The track they should build in Austin


Elio de Angelis and Keke Rosberg in a photo finish at the Osterreichring in 1982

Elio de Angelis and Keke Rosberg in a photo finish at the Osterreichring in 1982

Since the news broke that the United States Grand Prix will return to the F1 calendar in 2012 I’ve had emails from many fans in Austin, Texas about the project.

It’s clear there’s already great enthusiasm for the project from fans in the area.

In order for the event to be a success the race organisers need to start by getting the track right – something F1 has failed to do at many of its newest venues.

A dream solution

Fans have been vocal in their criticism of modern F1 circuits in recent years. Happily the message finally seems to be getting through.

McLaren team principal and Formula One Teams’ Association chairman Martin Whitmarch admitted in a recent interview with Autosport that circuit design is letting F1 down:

We’ve had lots of circuits, with Abu Dhabi probably the most bizarre one, where money is no object and they started with a clean sheet of paper. Yet you’ve got probably one of the longest straights in F1 with a chicane and when do we ever see an overtake in a modern-day chicane?
Martin Whitmarsh

So what should race promoter Tavo Hellmund build with his $250m on an as-yet undeveloped plot of land in Austin?

My dream solution for the American Grand Prix is for a race on a superspeedway. IndyCars have abandoned monster tracks like Michigan Speedway and Fontana (now the ‘Auto Club’ Speedway) with their 390kph (242mph) average lap speeds.

Although the FIA regulations do allow for F1 cars to race on ovals, I’d be amazed if it ever happened. And the challenges of building a superspeedway to F1 safety standards would be immense.

But, without wishing to trade in simplistic national stereotypes, F1 would do well to draw on the American philosophy of, ‘bigger, better, faster’ embodied in those fearsome superspeedways.

That’s why I think the United States Grand Prix organisers should make it their mission to build the fastest circuit in Formula 1 for its return to America in 2012.

‘F1’s fastest race’

In America, more than anywhere else, F1 needs a unique selling point. It offers a completely different style of racing to NASCAR and cannot rival the home-grown popularity of that series.

Instead it should play to its own strengths, and put on a race that shows just what modern F1 cars are capable of.

F1 does not need another Valencia, another Bahrain or another Abu Dhabi. In a country with tracks as dramatic as Elkhart Lake, Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca, another Hermann Tilke cookie cutter effort won’t cut it.

What F1 needs is a new Osterreichring.

When the Austrian circuit was first used for F1 40 years ago it stole Silverstone’s crown as the fastest circuit in Formula 1. Today Monza holds that title – even with two very slow chicanes F1 cars lapped it at an average of 251kph (155mph) last year

Providing it can be done within the FIA’s restrictions on circuit design, a new track in the style of the original Osterreiching with long straights and wide, fast corners could eclipse Monza’s average lap speed.

Yes, it would need wide run off areas. But by copying some of the better features of F1’s newest track Yas Island – its impact-absorbing TecPro barriers and raised spectator stands – this could be achieved without pushing the spectators too far away from the action.

Being able to sell the event as “F1’s fastest race” would be a boon for the race organisers. But whatever they choose to do with their race, F1 cannot afford to waste another opportunity.

It has sampled nine different venues in America – more than it has in any other country – yet failed to find a long-term home. This is the first time it will hold a race in America at a track purpose-built for F1.

Gimmicks like pit tunnels and hotel bridges won’t be good enough. F1 in America needs something truly special and different. This is my idea for what it should be. What’s yours?

Your design for a US Grand Prix track

What would you like to see built in Austin for the United States Grand Prix? Post links to your designs using Scribble Maps, Gmaps Pedometer or a similar tool below.

Here’s my preferred design – though I won’t claim any credit for it:

2012 United States Grand Prix

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178 comments on The track they should build in Austin

  1. colin grayson said on 3rd June 2010, 16:36

    the most important thing for an F! track in the USA is the location

    and austin sure isn’t that

    bottom of niagra falls maybe ? [ canadian side of course ]

    more seriously , it has got to be somewhere people want to go , look at turkey , good track , no-one wants to go there ; monaco , fiendishly expensive but STILL gets a good crowd

  2. Brake Bias said on 3rd June 2010, 16:37

    Hate to rain on the parade, but to design and build a track with all the associated infrastructure in under 2 years – I don’t really see it happening. (Based on 20+ years in the construction industry).

    Given the red tape developments in the US have to go through will make it even harder to achieve those time frames.

  3. Joey-Poey said on 3rd June 2010, 16:54

    I already do this all the time by making tracks for Grand Prix Legends with googlemaps X). As such:

    Granted, I’m usually mapping stuff out with existing roads. HOWEVER,*rubs hands together* let’s see what we can do for Austin with a blank slate…

  4. fred schechter said on 3rd June 2010, 16:57

    Prisoner Monkeys I like your thinking!!!

    I’m routinely astounded that you want to bring in a Oval Keith (it’s why we watch F1, no ovals!) but I digress, the variety, once a year would be interesting, however the racing difference is so great in technique and tactics that I fear it would fall incorrectly in terms of marketing (and feel a little too forced).
    I agree on the “Mondo-ness” of Texas as well.

    The answer is the shape of a boot!! (It’s Texas, this is a thing that would fit with Texas very well).

    Start/finish straight is at the back of the boot, and drive down into a left hander the tightens(start finish straight is 500 yards from the corner so speeds aren’t too great from the start of the race (1st corner)).

    From there you’re at the top of the boot where you enter the “star complex” This is a combination of a 5 pointed star dropping down and breaking up the short chute at the top of the boot, these are all distinctive as they alter camber from point to point (obviously 5 points (Texas Rangers/Cowboys)). The top point is the receiver for turn 1 as well as the entrance to the return straight.

    The opening from the Star Complex opens into the Return straight (maybe called touchdown straight?) This is again a straight of nearly 3/4 mile that heads off towards the toe first slowly tightening right, then tightening left into the hard left hander “Toe corner”.

    “Toe corner” will be an excellent viewing position as you’ll get the entry from touchdown straight and the short chute to “Sole”.

    I know this is REALLY literal, but it actually fits, makes an interesting course, and if you’ve ever been to Texas would actually make them rather proud (TRUST ME!) Better yet, some really interesting opportunities to do something different.

    Now to the heel and spurs. The heel chicane tightens left from sole and the a hard road course 90 degree right hand turn, then a quick 90 degree left hander to heel, another short chute and a left hand 90 degree turn to spurs.

    Spurs is the idea of Prisoner Monkey and a great one at that! Hard right, to a hairpin left, then hairpin right, followed by another left to return to the Start Finish straight (that’s as long as the monstrous Touchdown straight headed in the other direction).

    I know this sounds hokey, but I think there are some elements that fit well into this scenario, provide a plethora of overtaking opportunities, as well as outright speed and definitely keep with the theme.

    Yeee Haw!
    (I hope Tilke is reading this!)

  5. laptopracer said on 3rd June 2010, 17:01

    keith u should be in charge after berni retires!!! =]

  6. Steve K said on 3rd June 2010, 17:59

    Plenty of Ovals, fast ovals, already built in the US. In fact I encourage everyone to watch the indycar race on Saturday night (US time) up the road from Austin in Fort Worth. Side by side at 230 MPH. Tempatures over 100 degrees. It will be slick. Remember to breath while watching. Best race of the year.

  7. Spaceman Spiff said on 3rd June 2010, 18:08

    I agree with the speed aspect you want, but there is more to a unique and exciting circuit than speed. The key to the eventual circuit design will be its actual location.
    If they choose a flat area, Herr Tilke can do anything, so it will no doubt be something akin to what he has done in the recent past… and probably as boring. But if they can find a hilly, undulating location (it is in the Texas “Hill Country” after all), hopefully they can design something more like Spa or Laguna Seca, where the local topography introduces its own uniqueness and excitment. Then they can work the speed and overtaking opportunities into it.
    So to the Austin promoters: Don’t just pick up the first big cow pasture you can find that is easy to bulldoze flat and pave over… put some real thought into it to find a location that really suits a racing circuit and give us a new Eau Rouge or Corkscrew.

  8. I’ve designed a track on autocad, a few years back because I was sick of seeing Tilke rubber duck layouts everywhere. I agree Osterriechring would be brilliant, though I believe that and Spa are only track known for having multiple red flag starts. My circuit looks like a SHARK not a rubber duck, aptly named Sharkring. Lots of intense hairpins and wide sweeping curves. Now if we can get the 1986 cars back, man that would be cool.

  9. All well and good; I would like to see an end of the “Tilkedromes”

    However you are forgetting something: no refuelling this year. So since a Grand Prix is supposed to be 300km or 2 hours whichever comes first, then the cars will simply not be able to run flat out for the whole race. Engines will have to be “turned down” at some point to reduce fuel co,sumption, cf Webber at Turkey…

    So there will be some fast laps certainly but that will be it!

  10. judo chop said on 3rd June 2010, 18:53

    How about some 90 degree corners?

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 4th June 2010, 3:09

      Um, why? Ninety-degree bends single-handedly killed the concept of street circuits because they’re all the same: second-gear and evenly-spaced. No challenge whatsoever.

  11. East Londoner said on 3rd June 2010, 19:10

    I’d love to see a circuit like the Osterreichring built as I have never seen any races at the original Ostterreichring, but seen plenty of boring F1 races on TV at the insipid A1-Ring.

    • Maciek said on 3rd June 2010, 21:11

      Hmm – I actually liked the A1-ring, although I’ll own up that aside from the infamous Ferrari place-switching debacle, I don’t actually remember particular races. Don’t remember hating the circuit, though.

      • We learned the name Tilke, It was a little bit odd, but it did produce races. Then he came out with Sepang, an mostly we were like this guy is awesome.


        • ajokay said on 4th June 2010, 11:15

          I quite liked the A1 Ring too. It was really great fun to race in the grand Prix games on the PC.

          Plus it only had 8 corners, and a hell of a lot of gradient.

          Tilke seems to want to squeeze 20+ corners into his newer circuits, and I can’t understand why. I was always under the impression that circuits had somewhere between 10 and 15.

          • The Osterreichring had the same amount of gradient and indeed the same number of corners. The difference was they were mostly fast, there was more camber and the last corner (Rindt Kurve) was lightly banked.

            After Tilke’s modifications, not ONE corner remained. Now, I realise that the man had rules to work to, but that’s just ridiculous!

  12. Hallard said on 3rd June 2010, 19:10

    I definitely dont feel that a super speedway is the way to go for an american circuit, simply because there are far too many of them in the US already. The NASCAR season includes 20+ oval/super-speedway races, if Im not mistaken, and IndyCar does their fair share too. As an American fan, I can tell you that in order for F1 to be successful, it must above all distinguish itself from the racing series that already have footholds in the USA. You wont get that with top-speed oriented oval racing, and Americans wouldnt understand all the fuss about F1 if they find that the cars perform only marginally better (or perhaps worse) than indycars around a banked-oval circuit. The track absolutely needs to have some long straights, and FAST, sweeping corners. I think it would be appropriate to have a heavily-banked corner or two as well. Bottom line: it needs to show off the kind of G-forces F1 cars are capable of.

  13. I’ve made it my twitter background @jrhonf1
    sadly it’s behind the text feed, will sort this later

  14. I’d like to see squared off 90 degree corner at the end of the front straight. Front straight should be high speed going into a medium to slow speed corner (80mph). The turn should be abnormally wide to allow lots of shenanigans to take place. I hope the course includes lots of elevation changes.

  15. Bonsai_ent said on 3rd June 2010, 20:02

    This is my first comment on F1 Fanatic so go easy please guys!

    If you Locate Thunder Hill raceway on google maps and move approx 2.5 miles directly south, there is a racetrack there, See below. Its clearly not long enough at just under 2 miles, but could this be where Tilke will be tinkering. I’m gonna pop off now and design a track from this layout as a base. I may have to demolish the trailer park next door (South west) a little by the time I have finished though. ;-)

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