India’s F1 track: Another cookie-cutter circuit?

2011 Indian Grand Prix

Buddh International Circuit

Buddh International Circuit

Straight, hairpin, straight, hairpin. Twiddly bit and back around again for another lap.

It was Korea last and it’s India next: the scenery changes but the tracks don’t.

Does the Buddh International Circuit, scene of the first ever Indian Grand Prix this weekend, offer anything to distinguish itself on F1’s increasingly homogeneous calendar?

Last week Sebastian Vettel raised the prospect of India’s circuit being one of the quickest in F1.

Red Bull’s simulator indicated an average lap speed of 235kph, suggesting a lap time of around 1’18. But tyre manufacturer Pirelli’s predictions are rather more conservative, estimating a 1’27 lap with an average speed of around 210kph.

Based on Pirelli’s estimates, here’s how the Buddh International Circuit compares with the other 19 circuits on the original 2011 calendar:

Lap length

2011 F1 circuit length

2011 F1 circuit length

Lap time

2011 F1 circuits lap times

2011 F1 circuits lap times

Indian Grand Prix lap time based on estimate by Pirelli

Average speed

2011 F1 circuits average speeds

2011 F1 circuits average speeds

Indian Grand Prix average speed based on estimate by Pirelli

Maximum speed

2011 F1 circuits maximum speeds

2011 F1 circuits maximum speeds

Indian Grand Prix maximum speed based on estimate by Pirelli

Number of corners

2011 F1 circuits number of corners

2011 F1 circuits number of corners

On the face of it the Buddh International Circuit looks entirely typical of modern F1 tracks: roughly five kilometres in length with the usual combination of long straights leading into slow hairpins, plus some medium-speed corners.

Its layout has much in common with other recent additions to the calendar such as Yas Marina, Korea, Istanbul and Bahrain. This is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Without wishing to judge the track before it’s even held a race, it’s impossible to ignore the conspicuous lack of imagination in modern F1 track design – whether you choose to blame ubiquitous designer Hermann Tilke, or the safety and commercial restrictions he is constrained by.

We see far too much of circuits that “have a bit of everything” and, consequently, have nothing that marks themselves out from other new tracks. As the graphs above make clear, it’s the classic old venues such as Monza, Spa and Monaco that provide the extremes on an otherwise increasingly homogeneous calendar.

But this will matter little if the Buddh International Circuit provides exciting race. We’ll find out if it can on Sunday.

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140 comments on India’s F1 track: Another cookie-cutter circuit?

  1. Victor. (@victor) said on 24th October 2011, 14:07

    It’s interesting to see how the longest circuits (Spa, Silverstone, Suzuka, Monza) and the shortest (Monte-Carlo, Interlagos, Montreal) are the best races.

  2. bearforce1 (@bearforce1) said on 24th October 2011, 14:15

    A new circuit is exciting.

    No previous race data. I think there will be lots of interest this race with strategy. The tyres situation with a claimed two second gap between prime and option. Drivers learning the limits.

    Can’t wait. This year has been super it just keeps on giving.

  3. I wish they’d just throw a tied string of spaghetti (al dente) onto a model of the designated new track surface and proceed to just make it safe enough for F1. The formulaic approach makes for similar racing, it’s getting boring.

    It’s always hard to rule out nostalgia as a factor, but I’ve only been watching F1 since 2008 and don’t look for cues from the past to enjoy today’s racing. The variety of the older tracks makes them interesting, even if there aren’t constant overtakes, at least it makes the ones that do happen worthwhile.

    The only track Tilke didn’t mess up was Istanbul. Having seen two fantastic GPs there and unpretentiously driving it in F1 2010, its layout is great. No hairpins (the design of turns 12,13,14 is just inspired as an alternative to the straightforward hairpin) along with a tricky off camber downhill corners 1 and 9,10 (leading into the back “straight”), aside from turn 8 – which unfairly overshadows the other good stuff the track has to offer. Too bad they built it in the wrong place.

    I’m also keeping an open mind to the first Indian Grand Prix – and from the Red Bull preview it looks more interesting than other recent additions – but the points stands regardless of the quality of this example.

  4. Alain (@paganbasque) said on 24th October 2011, 14:34

    It seems to be a good track, only because I think that the long straights will let to see some overtakes but nothing more. Tilke always do the same work, his designs are terribly boring, always with the same combination of high and low speed corners, each one in a different sector and never combinated in a more imaginate way.

    And my question is, is it impossible to have another track designer? It seems that Tilke has the exlusivity and this is something really disgusting for me.

  5. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 24th October 2011, 14:38

    The short answer is that we just don’t know, and we’ll have to wait and see. It’s looking good so far though, undulating with some good corners, it could well be Tilke’s best track along with Sepang and Istanbul.

  6. taurus (@taurus) said on 24th October 2011, 15:01

    Playing it on F1 2011, its an alright track. Theres a wholly unnecessary left-right in the last sector though.

    Imola should be back on the calender, joined by Potrero de los Funes.

    The Tilke-dromes are almost universally awful, identikit borefests.

    And does Interlagos really have 21 turns?!

  7. Does anybody remember the F1 1997 game for the Playstation?

    There’s a track you can unlock called ‘Sunob’ (Bonus backwards) and the track is literally the shape of an F1 car. Not only that, but it’s one of the most enjoyable circuits I’ve driven on a computer game. We need someone to design that track in real life!!!

  8. 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 24th October 2011, 15:52

    Sadly Tilke seems to have either lost the plot or is severly hindered by regulations (or both) because we’ve had loads of new tracks come in since Malaysia in 1999 and hardly any have really looked good, got the fans through the gates and provided good races
    Why not go for some variety, 4km or 6km or really low downforce or a really high downforce, something unusual.

  9. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 24th October 2011, 16:30

    No it won’t do anything good the same old boring Tilke track.

  10. Daniel (@daniel) said on 24th October 2011, 16:42

    Buddh F1 track may actually be one of the (few, or very few) good Tilke designs (Sepang, for instance). I think Tilke is somehow truncated by regulations, but still there should be room left for innovation. For example, why doesn’t he put blind turns into his tracks? Why not twisted portions of track (twisted here means a kind of Mobius band)?
    I’m dreaming to the day when a Tilke design would make me exclaim “what a great track!”

  11. matt90 (@matt90) said on 24th October 2011, 16:49

    In the lap length chart, the 5 shortest and 4 longest circuits are all non-Tilke, and among those 9 include 7 tracks that are generally perceived as among the best. Among the others there aren’t many that stand out (possible exceptions being Melbourne and Nurburgring) because although Turkey, Malaysia, even Bahrain and Shanghai are either good drivers circuits or have actually turned out a lot of decent racing, they are all so similar in some way that is hard to put your finger on- there is the obvious combination of corners, but there is also a feeling that it’s as much about the architecture, and everything has to look grand (oversized- sure it allows cars to be several abreast, but it rarely happens and makes the cars look small and less ragged) and somehow sparse in all the sections that don’t have a huge grandstand. I find that the tracks, regardless of terrain or features (dessert, grass, hills, scrub), look somehow bleak and bland to me in a way that crumbling circuits that should look bleak and actually look merely aged and characterful.

  12. Rammstein (@rammstein123) said on 24th October 2011, 17:31

    I don’t like that Tilke, tho some of the styling of the new circuit’s is very modern and 21 century, arcurtecture wise.

  13. the anirudh said on 24th October 2011, 17:53

    Apparently all tickets are sold out!

  14. icemangrins (@icemangrins) said on 24th October 2011, 18:23

    This could be one of Tilke’s good creation though the layout isn’t really captivating. This applies to even the new circuits such as Kazakhstan motorcity and the circuit of the Americas. Are there any other circuit designers who are affliated to FIA or is it just Tilke GmbH at the moment?

    But nevertheless, the India circuit seems to be completed by the organizers and only 5 more days, we will know what the circuit offers the F1F’s.

  15. Steve C said on 24th October 2011, 18:25

    If given a blank piece of paper NOT a one of you could come up with anything better than what’s out there now. Think of it for a second, you have left turns and right turns and they all have to meet back together in order to make a lap. Please, I’m no Tilke fan but all his turns meet to make a closed curcuit.

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