The track they should build in Austin

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

178 comments on “The track they should build in Austin”

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  1. Mark in Florida
    5th June 2010, 22:11

    For those that remember your tracks from Grand Turismo 2,Red Rock Valley would be a great design basis. It has a long straight a banked first turn followed by a flowing section.Later it has a section much like Suzukas esses.This fantasy track has speed and wide sections for passing.The banked turns would be a unique feature for Texas.

  2. HounslowBusGarage
    6th June 2010, 20:56

    It struck me earlier today that another of the limitations placed upon Tilke’s imagination – apart from FIA rules, flat location, ugly hotels etc – is that often it seems that he has to fit the entire track into a shoebox-sized bit of land, and the only way of doing that (excluding overpasses and tunnels) is to have the track looping backwards and forwards in its confines – all squirty straights and hairpins.
    Apparently, in Texas, they have bought 800 acres for the track site.
    Now, I’ve got no real idea exactly how much 800 acres actually is. How does it compare the entire Silverstone plot, for example? But it does occur to me that if 800 acres is really big, it might just be enough space to let a real track unfold itself properly, and Tilke might be able to produce his finest (or least worst) design yet.
    So really, how big is 800 acres?

    1. I don’t know how big the plot is for Silverstone. I do know however that 800 acres equals 323 hectares, which equals 3,230,000 square metres, which if you assumed the land was a perfect square, which it probably isn’t would mean that the land would measure about 1,800 metres, by 1,800 metres.

      1. HounslowBusGarage
        6th June 2010, 22:46

        Thanks for the lead, Pinball.
        So if it was a square of 1.8 km x 1.8 km, and if the track was a square situated 100 m inside the periphery, it would be 4 x 1.6 km =6.4 km, leaving a 1.4 km square of unused space in the centre. This would be pretty well the least economical use of the space available.
        So if the designers/orgnisers are aiming for something like 5 km (3.2 miles) track inside a 1.8 km square space, there would appear to be p-l-e-n-t-y of space for a relaxed track without too many pointless hairpins and irrelevant straights, and where the cars can actually stretch their ‘legs’.
        Plus, there would still be loadsa space for the Hangers-on Club, helicopter landing area, Superstar Enclosure, Photo-opportunity Alley . . . and somewhere where the real fans can watch the racing.

  3. i love the A1-ring good design for Austin mate!!!!!!

  4. Keith, you said it all…

    i would add an outwardly banked turn, not too steep perhaps 5 to 10 degrees. an inwardly banked long very fast corner… and a crest where (1970s f1) cars can lift off halfway down the longest straight to keep drivers on their toes…

    you got my blood boiling with this fastest lap stuff Keith… LOL

  5. Banking is synonomous with NASCAR…leave it there. F1 is the premier ROAD RACING venue. The US wants what evryone else wants…COMPETITIVE RACING. The track needs passing lanes !! High speed is fine but without passing its just another train to watch. As only the top teams have that kind of top speed available, why not make the layout very technical but fast( no 20mph hairpins) with lots of room to pass. Keep overall speed advantage down and let drivers DRIVE.

  6. Mark in Florida
    7th June 2010, 22:54

    Banking on a track does not mean that there is no passing in that area of the track.Look at the 24 hours of Daytona those drivers pass each other all the time going into turn one it is one of the prime area`s for making a pass.Banking is a great way to make passing zones because a car that is set up the right way can either cut down low on the track to the inside or go high and fast on the outside.Maybe the nuances of banking escapes the Euros,but believe me incredibly fast passes do occur on banked turns.A car that is under steering will be even more evil to handle while a driver that is loose biased but can keep his right foot down and go right by.Every turn should not be banked of course but a few here and there would appeal to a lot of people in America that`s new to the sport,after all it`s our track not yours.Also it wouldn`t look to good if one of the new generation Indy Cars with the upcoming turbo motors tested on this track and laid down some serious speed.F1 needs to bring their A game and impress everyone with a really fast track.

  7. Minor banking in one area or even a couple might be ok but banking should not be the principal attraction. Nobody cares whether an Indy car is FASTER. Its an OVAL racer….It doesnt have to do much accept go fast. F1 is much more than that. Again..PREMIER ROAD RACING. As for being our track and not the europeans…who cares. The concern should first be for the drivers and then the fans. Racing has always had good and bad circuits all over the world. As spectators the only thing we want is COMPETITION. We want as many cars and drivers as possible to be able to compete. All spectators love when a underdog driver actually bests a world champion or a low budget team bests a corporate giant. Design the track to be a DRIVERS track. The fast guys will always be fast but you can surely make them work for it !!

    1. Nobody cares whether an Indy car is FASTER. Its an OVAL racer….It doesnt have to do much accept go fast.

      Not true. This year’s Indycar calendar has (and last year’s had) more road and street courses than ovals.

  8. Great article Keith – this track needs balance which can lend itsself to any given team on any given day – call it an “underdog track”. Make the straights too long, then say see ya to McLaren. Make it a downforce track, then say see ya to RBR. The worst thing that can happen is a one-team break-away that turns into a yawner of a race, with no passing. That is what’s killed F1 in the US. Study tracks where Renault, Force India, and (even) Torro Rosso had success. I’d love to see Andrian Sutil overtake Hamilton. I would crack up, as long as Alonso wins.

  9. Jim Morrison
    19th July 2010, 23:49

    Guys you do realize that the track has already been finalized and there aint going to be any suggestions.. Sure I would love an early Monza, or Spa or even La Guna Seca, but that aint gonna happen..

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