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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Silverstone Arena circuit