What is a chicane? F1 term explained, origins of the name - which Formula 1 circuit has the hardest chicanes

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Everything you need to know about Chicanes in Formula 1 circuits

The 2023 Formula 1 season has begun and the Bahrain Grand Prix could not have gone any better for Red Bull as they enjoyed a 1-2 finish while their closest competitors, Ferrari, had to settle for a fourth place finish and DNF. One of the biggest talking points from the race was, however, Fernando Alonso who secured third place and his first podium since the Qatar Grand Prix in 2021.

The Spanish Aston Martin driver now has 99 podiums to his name but only four of these have come in the past decade. Speaking after the race, Alonso admitted to having to improvise for much of the race, saying: “We had to make some moves in the corners before Turn 10 and Turn 11 and change trajectory and then get the overtake done.” We found ourselves second-best car today in Bahrain, or the whole weekend, just behind Red Bull. So this is a little bit of a surprise.”

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As the Formula 1 season heats up and the overtakes become increasingly more competitive, here is all you need to know about what a chicane means in Formula 1...

What are chicanes?

As defined by the Formula 1 website, a chicane is a tight sequence of corners which go in alternate directions. They are usually inserted into a circuit in order to slow the cars down, often just before a high-speed corner.

Mick Schumacher’s Haas in Saudi Arabian qualifying, 2022Mick Schumacher’s Haas in Saudi Arabian qualifying, 2022
Mick Schumacher’s Haas in Saudi Arabian qualifying, 2022 | Getty Images

Their purpose is also to help with the safety in a race and break up long straights of track. They have heavy breaking zones in order to avoid the cars going into more sweeping corners at dangerous speeds. It is in chicanes where F1 drivers usually make up - or lose - the most amount of laptime. In high speed corners, drivers can go as fast as the car will allow but in chicanes it is up to the driver to weigh up the risk or reward of carrying too much speed.

Where are the hardest chicanes in F1 circuits?

The most notorious tracks for chicanes are Monaco, Canada and Monza. Others also include France, Singapore and Mexico while tracks such as Bahrain and Abu Dhabi do not feature any chicanes. The most infamous chicane in Monza was the site of the Lewis Hamilton - Max Verstappen crash in the 2021 Italian Grand Prix. Saudi Arabia features one of the fastest chicanes on the circuit and was notably the chicane where Mick Schumacher crashed in 2022.

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According to Red Bull’s toughest track guide, here are some of the trickiest turns in Formula 1:

Maggots/Becketts at Silverstone - This is widely considered on of the most demanding and technical turn combinations in racingas it brings together a fast left with a fast right, before forcing a double-downshift ahead of another fast right at the exit. The British motosport commentatr Jolyon Palmer said of the chicane: “Maggots and Becketts are pretty much one corner now because your foot is nailed down throughout. The end is not quite flat but you’re happy to compromise there to get on the right of the track for the exit.”

Eau Rouge at Spa, Belgian Grand Prix - This has a maximum gradient of 18% and the famous left-right-left complex ends with a blind summit, meaning drivers can’t see the exit and don’t know where they will land as they come over the crest. Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso said of Eau Rouge: “It doesn’t matter whether it’s practice, qualifying or the race, every time you enter the Eau Rouge complex it is very special as a driver. I don’t think there’s a corner that compares to it in Formula 1. Much of it has to be done on instinct almost as you cannot see the exit when you come over the hill.”

13OR, Suzuka, Japan Grand Prix - This is a centrepiece in one of F1’s toughest tracks. It takes its unassuming name from its 130m radius and the double-apex corner is one of the fastest and most-feared in racing. Taken at 190mph, the turn lands drivers with a load of 3.5 lateral Gs and can often make or break a championship campaign. Four time world champion Sebastian Vettel said of 13OR:“it’s not comfortable. It’s definitely exciting, but not as easy as it used to be.”

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