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. Prisoner Monkeys said on 4th June 2010, 2:07

    Alright, I’ve been thinking. And rather than simply building a speed-bowl, this is what I’m thinking: rally stage. Forget about long straights, just build a section of road about four or five kilometres long that goes out in a big loop and takes the hardest route through the terrain. Don’t follow the contours, just go over it. And when the driers have completed the loop, link the two ends up with a straight bit and that’s your start line. For inspiration, use the Transfăgărăşan – voted by Top Gear as the best road in the world.

  2. Matt said on 4th June 2010, 4:33

    Hills!! Not on some billiard table flat ground… find some hills and build it according to the land

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 4th June 2010, 8:07

      Um, that’s exactly what they’ve done. When they went out to purchase the land, the only thing on their shopping list was some interesting terrain.

      Why do people assume that everyone but the fans knows nothing about building a good circuit? Hellmund is a racer, and Tilke has proven he can produce the genuine article when he’s given the right stuff.

  3. Adam Tate said on 4th June 2010, 7:46

    I love this idea Keith, it’s brilliant! I’ve been reading up on the original Osterreiching and I think it’s a damn shame they neutered it to become the A1 Ring and then deserted it all together. Alain Prost himself said it was one track on which they shouldn’t change a thing, and that’s really something. I’ve watched footage of the fight between de Angelis and Keke there on youtube and it looks amazing, fast and flowing and long, everything all the new tracks aren’t. I’m tired of seeing how fast an F1 car can go through a chicane, let’s see one in its’ natural environment, a long sweeping, undulating track where it can truly showcase its’ speed! I hope my home state can do us all proud and bring us such a track. Here’s to hoping the organizers read your site.

  4. wasiF1 said on 4th June 2010, 9:07

    The best thing they can do is to design a very fast track something like Silverstone , Spa, & Monza where cars will run at minimum downforce & keep Tilke away from it.

    Can anyone tell me what is the minimum downforce requirement for any F1 track to build under the regulation?

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 4th June 2010, 10:08

      There is no minimum downforce requirement – but Tilke has already been commissioned to design the circuit. That said, the organisers have already purchased what they believe to be a “killer” piece of land and Tilke has proven – with Istanbul – that when he’s given a good piece of land, he can produce the goods.

      • wasiF1 said on 4th June 2010, 14:57

        So I hope in the future that Tilke is given the piece of land where he can build a low downforce track.

  5. Alex Bkk said on 4th June 2010, 12:02

    Well no matter what the track ends up looking look they need to name one corner… “Foyt Corner”

    Cheers, Alex

  6. M0tion said on 4th June 2010, 13:03

    The guys mentioning GP2 cars have a good point. The designer has to anticipate the new car rules.

    The other point is that the track has to make money. Someone like Damon Hill might have interesting input on how to maximise 365day revenue. So it is how this track layout plays with other revenue components, be it NASCAR or sportscars or trackdays or MOTOGP or whatever.

    I really like the one big banked corner idea but only with a normal chassis. Is there much rise & fall on the site?

  7. Will said on 4th June 2010, 14:09

    Sorry try this – heres my circuit!
    Combine Silverstones’ Maggots and Becketts, Monza final corner and Istanbuls’ infamous Turn 8!!

  8. Electrolite said on 4th June 2010, 14:38

    Amazing article Keith!

  9. luke said on 4th June 2010, 21:09

    this is what ireland has to offer

    its in dublin and based around croke park

  10. luke said on 4th June 2010, 21:18

    my first 2 dont work

  11. -A- said on 5th June 2010, 2:10

    My mouse-hand computer-painting skills are probably rather unimpressive, but I sketched a layout a short while ago, including a fast, wide-open first sector, a quick combination turning down into a slow corner and a closing that in my imagination would resemble the twisty, up and down spectator attraction points around Brünnchen on the Nurburgring-Nordschleife, all of which resulted in this:

    I’m hoping they will come out with something rather unique for the actual circuit design. I consider it good news that they’ve looked to buy land with some terrain features, if that information is accurate. The circuit at Portimao is a nice illustration how even a number of slow and tight sequences (as many current circuits have them) could be made much more interesting with some significant ups and downs in between (as many current circuits don’t have them).

  12. NetSticks said on 5th June 2010, 6:05

    Love that track design – simpler is better – the hell with that german Tilke guy… With the exception of some turns in some of the tracks (thecarrousel turn in China, turn 7 in Istanbul… his tracks suck… I can’t understand that when everybody wants to make obvertaking possible, the races more fun… all the rules… all the tracks are going to other way around… Are thje people in charge that STUPID ? Or it’s just money talking, like in everything else… Whe nthe rating of F1 start falling and with with saw in some Asian races starts to happens in Europe… then they’ll be scared… Meanwhile, us, the fans have to suck it up… Mosley/Todt style… It sucks big time!

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