The Geocenter of Formula 1 venues between 1950-2014

Click here if you prefer to read this post on Medium.com (3 minute read).
Click here to look at the data visualization only on visualizing.org.

Recently, there has been a doubt over the venue 2015 German Formula 1 Grand Prix, with rumors about it being completely cancelled. Operators of other historical European venues have recently voiced their increasing concerns about the much higher race commissions new Asian circuits are able to offer to Formula One Group, the sport’s ruling body. Back in 2010, CNN raised the point that Formula 1 was drifting towards Asia, which can be regarded as a business decision for the organization whose principal sources of income are race organizing fees and advertising. Now we have made a map which visualizes that shift over time!

Let us plot on the world map all of the circuits where F1 Grands Prix have been organized between 1950-2014. Then, based on the geographic coordinates of the circuits, we can calculate the geocenter (geographic center of mass) of all venues. Since many of the venues hosted much more than one Grand Prix, we can get a more realistic picture if we can calculate the geocenter in a weighted manner, using the number of F1 races at each venue (interactive plot).

All F1 venues

All Formula 1 venues between 1950-2014 and their geocenter – click for interactive

We can see that the geocenter obtained this way falls roughly on Tunisia. While the overwhelming majority of the races have been organized in Europe (especially before the year 2000), there have been roughly an equal number races in the Americas and Asia+Australia. The Southern hemisphere hosted very few races, with only two circuits in both South Africa and Australia. However, let us take a look at the evolution in time of the F1 racing calendar! We have created an interactive map that displays all of the F1 circuits hosting Grand Prix for a given year, for the period 1950-2014.

Formula 1 venues between 1950-2014

The Geocenter of Formula 1 venues between 1950-2014 – click for interactive

In 1950, all but one of the races were held in Europe, with the geocenter being just off of the coast of Bretagne. During the 50s, the geocenter moves down to the coast of Portugal, mainly because of the addition of the Argentinian Grand Prix in Buneos Aires, home of the most prominent racer, Juan Manuel Fangio of the time. In the 60s and 70s, the geocenter moves along in the coasts of Portugal and Morocco, as  American, Mexican and South African venues were added to the racing calendar. In the 80s, Japan and Australia become established host countries, with the sport becoming truly global. The number of European venues does not decrease significantly, but the number of races in the calendar is slowly increased. Therefore the geocenter hovers above Algeria. The 90s saw further shift to the East, as America and Mexico exit the circus, with the geocenter moving towards Egypt. The 2000s bring an immense Asian opening to F1 and the geocenter is above Saudi Arabia by 2009, the furthest to the East so far. Two circuits open in the Middle East, another two in South-East Asia and China and Turkey also host races. This brings an era of purpose-built racetracks, sometimes dubbed Tilkedromes, named after their chief designer, Hermann Tilke. Since 2009, the geocenter has shifted back above Egypt, mainly due to the reintroduction of the American Grand Prix and the prompt removal of some Asian races after a short debut of just a few years, such as Korea, India or Turkey.

Now the world of Formula 1 is truly global. During the 2000s, we witnessed an unprecedented opening towards Asia, undoubtedly due to the better financial performance of the region when compared to Europe. However, with decreasing  viewership across all regions (not only Europe) and diminishing “buzz” the future of the sport is a fine balancing act – between the management, the teams, the circuits, the advertises and the viewers.

The open data was taken directly from Wikipedia and processed into JSON with this IPython notebook, using pandas and pygeocoder. Visualizations were then made with d3.js and topojson. The two main outcomes are the All Formula 1 venues between 1950-2014 and their geocenter interactive map and The Geocenter of Formula 1 venues between 1950-2014 dynamic interactive map. If you liked this post or have any questions or thoughts, Like, Share, Comment, and Subscribe!

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