Motor racing's iconic Formula 1 (F1) series has today announced Madrid will become home to the Spanish Grand Prix from 2026, leaving previous hosts Barcelona fighting for its future. 

F1 has unveiled that from that season until at least 2035, the race will be held in the Spanish capital, at a circuit built around the Ifema Madrid exhibition center close to the city’s airport.

This represents a blow to the organizers of the Barcelona race, with the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya circuit having played host to the Spanish Grand Prix since 1991. The last year of that venue’s hosting contract is also 2026 – meaning that either Spain will host two races in one year or, more likely, Barcelona will cancel its contract a year early.

F1 has said that the new track in the capital will become “one of the most accessible races on the F1 calendar,” in contrast to the Barcelona circuit, which is out of town.

The Ifema Madrid circuit is 5.47 kilometres in length, and will for F1 purposes feature 20 corners, a “premium paddock building with a new race tower and office spaces,” as well as VIP hospitality and entertainment areas.

The venue is projected to be able to host over 110,000 fans each day across its various ticketed areas, while F1 has said plans are in place to grow that figure – over time – to 140,000 daily. This would make the Madrid circuit one of the highest-capacity on the F1 calendar.

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F1 has claimed that the race is expected to generate €450 million ($489.7 million) for the Madrid economy each year and that the hosting proposal from Ifema “received widespread support from national, regional, and local government.”

The first reports about F1 aiming to relocate their Spanish race to Madrid came early last month, and claimed that F1 had filed a trademark for the name “Formula 1 Madrid GP."

Madrid, being the largest commercial hub in the country, is likely seen as a more profitable location for the series by its promoters which will in turn help to secure the long-term viability of F1 racing in Spain.

The popularity of the sport in the country has blossomed over recent decades, owing to the presence of Spanish drivers such as Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz on the grid.
Stefano Domenicali, president and chief executive of Formula 1, has now said: “Madrid is an incredible city with amazing sporting and cultural heritage, and today's announcement begins an exciting new chapter for F1 in Spain.

“It truly epitomizes F1’s vision to create a multi-day spectacle of sport and entertainment that delivers maximum value for fans and embraces innovation and sustainability.”

Jose Vicente de los Mozos, president of the Ifema Madrid executive committee, added: “We have the ambition to organize a grand prix that will become a reference in the F1 calendar, specifically conceptualized and designed to offer a distinctive and unique experience for both fans and teams participating in the competition.

“With this, Madrid wants to deep-dive into the development of a new concept that combines sport and entertainment, while delivering a memorable event.”

The president of F1’s governing FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, has stated in the past that having more teams and fewer races is what he sees as the future of the sport, which effectively rules out the idea that both Barcelona and Madrid could coexist as race venues.

The Madrid track will make its debut in a season in which F1 will undergo significant regulatory changes regarding the composition of the cars, mainly impacting the power units.

Earlier this month, F1 named Emily Prazer as its new chief commercial officer (CCO).

Prazer has been promoted from her role as CCO of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, succeeding Brandon Snow, who stepped down as F1’s managing director of commercial last year.

The 2024 F1 campaign gets underway on March 2 in Bahrain, and features a record 24 races, finishing in Abu Dhabi on December 8.