Modern F1 is dominated by a very specific sort of circuit: the Hermann Tilke.
The renowned track architect has an impressive list of tracks to his name: the tracks of Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Korea, Singapore, Valencia, Abu Dhabi and India all sprung from his drawing board. Next year they'll be joined by the new American Grand Prix venue in Texas.
He was also involved in the redesign of Silverstone, Nurburgring, Hockenheim, Monza and Catalunya. If it's former circuits you're after, he was involved in the redesigned Osterreichring (A1-Ring) and Fuji.
And the track for the 2013 American race in New Jersey? Yep, you guessed it.
His tracks divide opinion among fans of the sport. His supporters say he produces safe, quick tracks with a variety of corners and good overtaking opportunities. Tilke tracks are wide, tend to feature several heavy braking zones and invariably have a very long straight or two.
His detractors say he designs soulless, bland, characterless circuits. Too sanitised, too smooth, and the overly kind runoff areas mean there is no punishment for error.
Perhaps he just draws the same track over and over again, with the corners in a different order.
Whatever we fans think, Bernie Ecclestone loves him, and no doubt he'll be around for a long, long time.
But what if he retired tomorrow, and the FIA decided to look to established circuits for the future? Here's a list of tracks which (though not all realistic options) would produce interesting Grands Prix.
Currently a venue for V8 Supercars, Surfers Paradise is a very fast street circuit located in a suburb of Gold Coast, Australia.
Every inch of the track is enclosed by barriers, and it has fewer runoff areas than Monaco. The corners are either tight, temporary chicanes or 90-degree lefts and rights—one glance at the circuit would be enough to keep Tilke awake at night.
Long straights and tight corners with heavy braking would provide plenty of opportunities for overtaking, with or without DRS.
But realistically, running Formula One cars here would—sadly—push the safety boundary a bit too far. F1 is just too fast. The so-called "soft wall" SAFER barriers from American oval racing would be helpful, but even they wouldn't be enough.
Germany should consider this tiny, unassuming gem of a street circuit to be a national treasure.
This track in the centre of Nuremberg started life in a way no other racetrack could equal. What is now the Norisring was once the scene of Hitler's most ostentatious military parades and Nazi Party rallies, row upon row of rolling tanks and marching soldiers making use of the wide, flat expanses of tarmac.
The Fuhrer himself addressed his followers from the imposing Steintribüne, around which the track is based—today, the structure serves as a grandstand.
From such ugly beginnings, it's no surprise the Norisring itself was overlooked by the God of Racetracks when it came to handing out beauty. But what it lacks in style it more than makes up for in sheer simplicity, and it always provides exciting racing.
It has three straights, two hairpin corners, one chicane, and nothing more. It's fast, hard on the brakes and has two—perhaps even three—excellent overtaking spots.
At under a mile and a half in length, it's sadly far too short for Formula One—the HRT and Virgin drivers would need a blue flag stuck to their visors from Lap 2 onwards. And it's lined with unforgiving steel barriers, so the F1 safety inspector would have a heart attack.
But if the FIA ever lose the little sense they still have left, this place would produce some spectacular Grands Prix.
In a country dominated by ovals and the occasional temporary street circuit, Road America at Elkhart Lake has kept the same layout since the 1950s—a fast, fairly hilly circuit with a variety of corners, a few of which really catch your attention.
Three spots on the track look capable of providing good overtaking opportunities, and corners like the Kink and Carousel would test the drivers.
It's not currently up to F1 standards—the whole track would probably need to be relaid, the edges smoothed out, improved crash barriers and safety fencing installed and F1-standard curbs placed around the circuit.
Then there are the facilities—the paddock and grandstands don't look to be F1-spec, and even seemingly minor things like access roads would need consideration.
But the track itself is a good one and would produce great racing.
The layout that saw exceptional racing in the past is no longer with us, but the new Zandvoort retains many characteristics of the old.
Tarzan remains the first corner, while Turns 2 and 3 are as they were on the classic design. The rest of the lap largely stays true the fast, flowing nature of the original.
Tweaks would be required here and there—though it is a well-built track, sections would need to be brought up to F1 standards, and the pit line, grandstands and media facilities are perhaps not what we'd expect at the pinnacle of motorsport.
But it's another circuit with character—just what F1 needs.
The scene of many action-packed Grands Prix, this Mexican circuit is named after the talented Rodríguez brothers, Ricardo and Pedro, both of whom died at the wheel—the former at this very circuit.
The Autódromo hosted 15 World Championship Grands Prix, and the highlight then—as now—was the Peraltada corner. At 180 degrees, banked and very fast, it was the scene of one of the most impressive overtaking manoeuvres of all time, when Nigel Mansell passed Gerhard Berger around the outside.
The rest of the circuit is definitely enough to keep the attention of the drivers, and with the odd change here or there it could be brought up to modern standards without a loss of character.
That said, I'm not entirely sure they'd let our guys go around Peraltada at racing speed. And losing that would be like Spa losing Eau Rouge...
Portugal's Estoril looks like the more interesting cousin of Spain's Circuit de Catalunya—and as you'd expect, it's had a bit of an up-and-down past.
The circuit features mostly medium-speed corners, with the occasional slower one and a high-speed kink at Turn 5.
The big highlight here is the quite beautiful Parabolica Ayrton Senna, the final corner of the lap. You may be old enough (not that old, but still) to recall Jacques Villeneuve overtaking Michael Schumacher around the outside of this corner in 1996—one of my favourite moves of recent years.
The safety aspects would need looking at—much has changed since it last hosted a race.
Like all the tracks mentioned here, it's not quite at the standards you'd expect for modern F1. But it wouldn't need as much work as some of the others.
It's best we just keep doing that, because the only way we'll ever see a Formula One race at the Nordschleife is in our dreams.
It's not a realistic option for a huge variety of reasons. It's too long, it's horribly dangerous, and such a race would require dozens of medical and safety cars parked around the route. They wouldn't go unused.
And it's quite likely no one would pay for a ticket to see a car drive past every five minutes or so.
But in some wonderful future with truly unbreakable F1 cars and enough TV camera cabling, this would be the ultimate race. And I'm sure we'd all love to know what sort of time a full-on F1 lap would produce...
There are a wealth of alternatives to every track I mentioned: Watkin's Glen, Phillip Island, Brno, Bathurst, Brands Hatch... even the Österreichring, Tilke's first—and I think his best—circuit design to date.
I picked most of these tracks after driving them on various racing games and contemplating the possibility of Formula One. Regarded as "lesser" tracks in today's world of ultra-modern international circuits, each has pros, cons and plenty of character.
My apologies if immediately realistic alternatives were expected—the standards F1 requires from circuits mean the number of such venues is tiny.
My intention was to explore some beautiful tracks that are overlooked by the multi-billion-dollar Formula One machine, but which could produce excellent racing.
In his defence, Hermann Tilke has contributed towards making the sport we love into one of the safest on the planet. He's held back by more regulations and requirements than we could imagine, but still produces designs fit for Formula One.
But if you're reading, Mr. Tilke... if we can't have the traditional gravel traps back, runoff areas covered with P12 sandpaper instead of forgiving tarmac would be a lovely alternative.