European Grand Prix title in 1994 and 1997.
In addition to the circuits which have hosted the Spanish Grand Prix, a street circuit in Valencia also hosted the European Grand Prix from 2008 to 2012. The track was supposed to alternate as host of the Spanish Grand Prix from 2013 onwards but the Valencia track dropped out of the deal due to financial reasons and F1 never returned.