Formula 1: Classic Tracks in the Style of Hermann Tilke

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2013

Formula 1: Classic Tracks in the Style of Hermann Tilke

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    Hermann Tilke created eight of the 19 circuits on the 2013 Formula One calendar. The figure for circuits with a contract to host a race next year is 11 out of 21.

    When we add in the tracks at which he's had a hand in minor or major changes, the number is even higher.

    Some would say that's a good thing. His tracks are designed to promote overtaking and have exceptional safety features.

    To others it makes depressing reading. Tilke's tracks have criticised for being "carbon copies of each other" by three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who also said they don't penalise mistakes enough.

    Those concerns are echoed by many fans. Complains of blandness and lack of character are also common.

    So what would these fans think if Tilke was approached to redesign some of the sport's most famous classic circuits?

    And more importantly, what might he do to them?


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    The current incarnation of Silverstone debuted in 2010 and was partly designed with motorcycle racing in mind, because the circuit had just lost the contract for the British Grand Prix.

    So I've gone back to the version last used in 2009, which you can see in detail here.

    At the start of the lap Copse is pushed back and turned into a tight right-hand hairpin to facilitate overtaking for fans in the main grandstand on the start-finish straight. The track kinks left out of the hairpin back onto the course of the old circuit.

    The old track remains in place until the end of the Hanger Straight. Stowe is pushed back significantly and turned into a hairpin to create another overtaking opportunity. The circuit then runs back through what is now the infield to fit a two-sided grandstand in.

    A chicane slows the cars before a long left-hander. Next up is a long multi-apex rightnot unlike Istanbul Park's Turn 8.

    The new design returns to the route of the old circuit for the arena.

    Luffield is turned into two 90-degree right-handers to slow the cars before the pit straight.


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    Jarama was the venue for the Spanish Grand Prix on nine occasions, most recently in 1981. A larger view of the original layout is available here.

    It's narrow and twisty, and modern F1 simply wouldn't work here. But what if they let Mr. Tilke loose on it?

    The whole circuit has been relaid and widenedunlike Silverstone, most of the original tarmac is gone, but the overall shape remains.

    The first two corners have been pushed back, tightened to a single hairpin and widened significantly in the braking zone. The complex which follows has been tightened up, but it remains almost identical to the old layout.

    The former Turn 6 is now a double-left, and a fast left-right chicane is followed by a short straight and a tight chicane.

    A tightening variable-radius right-hander follows before another straight, a quick left-hand kink and a heavy braking zone for the slow corner at the end.

    A left-hand kink and a medium-speed right follow, before a very tight final corner leads onto the long pit straight.


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    It's rather depressing that a circuit built in 1985 could be considered a "classic" in any sense, but 28 years is a long time in F1 track design. A detailed view of the current layout is available here.

    Overtaking at the Hungaroring is nearly impossible without tyre wear factored in, so if any modern circuit "needs" a good Tilking, it's this one.

    Changes have been focused on the areas around the start and finish of the lap.

    Turn 1 is pushed back into (you guessed it) a tighter right-hand hairpin for overtaking purposes. A right-hand kink is next, then we're back on the route of the original circuit.

    The infield has been retained until the old Turn 10 (12 on the small image above), which is turned into a high-speed right. A tight left-hander follows before a short straight ending in a tight chicane.

    Another tight corner, again a left is next before a long, long right-hander with shallow banking. This is designed primarily as an acceleration zone to send the cars onto the pit straight at high speed.

    The pit lane is moved slightly further down the straight so it's closer to the new Turn 1.

Watkins Glen

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    Watkins Glen hosted the United States Grand Prix between 1961 and 1980. While American F1 venues were usually somewhat ghastly, this place was very highly rated by drivers and fans alike.

    It left the calendar for financial reasons, but it wouldn't have lasted long anywaythe safety demands of modern F1 meant The Glen was becoming more and more unsuitable.

    Send in the Tilke!

    The changes begin at Turn 2, which is now a quick left-hander. It leads into a series of corners which may look familiar.

    And so they should. In a move inspired by the Circuit of The Americas (which contains bits from Silverstone and Hockenheim) the Esses from Suzuka have been transplanted onto the New York soil, but a bit tighter and backwards.

    A long, long right-hander is next and it leads out onto a very long straight. A slight kink in the middle makes things more interesting before heavy braking for the very tight right-hand hairpin.

    An equally tight left follows to give drivers the option of undercutting a rival through the preceding turn, then the circuit returns to the route of the original track.

    It stays on the original course until the old Turn 9, which is changed into a right-hand kink leading to a tight left-hander, before once more returning to the old route for the run to the finish.

    The pit lane is moved so the entry is before the final corner and the exit before Turn 1.


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    Suzuka is widely considered one of the best circuits on the calendar, with a beautiful series of medium- and high-speed corners.

    The first corners are (sound familiar?) turned into a tight right-hand hairpin. The track is also widened to allow more lines into the braking zone.

    The track returns to the route of the old circuit for the old Turn 4, and most of the Esses section is retained in its current form.

    The long, final corner in the sequence is turned into two left-handers, the first tighter than the second.

    Further on, the hairpin is pushed back to make it more of an overtaking opportunity. The old layout is retained until the final chicane, which is mirrored into a left-right to send the track into a new section.

    A third corneranother leftis added to the chicane before a right-hand kink and a very tight right-hander for the final corner, slowing the cars before the long pit straight.

That's All Folks!

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    So there we go. Five old classics given the Tilke treatment and updated for modern F1. They're not quite as creative as I might have liked, as I can't draw pleasant-looking black lines freehand in Photoshop.

    And please note the local topography hasn't always been taken into account, so my apologies if I dumped a hairpin on top of a cliff or in the middle of a pond.

    What sort of races would the circuits providebetter or worse than they currently do? More overtaking, more action, more excitement?

    And which one stands out the most as a heartless destruction of a classic circuit?

    Comments, critiques and job offers from circuit-design companies welcome.

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