The future of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was called into question with the announcement of Madrid hosting the Spanish Grand Prix

The Spanish Grand Prix will be held in Madrid from 2026, with a contract stretching all the way to 2035.

This announcement was made by Formula 1 on 23 January, calling into question the future of one of the most iconic circuits on the F1 calendar

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has been part of the Formula 1 furniture since 1991, but its contract is up in 2026. The fresh announcements do not rule out the possibility of two F1 Grand Prix in Spain, at least in the 2026 season.

“The fact we are in Madrid is not excluding the fact we could stay in Barcelona for the future,” said Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali. “Looking ahead, there are discussions in place to see if we can really extend our collaboration with Barcelona.”

Book tickets to the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix

What to expect from the 2026 Grand Prix in Madrid

Formula 1 is increasingly demonstrating a preference for moving towards city centre circuits, shying away from purpose built tracks outside of major cities. This comes as a part of an intention to reduce fan travel in line with Formula 1’s optimistic pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030

This spells potentially bad news for the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which has hosted one of the most popular races on the calendar for 23 years running. 

The organisers have released a preliminary image of the circuit layout, which will incorporate the IFEMA Exhibition Centre and streets of the Spanish capital, as well as purpose built sections of track. 

The 2026 Spanish Grand Prix will be the first held in Madrid in 45 years. The capital staged its last race in 1981 at the Jamara circuit, 20 miles out of Madrid.

1981 Spanish Grand Prix

Barcelona is by far the most popular Spanish city in terms of attracting tourists. Visitors for the Spanish Grand Prix notoriously take advantage of the warm June weather to combine the race with a beach holiday and city break. 

However, the track sits a little way out of the city in Montmeló, requiring a 30 minute train ride on notoriously busy services for most fans. There have also been questions raised about the lack of exciting races at Barcelona, despite the Grand Prix proving incredibly popular among racegoers and consistently selling out each year.  

The move could be good news and a fresh opportunity for fans heading to the Spanish Grand Prix. Madrid is much bigger than Barcelona and can provide a wider range of affordable accommodation.

The city also has lots to offer by way of culture and attractions. Madrid boasts sunny weather alongside a unique and dynamic nightlife. The Spanish capital is famous for its vast green parks and world-renowned museums – which are free on certain days of the week.

Madrid will be the new host of the Spanish Grand Prix from 2026

The food is among the best in the world, and is more typically Spanish than the Catalan cuisine of Barcelona. This may provide visitors with a more authentic experience. For example, you can expect to be brought free tapas when you order a beer – which would never happen in Barcelona. 

Future of Spanish drivers potentially in the balance 

Following the announcement of Lewis Hamilton joining Ferrari for the 2025 season, the future of at least one of the two Spaniards on the grid was also called into question.

Ferrari and Carlos Sainz will part ways at the end of the season at the end of the driver’s contract. The Madrid-born driver released the news in a statement posted on his social media channels.

The Prancing Horse will no doubt retain the services of Charles Leclerc, breaking up a fan favourite and rare bromance between F1 teammates. 

Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz at the Spanish Grand Prix

Meanwhile, who knows how long the career of the other Spanish driver on the grid will stretch? Two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso has indicated that a 2025 contract with Aston Martin is likely. But by the time the first Spanish Grand Prix in Madrid rolls round in 2026, Alonso will be 44. Will it be a year too many for the Spaniard?

Carlos Sainz, at just 29, is very likely to play his part in the new era of Spanish Formula 1 in his home city. At what level and with which team(s), we’ll have to wait an see…