Silverstone boss explains why they didn’t use Tilke for Arena track upgrades

Silverstone's new sequence was designed by Populous

Silverstone’s new sequence was designed by Populous

Circuit designer Hermann Tilke’s company enjoys a near monopoly on Formula 1 track design. But he has also been criticised for producing unexciting racing venues.

Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips said they chose rival company Populous to produce their new Arena circuit because they didn’t want to risk someone ‘;wrecking’ the track.

Speaking exclusively to F1 Fanatic Phillips said:

We’ve had good, solid input from riders and drivers – people who are not going to wreck what is already a fantastic circuit.

If we had gone a more traditional route we may not have got the best result.

We thought that if we were going to change the track we should take care of the circuit first, fit in the run-off areas, and then sort out the buildings afterwards.
Richard Phillips

Silverstone enlisted design company Populous, who also created the Dubai Autodrome in the United Arab Emirate.

The most dramatic part of the new track is the high speed Abbey and Farm corners, which F1 cars are expected to take at around 185mph. This was originally designed as a slower corner, but according to Phillips they revised the design after getting feedback from F1 drivers:

Abbey went through a lot of design changes. At first it was quite a right-angle on the way in, but the F1 and Moto GP drivers challenged that so we opened it up, and then we opened it up some more. Now everyone is saying it’s a great corner.
Richard Phillips

He also explained the other changes to the track:

The Grand Prix track – which is now called the Bridge Circuit – is still a fantastic track. But Moto GP are unable to run on the Bridge Circuit because of the bridge and also because the chicane they had to use was not very popular.

We took the opportunity to create something the BRDC and the country can be proud of and we went through 15 different designs to do it.

At Becketts we have F1 and Moto GP versions of the track. F1 cars will go the same way as before, the Moto GP version is more open. But it also means we can separate the routes here so we can have three different circuits in operation at once.

Club is now boxier than it used to be. The old piece of tarmac here is now the run-off, and the new piece of track will be used by both Moto GP and F1. It is possible to reinstate the old track if we choose. We changed it to reduce the speed of the exit, but the early feedback from people who’ve been through it in cars is it’s made the corner more challenging.
Richard Phillips

Phillips said he’s happy with the early reaction to the circuit:

The feedback on the circuit so far has been extremely good. We’ve done a limited amount of testing up until now, but now we’ve had F1 cars and Moto GP-type bikes running on it for the first rime and the early signs are encouraging.
Richard Phillips

When the pits are the track will have a unique feature among F1 facilities: the Formula 1 race will have its pits and start/finish line on a different part of the track to the support races.

GP2 and the like will continue to use the existing garages and start line between Woodcote and Copse, while the F1 race will start on the straight after Club and the first corner will be the revised Abbey bend. This will happen by 2012 and could happen as early as next year:

The pits are contracted to be complete for 2012. At the moment we’re on schedule to finish them in April or May next year, so we may have them for F1 in 2011.

F1 will use the new pits but support races will continue to be based at the old pits and will use the old start line. So spectators coming to the race will have the choice of two sets of pits to sit opposite.
Richard Phillips

Silverstone Arena circuit

100 comments on “Silverstone boss explains why they didn’t use Tilke for Arena track upgrades”

  1. “If we had gone a more traditional route we may not have got the best result.”


    But well said…Tilke may well be hamstrung by the regs but I still think more different circuit designers will foster a bit of rivalry, as well as new ideas.

  2. Looks good!

    The only way to improve the track would be by turning Brooklands into a 90 right, into a longer Luffield, so they have a good overtaking spot at Brooklands, and struggle to get on the power at Luffield. Then it would be perfect!

  3. All they need to do is elongate Luffield, and make Stowe slightle Tighter and sharper on the outside, as it’s a bit too easy now in the current cars

  4. I’m amazed that architects are actually able to design what is essentially a road. Most architects I’ve dealt with do not seem to be understand the concept of circular curves and straights tangential to those curves, both of which are basic elements of road design.

    How about some kudos for the engineers? Afterall they are ones that take any Architects concept and turn it into reality.

  5. Phillips said he’s happy with the early reaction to the circuit:

    The feedback …”rime” and the early signs are encouraging.

    small mistake

  6. Way to go Silverstone, I ma happy that they didn’t took Tilke on board with them. I think we had enough of Tilke BORING track now lets have something different.

  7. I have to say I’m really impressed by this redesign, and can’t wait to see the cars go full pelt through the new sections. I’m also surprised at the pace of construction. It didn’t seem to take very long at all.

    I’m not as anti-Tilke as I used to be, but I’m really tired of the Tilke monopoly, and I hope that for future circuits Populous’ name can be thrown into the hat too. Bernie wants circuits in New York and Moscow, so that’s two potential design opportunities right there (though one is more likely than the other ;) ). I’m curious to see what the Populous design team can do working from scratch, with no existing circuit to work from.

  8. A lot of people are pointing out that Tilke is hamstrung by the FIA regs. But it then begs the question – if this other crew is able to design a great layout which falls within the parametres of the FIA regs, why then is Tilke not able to?

  9. I’m quite disappointed with the way they changed Club: this corner was one of the two “warts” of the track (with the Abbey chicane), and they missed the opportunity to change it into something faster.

  10. I really wish Tilke would do what teams do with regards to rules and regulations.

    Look for a loophole and exploit it. There must be a way to work the highly restrictive FIA rules on circuits to your advantage.

  11. When I watched the Red Bull track simulation of Sepang and Shanghai I didn´t hear Mark & Seb saying that these circuits are boring. So why do you rate them as boring although you never drove a F1 car around them?

  12. Short of being able to restore the Abbey passage to the original left-hander without the chicane, I’m still cautiously optimistic about this new section. The fast combination fits the flowing, high-speed character Silverstone can still portray quite well, in my opinion. I’m still careful in my assessment about the loop, as I could imagine it would be well possible for a driver in front to cover the line well enough not to risk being overtaken there. We’ll see.

    At any rate, this makes a better impression on my than the first sketches of the changes that were released last year, which pretty much retained the 2003 proposal.

  13. My beef with Tilke is that he permanently shredded Hockenheim and Austria. These are historic places that needed the original layouts preserved in addition to being updated.
    I like this latest set of mods to Silverstone. Most of the historic turns are still there. The last set of updates seemed kind of mickey mouse to me.

    1. I think it is a bit misleading to say that Tilke “shredded” those tracks. Those revisions were mandated by the FIA, else F1 wouldn’t race there anymore, so those tracks were going to get shredded anyways. Given that, IMO Tilke actually did a pretty decent job of it (though I admit I didn’t feel that way at the time). Yes Hockenheim and A1 ring aren’t what they used to be, but they’re not too bad either. Hockenheim usually produces good races, as did A1 Ring when it was used.

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