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GP Week : Issue 195
F1 >>> FEATUrE “I move for an international court injunction banning Tilke from having any involvement in circuit design. Return F1 to the spectator-friendly, eye-pleasing circuits,” one journalist wrote after another processional Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. F1’s return to Yas Marina sent a shiver up the spines of many a fan. The championship battle was all wrapped up in India, but the fear wasn’t about Sebastian Vettel’s dominant victory. Instead, it was the return to a racing circuit that’s barely worth the description. Sure, Yas Marina’s twilight setting and bobbing yachts alongside its manmade marina are an attempt to make it a Monaco of the Middle East, but despite the sparkles from the Yas Viceroy Hotel, the track itself utterly fails to shine. The circuit is one of many additions to the Formula One calendar penned by ubiquitous circuit designer Hermann Tilke. I’m in two minds about Tilke. Some of his circuit designs – like Istanbul, Sepang, and the Buddh International Circuit – are great tracks that produce good racing. But some of his other creations, such as the Valencia street circuit, Yas Marina, and Bahrain, are dull, lifeless autodromes – perhaps the term ‘Tilkedrome’ would be more suitable – that do nothing for the image of Formula One. It beggars the question: has Tilke ruined the Formula One calendar? A look at his involvement in F1 circuit design over the last 15 years certainly raises a few eyebrows. Hermann Tilke has a lengthy background in motorsport, and was a successful and highly acclaimed touring car driver. He has the experience to know a thing or two about what constitutes good racing, but one could argue that his execution has sometimes been found wanting... It was in 1997 that we saw Tilke’s first involvement in F1 circuit design, when the A1-Ring made its debut on the F1 calendar, essentially as a redesigned and reprofiled version of the magnificent but very dangerous Osterreichring. Gone were the blindingly-fast, long-radius corners such as the Bosch Kur ve and the Jochen Rindt Kurve – in their place was a mix of tight, slow corners that required heavy braking at the end of long straights. That is the essence of a Tilkedrome design, and a formula that has been repeated ad nauseum in every circuit design Tilke has had a hand in. “It’s got no Spa sparkle,” Johnny Herbert said after his first laps around the A1-Ring – which is today known as the Red Bull Ring, and which will make its return to the F1 calendar next year. “There’s not a lot of magic in it. When I drove it, it only took me about two laps to learn. It’s not what the Osterreichring used to be.” To understand just how much Tilke has influenced Formula One in the last two decades, take a look at the 1996 season (see sidebar), the last year without his input into track design. Since 1996, every circuit introduced to the F1 calendar has been designed and developed by Tilke GmbH. In virtually every instance where an existing F1 circuit has been modified in the name of safety (or to ‘improve the show’) guess who’s been involved? That’s right, Tilke GmbH. The only two exceptions to this complete monopoly in circuit design were the Indianapolis infield design launched as part of the circuit’s introduction to the F1 calendar in the 2000 season and the ‘Arena’ layout used at Silverstone since 2010. 1996 F1 calendar 1. Albert Park, Australia 2. Interlagos, Brazil 3. Buenos Aires, Argentina 4. Nürburgring, Germany 5. Imola, San Marino 6. Monte Carlo, Monaco 7. Circuit de Catalunya, Spain 8. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Canada 9. Magny Cours, France 10. Silverstone, Great Britain 11. Hockenheimring, Germany 12. Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium 13. Monza, Italy 14. Estoril, Portugal 15. Suzuka, Japan 23 GPWEEK.com // 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: