Portuguese Grand Prix: Estoril Circuit

Estoril Track
SuperLeague in Estoril (JVeiga / Wikipedia.org)

The Estoril Circuit, or Circuito do Estoril, was famed for hosting the Portuguese Grand Prix for many years between 1984 and 1996, but is no longer used for F1 racing. The design and shape of the track is synonymous to die hard F1 fans and the track was even featured on many computer games as well. 

The warm weather almost year-round at Estoril meant that the track was a firm favourite for testing and many teams used to set up base there throughout the winter. Situated just outside of Cascais, the track was just 9km from Estoril, which offered good transport links for teams and also fans back in the day. 


Swap Start/End

Circuit Info

Location Length Corners Capacity Year Opened
Estoril 4.182km 13 45,000 1972

Circuit Layout

The track was opened in 1972. What developers of the track were keen to do is incorporate the surroundings of the racetrack and make them into features that will work with Formula 1 racing. These included things like working with the lie of the land and maintaining and almost bumpy feel as the circuit cuts through the Rocky Mountains. 

Another key design feature was the elevation change throughout the race. There were inclines as much as 7% in some places and what often greeted drivers were that of hairpins at the end of the ascents. This caused many issues for drivers as they struggled to find breaking points. In fact, many drivers who’d racked up hundreds if not thousands of laps at Estoril still claim that they are unsure where the best breaking point for the two major hairpins are. 

The track length of 4.182km made it one of the smaller tracks when it was running. But, interestingly due to the intricacy of the track, the lap times were always in excess of 90 seconds, which actually weren’t anywhere near the fastest, showing that Estoril offered a different challenge than most F1 circuits, away from simply flat out straight-line speed.

The downside of this was that the circuit was synonymously hard to overtake on and whilst many factors resulted in the demise of the track from F1, it is thought that this played a big role in the final decision being made in 1997.

Other Races at Estoril

LMS Race
LMS Race "6 Hours of Estoril" on September 25, 2011 (ccaetano / Bigstockphoto.com)

The track played a huge role in motor racing within Portugal and for many years was seen as the home of racing within the country. There is no doubt that Formula 1 played a huge role in the makeup if this, but there were plenty of other racing held at the track, as well.

These included the likes of the FIM MotoGP, Portuguese Motorcycle Grand Prix, A1 Grand Prix, World Touring Car Championship, Super league Formula, 6 Hours of Estoril and the 4 Hours of Estoril. 

The track has actually seen quite a bit of sue since the removal of F1, which isn’t all that common for these types of tracks. The likes of the Portuguese Motorcycle Grand Prix and the A1 Grand Prix have been held annually at Estoril offering locals a taste of motor racing. 


Circuito do Estoril (Darth Vanda / Flickr.com)

The Estoril circuit is undoubtedly one of the more iconic in F1, even though it’s never held a race for over 20 years now. It stated life hosting the likes of Formula 2, but after just a few years open, the now state run track fell into financial difficulties and in turn, the state of the track started to diminish quite rapidly. 

Motor racing of any kind was removed from Estoril in 1975 and it wasn’t until 1984 that it returned. But, the work that had been carried out and undertaken at the track were impressive to say the least, offering seating for over 50,000 people and in turn offering up a huge improvement over the track surface itself. 

F1 at Estoril: 1984-1996

As a result, F1 returned in 1984 and with a bang. The first Championship came in about as close as you could get, with Estoril hosting the last race of the season. Niki Lauda went on to win the race, with Alain Prost in second place, meaning that Lauda would win the drivers championship by just half a point that year.

Other notable victories include Ayrton Senna’s first ever GP victory in 1985 and the now famous shot of Riccardo Patrase’s car being catapulted into the air and doing a back flip in the 1992 GP after a collision with Gerhard Berger.