Should Tilke be kept away from Austin?

Drivers have criticised tracks like Abu Dhabi

Drivers have criticised tracks like Abu Dhabi

Yesterday’s news about F1 returning to America generally prompted two reactions from fans.

As well as welcoming F1’s new race in Austin in 2012, a lot of people urged the race promoters to pick someone other than Hermann Tilke to design the track.

Tilke’s company has designed or altered almost every track on the F1 calendar. Several of his designs have been criticised for being unexciting – but is that criticism misplaced?

Update: The race promoters have confirmed the track will be designed by Tilke.

Prisoner Monkeys made this case in Tilke’s defence:

Hermann Tilke works within rules set out by th FIA. Anyone who replaced him would be bound by those same rules and would only produce a similar circuit. If you look at some of Tilke?s non-F1 designs ?ǣ Motorland Aragon springs to mind ?ǣ you?ll see that he?s actually pretty good.

It?s the rules, not the designer that needs changing. And if FOTA get the regulations for the cars right, they may not even need that.
Prisoner Monkeys

Anyone who thinks designers like Tilke have a free rein when it comes to creating circuits is mistaken – at least, if they want their circuits to be used for Formula 1.

The FIA’s circuit regulations are specific and demanding (see PDF here). The length, width, gradient and camber of new tracks are all tightly defined by the rules.

Natural boundaries and terrain also limit Tilke’s scope. Istanbul is a good track thanks to the hilly terrain it is built on. Whereas Valencia has no gradient and no room for any quick corners.

Despite these caveats, I think some of the criticism of Tilke is justified. He’s penned some excellent tracks, like Istanbul Park and Sepang, but others have been missed opportunities.

At Yas Island for example, despite the track being constructed on a man-made island at gigantic expense, Tilke found it necessary to include low-speed chicanes as part of the circuit design – one of which immediately precedes another low-speed corner.

Even the drivers – who usually stick to an uncontroversial PR line when asked to give their opinions – have been moved to criticise Yas Island. Adrian Sutil did over the winter and Lucas di Grassi had this to say when I spoke to him about it earlier this month:

[In] Abu Dhabi, you have completely free space to do whatever you want, as much run-off area as you like, so maybe like corner eight in Turkey they should do more challenging, fast corners. It would be nicer for the drivers, better for the spectacle.
Lucas di Grassi

But the amount of criticism Tilke gets from fans is out of proportion with the extent of his responsibility for the standard of modern F1 tracks.

If Bernie Ecclestone points at an industrial estate in Valencia and says ‘put a track there’, there’s very little Tilke can do within the constraint of his brief and the rules to create the next Spa-Francorchamps or even an Istanbul Park.

Although Silverstone avoided using Tilke for the latest changes to their circuit, it would be a surprise if anyone other than Tilke was charged with building Austin’s Formula 1 track.

Hopefully he’ll get the space and the resources to come up with a worthwhile addition to the F1 calendar.

Hermann Tilke

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204 comments on Should Tilke be kept away from Austin?

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  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd July 2010, 7:22

    Dear members of the F1 Fanatic community:

    It has recently been brought to my attention that some of the comments made by myself in this thread – and possibly in others – are untrue. These comments relate to Apex Circuit Design and the construction of the Eurasia Autodrome near Domodedovo in the Russian Federation, and claimed that Apex was an unreliable contractor producing sub-standard work and that the Domodedovo project had run over time and over budget.

    I am both ashamed and emabrrassed to admit that these comments were posted in error. I have no way to validate my claims, and therefore no right to speak ill of either Apex or any of their projects. For this reason, I am posting this message as a public apology to both Apex Circuit Design and the owners of the Domodedovo circuit and am retracting my comments. I originally took my source’s comments in good faith, which has since proven to be wrong. I offer no excuses for my actions, and only ask that I be forgiven for this greivous error; had I known that my source for these comments was incorrect, I never would have posted them in the first place.

    I may, however, offer some insight as to how I believe I strayed from my path. Circuit design is a subject I have a great interest in, and one that I have argued forcefully over in the past. Where on previous occasions I have prefixed any of my claims relating to Apex Circuit Design and/or any of their projects with “I am told that” (or words to the effect thereof), I started dropping said prefix as the argument kept coming up. Hence, I am the architect of my own undoing.

    I would once again like to express my deepest regret in posting these comments in the first place, and offer my sincerest apologies for it. In future, I will strive to verify any claims I make, and actively avoid making such comments again. On that note, I will open the door to the wider community to follow my lead; I have seen countless occasions on several websites where members of a community of accused members of the FIA of corruption or Team USF1 of fraud. These are serious criminal accusations, made because a person did not like action taken by those organisations. While we cannot police the internet as a whole, let us stand together as a community an actively seek to prevent the forum and our wonderful host Keith from being tainted by such a brush.

    Sincerely, Jason (aka “Prisoner Monkeys”)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd July 2010, 8:32

      Apex have asked to make the following statement:

      “We at Apex were somewhat surprised at the suggestion by Prisoner Monkeys that we were underperforming for some of our clients, because for us to do so would be totally at odds with the way we work. Our client in Moscow has submitted a post which refuted one claim made and, since the other had no specific project named, the client in question could not retort though if he had been he would have responded I am sure. Our way of working is very inclusive; we listen to what people want and we try – within constraints defined by safety guidelines, common sense and regulation – to always provide the most exciting solutions that are cost effective, timely and provide a long term sustainable operation for our clients. I am grateful that Prisoner Monkeys has clarified the situation and, on the subject in question, we would be happy to contribute to the debate and to show any forum member around our offices in the UK to showcase the way we work in this field.”

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