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GP Week : Issue 195
F1 >>> FEATUrE so what has Tilke been involved in? The scope of his work will amaze you... 1997 A1-Ring, Austria Redesign of the former Osterreichring 1999 Sepang, Malaysia NEW CIRCUIT 2000 Monza, Italy Reprofiling of the first chicane 2002 Hockhenheimring, Germany Major circuit redesign Nürburgring, Germany Redesign of the opening sequence of corners 2003 Monte Carlo, Monaco Redesign of the Swimming Pool and La Rascasse complexes Magny Cours, France Redesign of the final sequence of corners Hungaroring, Hungary Redesign of the opening and final sequence of corners 2004 Sakhir, Bahrain NEW CIRCUIT 2005 Istanbul Park, Turkey NEW CIRCUIT 2007 Circuit de Catalunya, Spain Redesign of the final sector of the lap; addition of chicane at penultimate corner Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium Reprofiling of the Bus Stop chicane Fuji Circuit, Japan Redesign of the former Fuji Circuit 2008 Valencia, Spain NEW CIRCUIT Marina Bay, Singapore NEW CIRCUIT 2009 Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi NEW CIRCUIT 2010 Yeongam, Korea NEW CIRCUIT 2011 Buddh Circuit, India NEW CIRCUIT 2012 Austin, United States NEW CIRCUIT 2013 New Jersey, United States NEW CIRCUIT (under construction) Sochi Olympic Park, Russia NEW CIRCUIT (under construction) Tilke's most recent project, the Circuit of the Americas in Texas – while beautiful to look at – is hardly his most original creation. Tilke has himself admitted to pinching corners from other circuits (Becketts at silverstone, Turn 8 from Turkey, the Mobile Kurve from Hockenheim). Has taking the characteristics from other circuits worked? It's probably too early to tell. Some Tilke circuits and redesigns – Istanbul Park and Hockenheim, for example – have had exactly the intended effect and have improved the existing show or reinvigorated the F1 calendar, although it could be argued that the changes to Hockenheim butchered what was perfectly good circuit to begin with. Races there have historically provided good on-track action. Other circuit designs or reconfigurations have, sadly, had the opposite effect. Despite using the tried and trusted formula of long straights and heavy braking, races have been processional. The street circuit designs of Singapore and Valencia, while in spectacular settings, have not produced any great amount of wheel-to-wheel racing. Many experts question whether having a single circuit designer is good for Formula One. Is Formula One getting value for money when there isn’t any competition in the creation of new circuits? How can new ideas possibly be generated from within a monopoly? Looking at the 2013 calendar, only four circuits on the 19-race schedule have not had the influence of Hermann Tilke: Albert Park, Silverstone, Suzuka, and Interlagos, although Interlagos’ forthcoming redesign will certainly be influenced by Tilke. That’s a significant impact on the direction of Formula One. Perhaps justifiably, Tilke receives plenty of criticism from fans, current and former drivers, and key F1 figures for his circuits. His designs are often criticised for lacking in imagination, featuring too many slow corners, and being incredibly artificial in their surrounds. “We’ve got these Tilke designed circuits everywhere!” 1980 World Champion Alan Jones, told RichardsF1.com. “They must look lovely on paper when he presents them to the odd Arab or whatever, but in reality, they’re just one constant radius corner after another. That might be OK for motorbikes that can corner two or three abreast, but there’s no single car that’s sufficiently better than another to allow you to go pass around the outside of a sweeping corner.” “You absolutely have to keep some of the traditional circuits on the calendar, there is no doubt about it,” CNBC Sports commentator and former grand prix driver David Hobbs said. “Tilke has this very keen idea that Turn 2 should immediately follow Turn 1 – Malaysia, Bahrain and China are exactly the same – which is not conducive to overtaking on the corner exit: you arrive at Turn 1 on the inside line, which then becomes the outside line on Turn 2! “I don’t like the shape of a lot of his circuits because he also tends to throw in these little kinks before the heavy braking points, which completely obviates overtaking into that particular corner because it’s easier to defend your line into the corner because the approach has been narrowed,” Hobbs continued. “Places like Abu Dhabi and Singapore might look spectacular, but neither is a good track for overtaking. In the end, the racing has to count.” It is worth questioning Tilke’s involvement in the modernisation of some established circuits. The final- corner sequence alterations made to Magny Cours, the Circuit de Catalunya, Spa-Francorchamps and Fuji – ostensibly done in the name of safety – produced clumsy, ugly chicanes designed to slow the cars that have done nothing to improve the action on track. The widening of the Monte Carlo track from the Swimming Pool section onwards took away the proximity of the crash barriers and lessened the challenge for the drivers – the same was done at the opening corner. Arriving at La Rascasse, having to stamp on the brakes, dodge the Armco and turn in both directions in quick succession was a serious challenge for the drivers, and now it’s a relative walk in the park. “What we need are more right-angled corners on circuits and more overtaking places: corner that – if you will – sucker the driver in,” Jones said, when asked what needed to be changed. “On some of these bloody circuits, there’s really only one possible overtaking point, and the rest of it is ‘follow my leader’. It’s boring.” The interesting thing is that Hermann Tilke is an accomplished motor racing driver in his own right, having won plenty of touring car races behind the wheel. So how can the man who is perfectly capable of lapping the Nordschleife at great speed produce such soporifically dull sequences of corners that have the effect of emasculating once-great circuits, or creating artificial new circuits in their place? What is the problem here? Are the rules to blame? Are the safety concerns of modern Formula One dictating that the new circuits lose the power to impress with their exaggerated run-off areas and billiard-table smooth surfaces? No one wants to argue that we should make tracks less safe, but there needs to be some balance. Inasmuch as Tilke receives plenty of criticism from near and far, the F1 calendar could do with more variety in its circuit designs. Surely with enough run-off areas we could achieve circuits of a similar stature to the no-longer-used (by F1) likes of Brands Hatch, the old Kyalami, and the Osterreichring? The real question is: could Hermann Tilke design more interesting tracks if the 24 GPWEEK.com // 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: