David Coulthard has poured cold water over Formula 1‘s proclamation that all but 10 per cent of fans can travel by public transport to the Spanish Grand Prix when it moves to Madrid in 2026.
In mid-January, Madrid, which last hosted F1 in 1981 at the Jarama circuit 20 miles north of the city, was announced as the new home of the Spanish GP from 2026 to 2035.
The proposed circuit located around the Ifema Convention Centre, in the northeast of Madrid, will welcome 110,000 fans daily throughout the weekend, 90 percent of whom are estimated to arrive via metro, train, or bus.
Madrid’s return jeopardises the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya’s F1 future, with the Montmelo-based circuit’s current contract with Liberty Media expiring at the end of 2026.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso remains the only Spanish driver to have won his home race, taking victory in front of his compatriots in 2006 and 2013, the latter being his final F1 victory to date.
“Clearly Madrid wanted it badly enough to submit a tender and design and commission and go about building a racetrack,” Coulthard exclusively told Total-Motorsport.com when asked about the change.
“So as Formula 1 looks to grow, its growth is going to come through commercial rights deals, and for the fans, they [Liberty Media] obviously feel it’s better in Madrid.
“My takeaway from the announcement was that 90 per cent of the fans can arrive there by public transport. That’s all very nice for the politicians and the greens, but I don’t think it’s the first thing that race fans think about when they go to a Grand Prix [is], ‘can I get there by using the bus and the train network?’
“I think the main thing is this going be a great experience. ‘Does [it] give me value for my hard-earned money? And I am going to go away feeling I’ve got a life-changing or life-enhancing experience, [which] is probably [what] I think people like myself [want] when I invest money in tickets to go see events or a concert. I want to be entertained; I want to be in a happy place.
“So I had to giggle when I saw the [the public transport claim as] one of the justifications for the Madrid bid.”
Half permanent circuit not guaranteed to work
The impact caused by Barcelona’s potential exit from F1 at the end of the 2026 season has significant sporting and political ramifications.
Madrid’s return means at least nine races on the F1 calendar are set to take place on non-permanent circuits by 2026 and will be the fourth temporary Spanish circuit along with Pedralbes, Montjuic and Valencia to host an F1 race.
Politically, the relocation of the race is a significant scalp for Madrid over its eternal rivals, Barcelona and the national government, which has shown little interest in the race.
The president of the community of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, slammed Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in an interview for Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Sunday for his lack of interest in the project.
Former McLaren team coordinator Jo Ramirez is unsure about F1‘s latest new race but thinks the championship needs to always have an event in Spain.
“I was surprised to hear that [the race was moving], but I think if Barcelona are not able to renew the contract, I don’t really know exactly what the ins and outs of it [are but], then of course, Madrid wants to get hold of the Grand Prix that is obvious,” commented former McLaren team coordinator Ramirez exclusively to Total-Motorsport.com.
“Whether I would [have] liked to see it go to Madrid, the only proper circuit in Madrid [is] Jarama. But doing it with a half-permanent circuit, I’m not sure if it’s going to work or not. Whatever it is, with two top drivers in Formula 1, Spain needs to continue having a Grand Prix, whether it is in Barcelona or Madrid. For me, it’s the same, I will go to both anyway.
“But it’s another thing about Grand Prix racing: far too many politics, far too much money. So whoever gets more money or the best politics is going to win, and you are going to take the Grand Prix. As long as we keep the racing going in Spain, I’d be happy with that.”