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. sid_prasher (@) said on 24th October 2011, 19:58

    I think one of the problem with new tracks is that they are all massively influenced by commercial needs and not so much by passion for racing.

    Anyways I just hope that the Indian GP will go on to develop a character of its own – one that is liked by fans and the drivers.

  2. Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 24th October 2011, 21:24

    Without wishing to judge the track before it’s even held a race

    This is why on the previous article relating to the Track,I refused to take a Driver’s words for granted despite them having more data than us via experiencing the track on the Simulator.Occassionally the data received from the Simulator doesnt translate to the actual track itself that well.

    Same goes with Pirelli’s data,i dont believe it until Friday Practice with Onboard or FOM Footage

  3. I think it’s early to judge, but I second the idea that tracks need a deifining character. However, it is a little be unfair to say, make a track like Spa, Monza, or Interlagos, or Silverstone. I suspect that if Monza were built for the first time today, people would say it’s a lame collection of straights with chicanes. But Tilke should pick one theme. He should make a track that is a speed-drome, one that a is crazy little rolercoaster like Lagua Seca or Portimao, etc. Something nutty like Norisring— like a roadcourse “short track.”

    A missing element of track design is connection of the track and design with the surrounding space, with context. Spa addresses its surroundings elegantly. Same for the Nordschleife, Fuji, Elkhart Lake. Suzuka weaves through its landscape like bird. Look at Turkey, it could be anywhere on earth, or the moon. Same for Shanghai. Making the track in the shape of a character is not context.

    As far as designing for passing, I am really amazed that Tilke persists with the long straight into hairpin theory. It doesn’t work. The terminal speeds of the cars are roughly very similar, and so a weak block will fend off most any slipstream attack by a roughtly equal car, even if it can get that close, even if doesn’t hit it limiter. If a following car has a lower top speed but is actualy quicker, a very likely scenario, then the long straights just frustrate the attack. I also invites that set up choice just to create that scenario, a la, Mercedes in Monza.

    The bar charts are fascinating. By this metric Singapore is the worst track. It’s super slow and has a long lap time, despite being very short. From my obviously authoritative experience in F12010, these data confirms why it sucks. I hate it. It is exhausting, visually uninteresting, flat and boring. It takes so long to finish that the two-hour limit is a threat in the dry, in real life. It is a lot of furious down-shifting and brake-slamming for nothing. It’s like Valencia, basically, but worse.

    • James_mc (@james_mc) said on 24th October 2011, 22:08

      Just out of interest, I’ve always wondered what the “symbol” that Shanghai is designed after is supposed to be/represent?

      And I agree, there are too many right-left-right 90 degree bends in Singapore. Specifically the pointless “improving the show” dart under the grandstands. But I do quite like it all the same.

    • I agree that the long straight into hairpin doesn’t really work for overtaking but adding to your reasons, I think it’s the preceding corner before the long straight that’s more than important for overtaking.

      Take a look at Valencia and Abu Dhabi – very long back straight into a slow corner and no real opportunity for overtaking. On both circuits the turn before is a slow, short turn – Only one line and the car in front will always be on the throttle earlier. They do the most damage in terms of a lack of overtaking because all they do is space out the cars. I noticed this in Korea; without the DRS I think we would’ve had a pretty boring race there.

  4. 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 24th October 2011, 22:25

    I don’t mid most of the track. The 1,2,3 combination looks good with the elevation, theres a couple of passing spots.
    T10 the long right hander is banked which will be good
    But its the fiddly chicanes just before and after it that wind me up, they’re pointless, they’ll spread the field out and the only passing in there will be on lap 1 or backmarkers getting lapped.

    • Dave (@dworsley) said on 25th October 2011, 9:39

      ‘fiddly chances’ lol, excellent.

      the first one is taken at about 200 km/h, the second one is awesomely highspeed in 5th or 6th gear on low fuel, and is similar to the fastest corners at Melbourne.

  5. Nas-T said on 24th October 2011, 23:43

    I hate to say this but all the track in Asia that build after Sepang is basically rubbish and was build purely for money and fame with no motorsport interest at all. Sepang at least host other big event such as Super GT, MotoGP, A1 GP, Asia GT3, Endurance Race.

  6. chaostheory said on 24th October 2011, 23:47

    The elevation changes make this track stand out a little from latest Tilke creations. Also: end of sector 2, turns 10 – 11 seem interesting, something like that famous Nordshleife corner maybe. BUT, Barcelona looks good on paper too, it also looks exciting when watching an onboard lap, but we all know that races there are boring (except this year). So, lets wait one week and we will see.
    A propo Korea – it’s overdone, too much corners and too much slow corners, just like Valencia, which seems to confirm that its not the way to go in racing circuits design.

  7. So for the many expert critics, which track so far this year has produced exciting wheel to wheel racing?

  8. Dave (@dworsley) said on 25th October 2011, 9:36

    Analysis of the circuit based upon superficial numbers. Excellent analysis! Typical fan trash.

    For skilled drivers, the elevation changes and layout will make this a great place to drive. For those whose F1 2011 experience is what they base tracks and excitement upon, maybe not.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th October 2011, 10:02

      @dworsley What do you mean by “superficial numbers”?

      For those whose F1 2011 experience is what they base tracks and excitement upon

      I presume you’re referring to the computer game, but I’ve no idea why.

      • Dave (@dworsley) said on 25th October 2011, 11:36

        You’re analysing the circuit based purely on numbers: of corners, lengths, average speeds. The F1 drivers won’t be. They’ll be saying ‘it has a nice flow; I like these sequence of corners” etc. The numbers you quote have no direct correlation with how good a track will be because it has nothing to do with the layout (the actual classification of corners itself is silly; the FIA call a curved piece of flat-out running a corner when it isn’t, and that is given the same value as a hairpin where you experience 5g of braking).

        And on the second remark: a ridiculous number of comments use F1 2011 as their reasoning for their set view of how good a track is. “In 2011 its pretty good, this corner is pretty good” when a game – arcade and all – is no where near reflective of how fun a corner is to drive or how it is taken in real life, and the physics and general track data is not accurate to any stretch of the imagination.

        And finally, I just don’t find the enormous numbers of comments casting judgements, based upon the above ideas, as sensible. But it dominants. Obviously you provide the disclaimer that we haven’t had the Grand Prix yet, but you’re already critical, much like many others.

        Sort of similarly, the criticism of Tilkedromes I find frustrating and so cliched, and down-right wrong most of the times. Korea is a huge example. It seems like the majority of ‘F1 fanatics’ think the layout isn’t a good one (for excitement reasons, or for driver skill/challenge reasons). Yet Formula 1 drivers, including the likes of Webber (who, if I were him, I’d hate it), say they really enjoy it. And that’s because, other than the first sector, the layout is great! The highly abrasive circuit means cornering speeds are huge for how tight it is. And you’re always braking or cornering with blind corners with some undulations that playing a game like F1 2011 won’t imply (such as the drop in camber in the middle of turn 7), with massive lateral Gs all the way through the two final sectors.

        TLDR, I feel the far majority of opinions on tracks and layouts ( ‘omg bring classics back! new tracks/tilkedromes suck! yawn, hairpin, straights, boring track’) are just a common, unsophisticated attitude and have little true substance.

        • ECWDanSelby (@ecwdanselby) said on 25th October 2011, 12:56

          I think you may be missing the bigger picture slightly here.

          I think the Fanatics are more than happy to admit when they’re wrong, and let’s face it, with a couple of the tracks we have been.

          But that’s almost besides the actual point. The point is that Tilke’s tracks seem to follow a very similar pattern, not just in appearance, but even as far number of corners, length, and other stats demonstrated in the above article.

          I think more than anything, we as fans just want some variation. Yeh, it’s great that they’ve worked out a formula to create, generally speaking, close racing. That’s wonderful, but to do that for every one of the new tracks is perhaps a little tiresome. A calendar full of tracks that are not too disimilar to eachother just doesn’t excite me, in the same way a spec series F1 wouldn’t excite me. I see a very similar argument for ‘spec tracks’ tbh, I don’t see why it’s any different.

          I feel we should have variation in our tracks! Look at the Hockenheims (which is now another Tilke track), Monzas, Silverstones, Spas. They’re all completely different. Even at a glance, they look totally different.

          We cannot, and should not, lose that identity.

        • +1

          You have to laugh when you read comments like,

          “I have played F1 games ever since I was a kid.

          There is not one track I enjoy over Monaco.”

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 27th October 2011, 12:35

            If you’re bringing up Monaco again, then you should know by now that the drivers do indeed enjoy Monaco over almost every track.

  9. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 25th October 2011, 12:16

    Looking at these graphs makes me so sad. When I started following F1 in the mid 90s, there were just too tracks that I considered to be “boring” of “standard”: Estoril and Catalunya. Every other track was somehow unique: you had the twists of Hungaroring, the chicanes of Imola, Silverstone’s sweeping corners, the flatout riders of Monza and Hockenheim and so on.

    And now, every track is just 5,5 km in length with some 20 corners, and every one of them has a couple of hairpins and one really long straight. I really don’t understand why FIA insists of every track being the same length. Surely the race promoters would prefer a bit shorter tracks (<5 km), so the spectators would see the cars more often.

  10. soundscape (@soundscape) said on 25th October 2011, 12:57

    I know you made other points Keith, but those bar graphs would have Melbourne and Nurburgring as “cookie-cutter” circuits too.
    While I usually have a strong distaste for Tilke-designed circuits, I like the look of India. It seems promising and I’m optimistic for an enjoyable circuit, not just an enjoyable race.

  11. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 25th October 2011, 13:41

    Admittedly, the circuit has got Herman Tilke written all over it, however, I shall reserve judgement until this weekend is over.

    Ultimately it depends on for what reason you enjoy Grand Prix racing. You won’t catch me complaining about a circuit conducive to a lack of over-taking because I can still take pleasure in it regardless. Having no particular allegiance helps as well!

    The orientation of the tarmac plays a vital role, but no more vital than tyres, aero configuration, gear ratios or the weather. I believe it all boils down to the action over one day and how the millions of variables come into play.

    Remember, China is currently topping the rate-the-race charts with Monza towards the bottom half!

    Six of one, half a dozen of the other if you ask me.

  12. No27Forever said on 26th October 2011, 11:24

    Yas Marina is nothing like Istanbul so how can India possibly be like both of them?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th October 2011, 11:33

      As I said in the article, in terms of their structure.

      You have an ‘overtaking bit’ – a couple of long straights leading into slow corners – and a ‘twisty bit’, usually made up of rather perfunctory and often slow corners.

      Istanbul at least has the saving grace of turn eight and some gradient. Yas Marina has a hotel and a silly pit lane exit.

  13. Deepak said on 27th October 2011, 5:48

    Poor Chandok will be sitting on the sidelines watching the race from the pit garage. However, the Indian GP looks set to be a good ‘race’ and not a procession like the ones we have at the Valencia, Hungaroring, Monte Carlo etc. With 2 DRS zones and some hairpins, expect some real racing around BIC. Let the 5 lights go out!

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