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Tilke Designed Circuits – The Bad End of Formula One

Hermann Tilke has designed or have had a part in the revisions of more than half of the current Formula One circuits; most of which, consist of only defects and imperfections.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gabriel Polychronis is a motorsport enthusiast, taking a particularly strong interest in Formula One. Gabriel shares his opinions via F1 News & Views Podcast along with his brother, Jacob.

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June 12th 2012 (F1plus / Gabriel Polychronis).- Flow and excitement is not something that comes to Hermann Tilke’s mind when designing Formula One tracks. His monolithic tracks are not very popular amongst drivers and fans, and it is easy to see why.

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Tilke designs his tracks to perfectly suit modern Formula One cars. This means that his circuits possess very wide roads and plenty of run off areas. This is the main reason why his tracks are widely considered to be somewhat boring.

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The most popular tracks such as, Monza, Albert Park and the Autódromo José Carlos Pace are all short, fast flowing, rhythmic and exciting. These tracks are fast flowing and rhythmic because their respective designers all knew when and where to place a sweeping turn, when and where to place a hairpin, and when and where to place a chicane. When looking at most of Tilke’s tracks, the corners seem to be randomly put together on a napkin whilst he was at a dinner party. Sector two of the Bahrain International circuit is a prime example of this, as turns six and seven are two sweeping turns that are very close to each other, yet they possess no symmetry. Two out of place hairpins that are turns eight and ten are then used to slow the track. Sector two also contains another long straight - one of four on the circuit. After this straight, drivers will move into turns eleven and twelve, which are two long sweeping turns that are heavily contrasted in speed. These turns do not contribute any flow or rhythm to the track, as turn eleven is navigated at a much slower pace than turn twelve, despite their relatively close proximity.

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Tilke’s tracks are usually wide roads, making overtaking less exciting, as cars will have much more room to maneuverer, therefore rendering overtaking much simpler. There is also much more room for error on Tilke’s circuits, as drivers have great amounts of run off space on corners. For example, Tilke has designed the Yas Marina circuit with metres upon metres of run off space on almost all corners. Drivers are required to use but a fraction of precision in navigating these turns because these large run off spaces basically gift the driver with a second chance if they make a mistake. There are places where large run off spaces are appropriate, such as the first turn of a track (for safety reasons), but certainly not on all corners. It is simply a matter of excitement.

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What do Circuit de Monaco, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and the Albert Park Street Circuit all have in common? They are all street circuits and they are fast. Do you think Tilke would follow the common trend of fast street circuits? If you do, then you are wrong. He has designed the Valencia Street Circuit, which holds a staggering, twenty-five turns. During the race, drivers will be posting times higher than 1:40s – too slow to be considered a good street circuit.

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The most recent circuit that has been designed by Tilke that is present on the current Formula One calendar is Circuit of the Americas, which is currently under construction. Sector one of this circuit will be doused with sweeping turns, all differentiating in speeds and angles, which will most definitely expel any possible flow that this circuit may contain.

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Hermann Tilke was also heavily involved with the renovations of Hockenheimring, Circuit de Catalunya and the Silverstone Circuit.
Turn one of the Hockenheim Ring was redesigned to be tighter, but this was of minimal significance compared to the dramatic shortening of the rest of the track. The forest straights were eliminated in order to place more emphasis on tight corners and were controversially replaced by trees. However, It is hard to blame Tilke for the somewhat, less exciting current Hockenheim track, as F1 officials instructed the provocative overhaul.

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Circuit de Catalunya undertook a renovation to the latter parts of the track, as the penultimate, long, sweeping turn was converted into a ninety-degree right hander and a left to right chicane, courtesy of Hermann Tilke. After the chicane, drivers then move onto a short right sweeping turn to reconcile with the main straight. This was meant to increase overtaking, however, there has been an unnoticeable increase since. The track has also been considered less exciting since the abolishment of the former sweeping turn.

The Silverstone circuit also suffered renovations, as the circuit was required redevelopment for motorcycle racing. Hermann Tilke was left in charge of redesigning the circuit. A five million pound renovation saw the elimination of Bridge Corner, which in turn forces drivers to turn right at Abbey Chicane into the Arena section. The redesign of the track, led by Tilke, has definitely hindered the Silverstone Circuit’s quality that it once had prior to 2010.

Hermann Tilke has designed seven Formula One tracks that are on the current calendar. Most of these tracks consist of only flaws and a lack of excitement. Watching Formula One cars battle around Tilke designed circuits is truly a much less satisfying experience than what it is around the non-Tilke designed tracks that exist on the 2012 calendar.

The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of F1plus.

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