Circuit of the Americas: F1’s tenth home in the USA

2012 United States Grand Prix

The Circuit of the Americas will hold the United States Grand Prix for the first time this weekend. Will it be more successful than the nine venues which have gone before?

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

1950-1960, 2000-2007

When the world championship was inaugurated in 1950 the Indianapolis 500 was included as a round to give it some credibility as a truly global series. It was the only event on the schedule which took place outside Europe in the first year of the championship.

However the Indianapolis 500 was run to a completely different set of regulations. There were occasional attempts by top F1 drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari to enter the race.

If a way could have been found to retain it within the framework of the championship, the history of F1 in America might have been very different and much more successful. As it was, the race lost it championship status after 1960, which did nothing to diminish its growth as America’s greatest motor race.

Ironically, only at this point did F1 drivers begin to enjoy success at the race, beginning with Jim Clark in 1965 and Graham Hill the year after.

Christian Klien, Christijan Albers, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Indianapolis, 2006F1 returned to Indianapolis in 2000 to race on a newly-constructed Grand Prix circuit which incorporated one turn of the historic oval.

The result was mixed at best: the world championship track was dwarfed by the oval surrounding it, and the F1 cars looked particularly pathetic negotiating a clumsy double-hairpin in the middle of the circuit. But visitors to Indianapolis were at least able to witness the sight of cars racing in the rain, which does not happen in oval racing.

F1’s stay at the track was soured by two controversies. In 2002 Ferrari dominated the race, but Michael Schumacher slowed at the finish, letting Rubens Barrichello pass him, which he later admitted had been an accident.

Worse, three years later just six cars took the start after the Michelin-supplied teams had discovered their tyres could not withstand the forces imposed by the banked corner of the oval. The FIA failed to broker a solution, and a mass withdrawal on the formation lap turned the race into a farce.

Sebring

1959

The first true United States Grand Prix was held at Sebring in 1959, promoted by Alec Ulmann. Stirling Moss took pole position with a time of exactly three minutes around the 8.39km (5.2-mile) circuit.

Three drivers arrived at the race, the last of the season, in the hunt for the championship. But Tony Brooks’ hopes were wrecked just three corners in when he was hit by Ferrari team mate Wolfgang von Trips.

Moss retired from the lead on lap five when his gearbox failed. This meant Jack Brabham was virtually guaranteed the championship but with Brooks still circulating he pressed on, and even pushed his car to the finishing line when it ran out of fuel, securing fourth place and the title.

Riverside

1960

The Sebring race saw unimpressive attendace so the following year Ulmann took the Grand Prix west to Riverside in California. But this also proved a one-off venue for the race.

Ferrari declined to appear at the event, Brabham having already retained the drivers’ title and Cooper holding onto the constructors’ crown. The race was won by Moss, driving a Lotus entered by Rob Walker, 38 seconds ahead of the works Lotus entry of Innes Ireland.

F1 never returned to the track, which continued to host sports car races until it was closed in 1989. As you can see from the map above, the circuit has since been demolished.

Watkins Glen

1961-1980

For 1961 Cameron Argetsinger took over the promotion of the United States Grand Prix and moved it to Watkins Glen. It became the first long-term home of F1 in America, the purpose-built track in New York State proving a popular end-of-season venue.

The build-up to the 1961 race provided a real opportunity to inspire American interest in Formula One. Californian Phil Hill was in the hunt for the world championship which looked set to be decided in the last round at Watkins Glen.

But tragedy struck at Monza – Hill’s team mate won Trips was killed in an accident which also claimed the lives of 15 spectators. Ferrari stayed away from Watkins Glen, leaving Hill without a drive.

Ferrari skipped the 1962 race as well after a miserable season. When Jim Clark retired from the lead on lap 62 it handed victory and the championship to Graham Hill.

The track was extended for the 1971 race (this can also be seen in the map above) but crashes claimed the lives of Francois Cevert and Helmuth Koinigg in 1973 and 1974. The track held its final Grand Prix in 1980 as it struggled to pay F1’s race fees, and filed for bankruptcy the following year. Racing continued at the circuit but the last major single-seater event at the track was an IndyCar race in 2010.

Long Beach

1976-1983

Mario Andretti, Williams FW07C, Long Beach, 1982For a brief period, F1 had two races in America on a pair of excellent and very different circuits: the rolling road course of Watkins Glen and the tough streets of Long Beach. British promoter Chris Pook brought F1 back to California in 1976.

The track’s complicated layout underwent several revisions and at one point had its start and finishing lines in different places. But the high-speed blast alongside Shoreline Drive remained a fixture, and is still part of the configuration used for IndyCar racing today.

Pook eventually baulked at the rising cost of holding the F1 race and Bernie Ecclestone’s desire to take over rights to advertising and corporate hospitality. In 1984 the race was run for IndyCars for the first time and it remains a popular event.

Las Vegas

1981-1982

A temporary circuit shoehorned into a casino car park in Las Vegas was never likely to provide an inspiring vision of Grand Prix racing. Appearing on the F1 calendar in the place formerly occupied by Watkins Glen, Las Vegas was always going to suffer by comparison and this proved a short-lived and unloved venue.

The two season-ending races at the track did have the distinction of being championship-deciders, won by Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg respectively, but even that failed to generate much local interest.

“This is the future of Grand Prix racing?” asked photographer Pete Lyons during the first practice session. “Looks that way,” replied journalist Nigel Roebuck. “In that case, I’ll be seeing you,” said Lyons. But it wasn’t the future. And like Riverside, the former track in Caeser’s Palace car park has been obliterated as well.

Detroit

1982-1988

Keke Rosberg, Williams, Detroit, 1985The value of racing in the “Motor City” was obvious, but the first version of Detroit’s track was very slow.

Delays in its completion meant the first race almost didn’t happen. When it did, it was a minor classic, won by John Watson from 17th on the grid.

Improvements were made to the circuit over the following years but it never found affection from some drivers, notably Alain Prost, who loathed the circuit.

There were plans to move the race to a new circuit on Belle Isle but, much the same as with Long Beach, the event switched to IndyCar in 1989. The Belle Isle race disappeared for a while but was revived this year, only to be blighted by a disintegrating track surface.

Dallas

1984

F1’s only previous visit to Texas was a disaster – one the Circuit of the Americas race organisers would do well to learn from and then put from their minds.

At least the folly of attempting to hold a race in the searing heat of the Texan summer is not being repeated. The temporary circuit had a promising layout but it melted as the mercury soared to 40C on race day and extensive repair work had to be conducted before the start.

Yet against all odds a half-decent race broke out, with Nigel Mansell, Keke Rosberg and Alain Prost vying for the lead. Just seven of the twenty-six starters were still circulating at the end, led by Rosberg, who had the sense to buy himself a water-cool skull cap before the race.

A gritty drive by Ferrari’s Rene Arnoux saw him finish second having been forced to start from the back of the grid. Mansell theatrically collapsed trying to push his Lotus across the line after its gearbox failed – he was classified sixth.

But the fate of the race was sealed when the promoter took the profits and fled. F1 never returned.

Phoenix

1989-1991

Having apparently not had enough of racing on street tracks in desert cities during the summer, F1 turned up to race in Phoenix in June 1989 on a track which looked like it had been designed using only a set square.

The race was moved earlier in the year in 1990 and Jean Alesi caused a sensation by leading the opening laps and racing Ayrton Senna hard for position. The track was re-configured for 1991, which at least cut the number of right-angled corners from ten to eight, but this Grand Prix is best remembered for failing to attract more spectators than a nearby race for ostriches.

By the end of 1991 F1’s litany of failure in America had seen six venues disappear in little more than a decade.

Circuit of the Americas

2012-?

COTA ribbon-cutting, 2012Tavo Hellmund first designed his plan for an F1 circuit on a patch of land on the outskirts of Austrin, Texas in 2007 – the same year F1 held its last race in the United States.

Much has been made of the similarities part of the track have with other F1 venues past and present, such as Silverstone’s Maggotts and Becketts complex, and turn eight at Istanbul Park in Turkey. But the circuit also has character of its own with a steep climb to turn one and run-off areas painted with a suitably patriotic twist.

Hellmund was eventually forced out of the project he began and the construction of the circuit was completed by Hermann Tilke’s architecture company, who have been responsible for most recent new-build F1 circuits.

F1’s popularity in America is persistently underestimated by those outside of the country. It may never rival the NFL or NASCAR but a minority following is not a bad thing to have in a country of over three hundred million people.

McLaren team principal and FOTA president Martin Whitmarsh has long advocated bringing F1 back to America. “I?ve always maintained that Formula 1?s presence in the United States is crucial, so I?m personally pleased and satisfied that we?re finally returning to America after spending far too long away from its shores.

“On a wider level, the arrival of a state-of-the-art, purpose-build grand prix track is perfect for Formula 1, and this is a golden opportunity for the sport to finally put down roots and find a long-term home. From a business perspective, too, we are in the right place at the right time. This is an invaluable commercial opportunity for the sport, for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and our partners.”

Time will tell if F1 has finally got the right mix of track, location and – perhaps most importantly – finance to establish a long-term future in the USA. It’s wasted too many chances in the past.

Which was America’s best circuit?

What was the best American circuit to host a round of the world championship? Cast your vote below.

Which was America's best circuit?

  • Indianapolis (Oval) (7%)
  • Sebring (3%)
  • Riverside (1%)
  • Watkins Glen (48%)
  • Long Beach (18%)
  • Las Vegas (2%)
  • Detroit (2%)
  • Dallas (3%)
  • Phoenix (1%)
  • Indianapolis (Road circuit) (15%)

Total Voters: 177

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2012 United States Grand Prix

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71 comments on Circuit of the Americas: F1’s tenth home in the USA

  1. sennaboy3 (@sennaboy3) said on 13th November 2012, 12:42

    Sorry, but anyone who thinks The Glen wasn’t the spiritual home of GP racing in the USA is mental. Shame they can’t revive this race…

    • Farragher (@supercar) said on 11th November 2013, 17:07

      I completely agree with this, and will add that it is hard not to love a track that generates so much passion that it is necessary to call in the guard, and use tear gas to calm the fans in the bog.

      I’ve been to COTA and am heading there in a few days for this year’s race. I sincerely hope this modern, purpose built road course will become the spiritual home for GP racing in the US and remain that for many years to come, but I have longed for financial backing to found for a renovation of the Glen so a F1 could return there. The effort in Jersey should be refocused on the Glen. It is a wonderful setting and a great track, with lots of history.

  2. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 13th November 2012, 13:02

    I actually do have a soft spot for the Indy GP circuit (I always enjoyed it in F1 games) but the only circuit I think of when I think of F1 in the USA is Watkins Glen.

  3. BasCB (@bascb) said on 13th November 2012, 13:15

    For a moment I was in shock when I saw 8% voted for Vegas and for Dallas. Then I noticed that with 12 votes cast, it needs only 2 nutcases for that :-).

    I myself am a bit tempted to go for the Indy Oval, as I think that is just about the spirit of US racing. But it does not fit too great with the cars and the fact it was never won by a championship driver when it was actually part of the WDC highlights that.
    That leaves the rather uninspiring Indy Road circuit and Watkins Glen (Long beach is a nice venue, like Singapore is – but its not a great race track). Tough choice? Not really.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 14th November 2012, 8:00

      @bascb – When I was about seven or eight, I bought a copy of Automobile Year 1891-1982 at a second hand bookstore. I mostly got it for the pictures, though I did occasionaly read an article here and there. But I remember looking through it and thinking that the Caesar’s Palace circuit looked like a great race track because each section of the track looked the same, but all the corners looked very different.

      My, how wrong I was.

  4. sumedhvidwans (@sumedhvidwans) said on 13th November 2012, 13:19

    I want F1 to race atleast on one oval track every year. F1 is a championship must have a variety of race tracks, we have Japan – which is a figure of 8 circuit, we have Monaco, which is a street race, we have Singapore, which is F1’s endurance race and always lasts 2 hours, we have Abu Dhabi, which races in the evening, we have semi-permanent tracks like Melbourne and Montreal, we have Monza, which is F1’s sprint race and usually the shortest race, we have Spa, which is run in the mountains.
    The only thing we lack is an oval track. Seeing cars going on 7th gear, full throttle for one hour straight – yes, I want to see that.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th November 2012, 13:39

      @sumedhvidwans

      The only thing we lack is an oval track.

      Ah, you’re talking my language!

      Why F1 should race on ovals

      • Sergio Perez (@sergio-perez) said on 13th November 2012, 13:43

        Agreed. I think it would be great for the sport there was ONE oval track (not more). Having it in Indianapolis would make complete sense. Add to that one the on/off New Jersey circuit and you have the best of both worlds for F1 and its fans!

      • sumedhvidwans (@sumedhvidwans) said on 13th November 2012, 13:56

        Agreed! Imagine what F1 would be like on an oval.

        Drivers would not complain about traffic. Infact they might want it as it would give them a tow. There will be no need of DRS. Use of KERS will become even more intelligent you might not be able to recharge your KERS. Teams would probably use different pressures on left and right tyres. Mclaren fans can heave a sigh of relief as there will be no more than 7 gear changes in the whole race. For once, Adrian Newey’s genius of generating downforce will be a bad thing. Engine power will come to prominence once again.

        The normal F1 we watch will be turned on its head for one weekend. Now really, what is wrong with it?

      • Wonderduck (@wonderduck) said on 13th November 2012, 14:21

        I’ve often dreamed of F1 cars on Talladega.

        I have odd dreams.

    • Once upon a time I asked Curt Cavin, the Indianapolis Star reporter that covers IndyCar, what would happen if the series died. Could F1 take over sponsoring the 500? But he thought it more probably the 500 would become a stock car race sponsored by NASCAR in the unlikely scenario of IndyCar’s demise.

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 13th November 2012, 14:40

      @sumedhvidwans

      F1 at Daytona International Speedway would be a hit.

    • James (@jamesf1) said on 13th November 2012, 14:49

      The only thing we lack is an oval track.

      Bore off. That’s the one thing F1 doesnt lack. I’m a lifelong F1 fan and have watched many races on TV, as well as a couple of Indycar races and NASCAR events. I can safely say the races that I detest, the most and switch off/over during, are the oval events.

      Racing on ovals is boring as a participant too, at least I believe so. There’s little challenge in it. Keeping your foot hammered to the floor for most of two hours is not entertaining.

      Oval racing might appeal to Americans, but I seriously doubt that many Europeans, Asians and perhaps Australian viewers would give it the time of day.

      • javlinsharp (@javlinsharp) said on 13th November 2012, 15:15

        I am torn on this topic.
        On the one hand it is the twisty bits that I really enjoy about F1. I do not respect Nascar drivers because I think I could drive as fast as most of them on an empty track(no other cars/traffic) given a few days of training.

        On the other hand, there is something to be said about seeing an F1 car with the throttle pinned for 90 hard mins, drafting, pentathalon, Nothing but horsepower mechanical grip and SCREAMING F1 engines… it could be good.

        Like others have mentioned, I dont think 1 oval race every other season would be a bad thing. Like Monaco, and Monza it adds another contingency that must be worked into car design, gives a chance for some of the less aero-sophisticated teams to show what they might have under the hood, and in general is another type of challenge to test the meddle of Race team and driver.

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 13th November 2012, 20:59

        Let’s face the truth, the attraction of the Indy 500 is the danger, as the number of fiery deaths decrease so does the interest of Joe and Jane Public. I do not want this for F1.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th November 2012, 8:46

          @hohum There hasn’t been a driver fatality during the Indianapolis 500 in almost 40 years. Since the deaths of Senna and Ratzenberger in F1 there have been two driver fatalities in practice or qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.

          So its recent record is little different from F1 in that respect. I don’t see why you think there is a blood-lust brigade which craves death and destruction at the Indianapolis 500 but not in F1 races?

          • HoHum (@hohum) said on 14th November 2012, 19:16

            @keithcollantine, when I was a child the Indy 500 was always in the newspapers, everybody knew it was coming up in 1-2 weeks, and this in Australia. Nowadays unless you follow motorsport and sometimes even if you do, you can be completely oblivious to the fact that last week was Indy week.

    • Stagger (@stagger) said on 14th November 2012, 7:52

      The difference between USAmericans and Europeans is , that the US guys watch football played with the ball in the hands and racing at ovals… Europeans play football with feet and race at proper racing tracks. No oval boring thing on F1 thank you

    • M Dickens (@sgt-pepper) said on 14th February 2013, 17:47

      (@sumedhvidwans) I personally see the lack of an oval in F1 as a blessing.

      Also, could someone please explain (perhaps (@keithcollantine) why the original circuit of the America’s designer was pushed out in favour of Tilke’s company? And was the basic design of the COTA’s basically fully developed by the original guy?

  5. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 13th November 2012, 13:22

    I was doubting between Long Beach, Watkins Glen, and Indianapolis (the oval). Long Beach because for me it feels so typical of American racing, and it’s a decent track as well. Watkins Glen because it’s a proper, purpose-built racing track, and I also like the Indy and Nascar races I’ve seen there (on television). But I voted for the Indianapolis oval. I’d love to see F1 do oval racing some time, particularly at the most famous race track in the world.

    As for the Indianapolis road circuit, Keith described it very aptly when he wrote “F1 cars looked particularly pathetic negotiating a clumsy double-hairpin in the middle of the circuit”. It always felt a little wrong to me to go the most famous race track in the US, and let the F1 cars drive around the infield go-kart track.

  6. Bookoi (@bookoi) said on 13th November 2012, 13:26

    I always really liked the Indianapolis GP track. Aside from taking place at sacred motorsport ground, the track generally provided good racing, with great overtaking opportunities into turn one. I never really understood the criticism of the double hairpin either – a season should incorporate all types of corner combinations, including tricky slow sections.

    Fingers crossed for Austin. Luckily Fernando and Sebastian have ensured an tense and exciting event, even if the race isn’t the best.

    • James (@jamesf1) said on 13th November 2012, 14:51

      @bookoi I agree. The Indy 500 had a lot going for it. IT was a great GP track which incorporated a bit of the oval to keep the fans happy (I dislike oval racing, but just saw the oval section of the track as an extended Parabolica).

  7. JCost (@jcost) said on 13th November 2012, 14:28

    @keithcollantine

    Ten different homes for a GP? Is it a record?

  8. Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 13th November 2012, 14:32

    Since the question was “which was the best circuit” I voted Long Beach. Watkins Glen’s layout may have worked back before downforce was such a huge part of F1, but I’ve always found it uninspiring, truth be told. I voted for Long Beach since it’s various layouts have actually made for some pretty cool tracks over the years (wish Keith could have shown more than one).

    • George (@george) said on 13th November 2012, 18:14

      I think Long Beach is the best street circuit from those above, it certainly has the best lasting impression, but to me F1 in America means Watkins Glen. It’s a pity they never tried any of the other proper racing tracks over there (Road America would have been awesome).

      Can you imagine watching F1 cars bounce around Sebring these days? They think Singapore is bumpy!

  9. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 13th November 2012, 14:57

    I’d say there are three tracks above the rest: Riverside, Watkins Glen and Long Beach – and as a one-off extreme event, Dallas as well.

    Riverside had the esses section, much similar to Suzuka with some nice elevation changes as well. Anyone who has driven this track in sims like GPL knows how fun this track is.
    Watkins Glen is perfect example how F1 can outgrow some tracks – and maybe it was a good thing. There was already a chicane put in the Esses at the Glen in 1980 (or was it there a year before as well?), can you imagine how much worse the track might have become had they continued racing there?
    Long Beach and Dallas are great street circuits – instead of just 90 degree corners like Detroit and Phoenix, they have some special character. In the early 80s the sight of the cars blasting down the Shoreline Drive was as iconic as the tunnel in Monaco.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th November 2012, 15:11

      @kaiie There was a nasty crash at Riverside in an IMSA race in 1986, not long before it closed:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji0NEKlEByM

      Chip Robinson, Lyn St James and Doc Bundy were the three drivers involved, all were uninjured but that clearly could have been a very bad one. St James’ Ford Mustang Probe exploded, as did Robinson’s XJR7 after it vaulted the barrier. But the damage to the barriers is as shocking as the damage to the cars.

      Apparently parts of John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix were filmed at Riverside too. There’s a sad image on Wikipedia of the track being destroyed for a shopping mall:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RIR1989.jpg

      • Rally Man (@rally-man) said on 13th November 2012, 21:22

        I lived in Moreno Valley for 13 years. The track was at the very edge of Riverside city. I moved there in 1988. I would only see the grandstands and light towers, but since I was young, and not really into racing I didn’t realize what was there. For some years nothing was build, and I would see parts of the track. They took down the grandstands and light towers. Demolished part of the track when they built the shopping mall. For some time their was rumors that they wanted to build a super shopping mall that would encompass the entire plot of land, but they said neither cities could come to an agreement. Like Wikipedia mentioned, parts where still there till the mid 2000’s. But visiting my old home town (been out of there for more then 10+ years since getting married) you wouldn’t even know there use to be something special.

  10. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 13th November 2012, 15:15

    For me it is a tough choice between the Glen, the Indy oval and – Riverside. COTA would be a contender as well.

    Let’s begin with my most surprising pick, Riverside. That track is seriously underestimated, I think, judging by the 0% of votes it received up to now. It may have something to do with it being demolished in 1989.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEb4qzeR3zY

    Check out this video. The track featured some very challenging corners. T2 was a quick right-hand flick followed almost instantly by another right, then a left flick, which meant that if you screwed up T2 you were in the sand for a long time due to the track falling away from you to the right. T6 was an off-camber two-apex uphill 180° right-hander, surprisingly slow, very easy to overshoot. T7 was a blind downhill left-hander, preceded by a steep hill. Again, slow and easy to overcook. T8 – a multi-apex monster: a deceptively quick entry, tightening all the way down into a sharp right hander. You can see Al Jr. in the video fighting his car on the entry trying to nail the corner. T9 was a banked right-hander, which Dan Gurney once described as a corner where you felt you could have gone a bit quicker. In NASCAR videos one can see aggressive approach to the apex in a bid to squeeze the most out of the corner. All in all, it was a wonderful track, shame it got levelled. There is a shopping mall in its place now.

    The Indy oval would be exceptional as @keithcollantine and @sumedhvidwans said. It would be a WOT (wide open throttle) race for sure and as such we would see some pack racing I think. Now, certainly after Dan Wheldon’s fatal crash, I’d be happier to skip this for the sake of the drivers themselves, no matter how prepared F1 is in terms of safety.

    Ah, the Glen. The old one was too short even in the 1960s – lap times dwindled towards 1:06s – but the 90 was even more of a beast back then. It was slower, and its off-camber actually increased right after the apex – so you’d have to wait a note with the throttle after reaching the apex, when you’d normally accelerate given the seemingly ample track width on the exit. It narrowed down quickly to add to the challenge. I’d still prefer the new configuration with the Boot section. The new 90 retained that pause moment after the geometric middle of the corner, but now that’s entirely down to a late apex rather than a subtle change of camber. T8 is my other favourite: blind on the approach due to the hill, which makes you hesitate for a bit, but it’s apex is quite early, so it is easy to undershoot to corner. I’m generally against chicanes, but the Inner Loop is actually a very challenging one, I think, and it is also safer for the Loop, so I’d be happy for it to stay as well. I like the Spa-esque high-speed rhythm of the track’s quick and cambered corners. A wonderful track. It got my vote eventually.

    I’m extremely excited whether COTA can live up to these certainly high standards.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 14th November 2012, 7:33

      Funny how, after seeing that video, the bends after the first corner of COTA actually look like their true inspiration might have been from the first part of Riverside instead of Silverstone (as they come after a slower corner instead of a straight.)

  11. ScuderiaVincero (@scuderiavincero) said on 13th November 2012, 15:16

    I have to say, of all the circuits that have hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix, the best would have to be Watkins Glen. But of all the tracks in the USA that could host a Grand Prix, I’d go for Laguna Seca.

    • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 13th November 2012, 15:44

      Yes, that would be challenging as well. In fact, the USA has great road courses. Besides the Glen and Laguna Seca, they have Sonoma, Road Atlanta, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Lime Rock Park, Willow Springs… Though Lime Rock is a tad short, and Willow Springs is only a test track with practically no facilities. Still, a host of great layouts.

  12. This article was quite an eye-opener in terms of track design. People give Tilke a lot of stick but even his weakest efforts are far better than about half of these track layouts. Makes me wonder if the rose-tinted glasses aren’t affecting people’s judgement somewhat…

    • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 13th November 2012, 22:27

      Disagree completely. Except street tracks which are obviously restricted by the American cities grid-like structure, all of these tracks-Riverside, Sebring, Watkins Glen and even Indy GP track are way better than half of Tilke’s track which you can compare with the Las Vegas car park-boring and lacking in charisma

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 14th November 2012, 19:41

        @montreal95 @tom-l This wasn’t designed by Tilke, it was ‘audited’ by them but designed by Hellmund.

        • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 15th November 2012, 10:07

          @andrewtanner I wasn’t talking about COTA. And neither was @tom-l. He said that this feature about the former US GP venues shows the fans critical of Tilke as looking at old times with rose-tinted glasses. I’d said that he’s wrong an in fact this feature, only re-inforces my critic of Tilke’s designs

          • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 15th November 2012, 13:58

            @montreal95 Sorry, misread it. Whether we should be critical of his design or rather the rules he has to work within is an important question though…

          • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 16th November 2012, 12:05

            @andrewtanner Well you could say it’s the rules. But then, you’ve provided the answer yourself: “This wasn’t designed by Tilke, it was ‘audited’ by them but designed by Hellmund”. This proves that you can do it better even now. So maybe the real answer is that Mr. Tilke lacks imagination? IMO he should build the tracks, but leave the layout design to someone else

          • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 16th November 2012, 13:43

            @montreal95 Thing is, you can’t prove that someone lacks imagination. Honestly, I do think that the track design industry for F1 should include more than Tilke but it’s going to be difficult to get people to agree on what ultimately boils down to opinion.

          • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 16th November 2012, 16:01

            @andrewtanner Agree on all counts. It all boils down to a monopoly by Tilke. If there was a variety and those were the results, no one would single him out and criticize him in particular. Alas, there isn’t, and won’t be as long as BE is around. he’s not one to believe in variety and democracy of any kind

      • @montreal95 – the tracks you mention are obviously among the better 50%, which my comment wasn’t directed at.

        But you can’t honestly say that any of Tilke’s designs are worse than the likes of Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas or Phoenix (or even Long Beach, but the other four are the most obvious examples). As you correctly point out, those designs were limited by various factors, such as location. But Tilke’s designs are also restricted, not only by location but also by safety regulations, far more than any past circuits were. I don’t think this should be forgotten when comparing circuits.

        You criticise Tilke’s designs for being boring and lacking charisma.
        Do you really find Riverside and Watkins Glen inspiring layouts? Almost half of the Riverside track consists of consecutive straights leading into hairpins (incidentally, an oft-criticised feature of a number of Tilke tracks). Watkins Glen is admittedly better, but apart from the hairpin at the bottom end of the circuit, all the corners are quite similar.

        And in terms of charisma: of course older circuits will have more character because they have tradition and a history than newer designs, by definition, cannot have. But look how Sepang, for example, has grown in popularity among fans and drivers over the past ten or so years. I see no reason why, in 20-30 years when safety restrictions limit designers even further, the current generation of circuits will not be viewed in the same way some fans nowadays view the circuits of the past.

        • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 16th November 2012, 12:42

          @tom-l When you design F1 street tracks the constraints will always be greater, the streets grid is a way bigger constraint than what Tilke had to deal with, in most cases. Fact is, the only modern designs that he didn’t come up with: COTA( Tavo Hellmund’s design) and the new Silverstone(designed by Populous) are widely considered better than 8 out of 10 Tilke’s designs(except Turkey and Sepang). So it’s 2/2 Vs 2/10. Those tracks proved that you can have a good track layout even with modern restrictions. Also there are tracks like Portimao and Aragon. Both comply with all the restrictions yet much better than most Tilke tracks.

          You shouldn’t look at the map of Riverside only(on the map, admittedly, some of Tilke’s designs look very impressive, until you turn the TV on). It’s the flow of the track, the way it blends into the terrain, the positive/ negative camber of the corners, the way it challenges the drivers and punishes their mistakes

          Charisma is not only the buy product of age and tradition. Tracks like Zolder and Jarama are very old yet have zero charisma. You bring Sepang(as I’ve said one of top 2 Tilke designs IMO) but I can bring another example: the old Hockenheim had charisma in spades, yet the new one, despite being almost as old as Sepang now, desperately lacks in it. So I don’t think that pathetic tracks like Abu Dhabi or Valencia will ever be viewed as classics in the same way that Le Mans Bugatti isn’t now, or the examples I brought above. They simply aren’t good enough, “soulless” failures. It’s something you can rarely see by looking on the map alone. Nonetheless, it’s there.

          That’s why, as I’d replied to @andrewtanner , IMO Tilke should build the tracks and the facilities, but leave the layout design to someone with more imagination…

          • @montreal95 – it’s true that, Singapore and Valencia aside, Tilke hasn’t had to adapt to existing street structures. But on the other hand, when you’re given a piece of flat swampland in Shanghai, for example, or a stretch of desert in the Middle East, there’s a limit to what you can do with it.

            I’m not sure COTA and the new Silverstone are particularly good examples for this comparison: COTA because it’s basically a mixture of corners inspired by other circuits and therefore not a 100% original design, plus the fact that we haven’t had a race on it yet (cf. Buddh, a layout acclaimed by many but one that has so far failed to produce much exciting racing); Silverstone because the majority of the lap still consists of the old circuit.
            Portimao, OK. As for Aragon, it’s actually a Tilke design (with De la Rosa as a consultant). But again, until F1 cars race on those tracks, I’m not sure we can properly judge them.

            I take your point re. Riverside, but as I mentioned earlier, some locations simply do not allow that kind of design. Plus, the features you mention are not guarantees of exciting racing. Spa, which has most of the things you mention, can throw up a dull procession as often as it can an exciting race: flowing tracks often mean little overtaking. And as regards drivers being punished for mistakes: for safety reasons, this is something that is increasingly being blended out of modern track design. If Tilke doesn’t surround his circuits with gravel traps, it’s because he’s not allowed to, not because he personally wants drivers to be able to get away with errors.

            I’ve never personally attended a Grand Prix so I couldn’t comment on the “soullessness” of the venues you mention. But based on what I’ve seen on TV, I believe they do have their own character. If you see a photo of a section of Valencia or Abu Dhabi, you can’t mistake it for any other circuit. They may not be rolling through hills somewhere in Western Europe with hundreds of thousands watching on, but that doesn’t make them characterless.

            Many fans feel negatively about new venues because they replace older, well-loved ones and don’t instantly produce a classic race year after year. But as this year has proved, the least-promising venues on paper can produce memorable races as much as traditional ones can fail to deliver. If the new tracks are not remembered as classics in 30 years’ time, I believe it will be as much to do with this mentality (people not wanting to like them) as the shortcomings of the tracks themselves.

  13. DC (@dujedcv) said on 13th November 2012, 16:28

    Apart from Indy and Long Beach, i still cant understand why are they always going to distant and sparsely populated places (Dallas, Phoenix). Why aren’t they racing at Laguna Seca, or why don’t they built a new circuit at heavily populated area (California, East Coast or Great Lakes Region)??? No wonder that F1 had always struggled in the US

    • Rally Man (@rally-man) said on 13th November 2012, 21:29

      I heard, only heard, that Laguna Seca doesn’t have the facilities for such large scale races, again that’s what I’ve heard. As for California, man prices here are ridiculously high for property. We also have a tremendous amount of other entertainment options here. I live about 30min away from California Speed Way. Never once visited the place. Not only that, but NASCAR used to two races per year, it’s down to one because of low attendance. And that was NASCAR! I just can’t see F1 coming back to California, although I’d love it.

  14. Gridl0k said on 13th November 2012, 17:12

    I’d pay a hell of a lot of money to see a Laguna Seca GP. Imagine the run from the top of the corkscrew down into that magnificent cambered left which follows it. MotoGP there is mental enough.

  15. I’m willing to give COTA the benefit of doubt before this weekend just for those replica turns and the elevation at turn 1. However, how in the world can it be better than Watkins Glen (which I voted for)? Or Laguna Seca (even though F1 never raced here)? Or Long Beach? Or even Riverside (even though it is long gone now)? How many brilliant races in a row does it have to produce in order to earn that title? And how can it be “better” if it’s not actually original but just a bit of Silverstone here, a bit of Istanbul there, and so on…
    Sure, it might turn out to be a good, fun to drive track, which drivers love and it might turn in a profit for Bernie and the lot over the course of the years and it might just stay on the calendar a bit more than “the big four” mentioned earlier, but for me, it will never reach legendary status…

    And a bit of a cheeky comment, I know, but stars and stripes on the run-off areas?! Seriously?!

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 14th November 2012, 9:11

      Actually I think the stars and stripes runoff areas is a nice Idea. Why not show where we are for the race? And if you look at the enormous areas of runoff, in some tracks (India springs to mind) that are painted either green – to appear grass-like or blue, why not use the coloring to make it give a distinct look.

      • @bascb / @andrewtanner – I’m not saying it’s a bad idea guys…it just looks cheesy and a bit megalomaniac to me. It’s too much. They could have been a bit more discreet about it, that’s all. I don’t need any inch of that track shouting “american pride” to me while I watch the race.

        However, to think of it, I’d rather have this than that whole military/patriotic act they put together before any NASCAR or IndyCar race…

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 14th November 2012, 19:40

      @tony031r I like that design on the track, I think it looks good. Adds a bit of character…similar to the colours used at Interlagos.

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