Hamilton: Watkins Glen ‘like the Nordschleife’

2011 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton, NASCAR, Watkins Glen, 2011

Lewis Hamilton described the Watkins Glen circuit as “absolutely fantastic” after driving it for the first time on Tuesday.

Hamilton compared the track to Germany’s celebrated 14-mile Nurburgring Nordscleife, which he drove two years ago:

Hamilton told F1 Fanatic: “This building here is fantastic, even though the facilities of the most modern F1 circuits are above and beyond anything else I’ve ever seen.

“But the track layout itself here is absolutely fantastic. It’s a really cool circuit to drive, I thoroughly loved driving both cars on it – they don’t make circuits like this nowadays.

“The way they make cambered corners, the different undulations, going uphill, downhill… that makes it so much better to drive.

“Whilst it’s a lot shorter, it reminded me a bit of the Nordschleife in Germany, as it’s a very long circuit. It had very similar characteristics to that I think, which is one of the best circuits – if not the best circuit – in the world.”

Watkins Glen last held an F1 race in 1980, four years after the original Nurburgring was dropped from the calendar.

Asked whether he might find overtaking easier driving in NASCAR, he said: “Firstly I think it would take some time to get up to speed in NASCAR, just as it would be for anyone moving into a different category.

“I think it’s potentially a little bit easier to overtake in NASCAR. In Formula 1, it’s so difficult and that’s why they keep changing the rules and trying to make it easier for us to overtake, but it’s very tough to get close in order to do so.

“NASCAR perhaps makes it a little bit easier for the drivers to be closer to each other and to then give themselves the opportunity to overtake. I think that that would perhaps suit me. I’d probably love it!”

Looking ahead to the next round of the F1 calendar, Hamilton said: “Valencia will be a weekend of consolidation after two disappointing results in Monaco and Canada.”

He added: “We’ve arguably had the fastest race car in the last three races, and that’s really encouraging because I know that, when it’s put to best use, I should be able to finish at the front.”

Lewis Hamilton and Tony Stewart seat swap

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50 comments on “Hamilton: Watkins Glen ‘like the Nordschleife’”

  1. Very nice to see Hamilton was really enthusiastic. He needed a bit of a boost there.

    I would imagine the Glen being a great circuit, maybe they could at least do some racing in NASCAR cars there as a promotional event with the F1 drivers. Maybe trucks with Nelson Jr., JV, JPM and Kimi learning the others how to do it!

    1. I would imagine the Glen being a great circuit, maybe they could at least do some racing in NASCAR cars there as a promotional event with the F1 drivers


      Both Nascar and Indycar race at Watkins Glen.

      Last year’s race was brilliant!

      The camera view at 1:10 – best thing in motorsport ever.

      1. And a full lap onboard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWscth4N2yg&
        The corner sequence at the beginning reminds me of Eau Rouge.

        1. Such a shame IndyCar aren’t racing there this year. Am I right in saying it’s to do with the circuit owner’s connection to NASCAR?

          1. The best answer I’ve heard is that IRL doesn’t like how the grandstands don’t fill up for the races. The IRL in general doesn’t draw huge crowds, and those who do come, typically don’t sit in the grandstands. In particular it’s because there are few grandstands in the better parts of the track to watch from (the esses and the boot).

            For last year’s race the main grandstand was a ghosttown (which is what the IRL officials saw), but the fence in the whole boot section was lined 3-4 people deep.

          2. If ever there was a sad reason! Instead of getting up better grandstands and a better event they do that?

          3. MVEilenstein
            17th June 2011, 20:19

            Yes. WGI is owned by ISC, and Indycar wants as little to do with them as possible. There were talks of renewing the agreement with WGI for 2011, but it was just talk. Too bad.

          4. pretty much what it has to do with is in the USA there are two groups who own most of the race tracks here. The prob was that the one group who own the Glen would not do something that indy wanted to do at another track owned by those people. So the indycars took all the races off the calender that were ran at tracks this group owned. There are talks going on to get this race back and some of the others that were droped for this year. I hope that helps a little.

          5. one last thing. They are owned by people that are big in the nascar world but that has no effect on them not holding an indycar race. They indycar series runs on many nascar tracks. So no NASCAR was not keeping the indycars from racing there at all.

      2. I love the footage, but what I meant there was actually getting these F1 guys participate in it. Might be in the program before /after either NASCAR or Indy event.

        What I do mind wiht current IndyCar rules is, how they are very limited in actually defending.
        That makes it feel as if these guys and girls are not very good racers and the passes are a bit of a DRS like feel to them.

      3. Wha….t?

        Both Nascar and Indycar race at Watkins Glen.

        I think Hamilton means having a NASCAR exhibition race with Formula 1 drivers behind the wheel. You know, to kind of sell the concept of Formula 1 to American audiences, particularly those deeply enmeshed in NASCAR. Formula 1 requires a completely different driving style to NASCAR, so the racing would be very different.

  2. If only an F1 grand prix could go back there, I would love to see a modern f1 race at ‘the glen’.

    1. As would nearly every race fan in the northeast. Trouble is there’s too many obstacles to making that feasible today:

      The track itself first of all doesn’t meet current regulations (too much elevation change), so it would need a few exceptions or improvements.

      Second of all is the logistics involved with the number of people F1 brings. It’s in the middle of nowhere, with maybe a grand total of 100 hotel rooms within a 60 minute drive. Even if you go out to a 2 hour drive you’re probably looking at less than 10,000 hotel rooms. For NASCAR it’s not as much a problem as a TON of people camp right at the track, but for F1 I’m not sure that’s going to be as popular an option.

      Third trouble is Bernie – Watkins Glen is owned by ISC, which is owned by NASCAR. Because of that, I don’t see Watkins Glen putting up anywhere close to the funds that Bernie’s going to want.

      1. The elevation change isn’t nearly as much of an issue as the lack of run off. The barriers are very close on a number of fast corners and I imagine that won’t fly with today’s safety standards. As for F1 fans not wanting to camp, um… last I checked, multiple courses in the F1 calendar are popular for the camping. Monza, Silverstone and Spa among them.

        1. The proximity of the barriers sure isn’t typical F1, but Montreal isn’t too different in that regard. With perhaps the exception of the exit of turn 5 and turn 6, most of the high speed corners have a fair amount of runoff. The exits of turns 9 and 11 could use a bit of extra room though, but I don’t think either one presents a safety concern over what is seen elsewhere.

          I’ve never been to any of the traditional European GP’s you mentioned, so I’m not aware of how much camping there is. What do the drivers/crew do for those tracks that are out in the middle of nowhere though? For IRL/Nascar they bring RV’s themselves as there’s not even enough hotel rooms to lodge two or three teams, much less the whole circus.

          1. Montreal’s corners are all pretty slow compared to corners like 2, 3 and 4 at Watkins Glen especially.

            I haven’t been to those GP’s either, but I’ve read up enough to hear about people going and camping. I’ve also been to a race at the Glen and the hotels don’t strike me as being all that far away. But then, maybe I’m more used to having a bit of a drive to get to a race.

      2. The track itself first of all doesn’t meet current regulations (too much elevation change), so it would need a few exceptions or improvements.

        There is nothing in the rules that prevents elevation changes. The climb out of Eau Rouge is steeper than anything at The Glen. I believe the back straight in Istanbul may also be steeper, and some of the elevation changes at Buddh International and the Circuit of the Americas will also be greater.

        If there is anything in the rules about elevation changes, it will simply dictate the maximum allowable gradient of a hill.

        1. HounslowBusGarage
          18th June 2011, 20:24

          IIRC, the only regulation about incline is the rate at which it changes; i.e. the rate at which a ‘downhill’ changes to an’uphill’ and vice versa. And think that was one of the problems facing Brands Hatch becoming an F1 circuit once more; that rate at which the downhill Paddock Bend suddenly became the uphill Druids Hill. Please note, I say ‘one of’ and not ‘the only’.
          Thinking about it a bit more, I wonder if the Laguna Seca Corkscrew would pass the FIA elevation change regulation.
          There is, I think an FIA reg about the overall high point/low point variation over the course of a the lap, but Watkins Glen is going to be well inside this.

  3. I’m very disappointed that it’s only ever been an F1/NASCAR exchange. I’d love to see a F1/IndyCar (or F1/ChampCar exchange in the days). A F1/LMP1 would also be more interesting.

    1. I think an F1/LMP1 exchange would be pretty bland

      1. How about a NASCAR/DTM seat swap, an F1/IndyCar seat swap, and an LMP1/DP (Daytona Prototype) seat swap?

  4. I trust by Lewis’ comments that they ran the “long” course at the Glen. Can anyone confirm this?

    1. Yes Obster, they were using the long course….I’m afraid that Lewis may have been exaggerating a little, because Watkins Glen ain’t no Nordschleife.

      1. It’s a phenominal circuit to drive. He doesn’t mean it’s exactly like the Nordschleife, but that it’s characteristics are similar… long, fast sweeping corners with lots of elevation change.

        1. have you driven it?

          1. I’ve driven it (in iRacing :) ) and this configuration (Watkins Glen Boot) is an outstanding circuit.

        2. Agree. I still don’t understand why the spend lots of money in building new tracks instead of refurbishing old great lay outs…well, actually I may understand tha money has something to do with this, but anyway it is a pity we don’t see such tracks in F1 calendar anymore.

  5. I prefer the Nordschelife.

  6. Road America would suit an F1 car the best as far as US permanent circuits. A shame that circuit hasn’t seen a F1 test there. I’d love to see what times they could produce. The lap record is 1,39.8 something by Franchitti in 2000. I reckon F1 could do a 1,30.0 or so. It would be frighteningly fast, 150+ mph average. Perfect, but will never likely happen. Off to Austin we go…

    1. When you consider that the IndyCars did about 1:38 here running at speed and compare that to what Steward did in an unfamiliar car on a drying track (1:42 something) it could well be even lower!

    2. Using the Williams FW31 in iRacing the fastest time to date is a 1:18.582

  7. Having driven on both, the Glen has more flow, but Nordschelife is more challenging because there are so many corners to learn.

    1. Wow, I’m green with envy. Lucky you.

  8. The Glen is a masterpiece, there seems to be an unanimous consensus about it. The Esses is an iconic corner complex in the world and if not flat out, it’s unbelieveably hard to make it perfect. (At least in GPL.) High crown of the road is something which is subtle to an average racing fan, glad Lewis mentioned it – I’m only aware of it thanks to (again) GPL. And the relatively new Boot section has that nice flow which is the essence of some of the greatest tracks in the world – Spa, Suzuka among them.

    Road America is also very nice as is Laguna Seca. Free flowing American circuits. Shame F1 went by the ‘American-style’ street circuits like Dallas and Phoenix after the Glen lost the event. I was also taken aback that a new ‘standard’ track is being built for the 2012 event instead of renovating one of these venues. Legal and financial reasons probably, but it’s still sad.

    As for the Nordschleife – nothing comes close to it. And again my experience id from GPL. When I get to Germany I’m sure I’m going to pay a visit. I hope I won’t end up in the Armco.

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      18th June 2011, 20:33

      The Nordschleife is truly magnificent. I’ve never driven in person, but I was a passenger in a Merc Turbo driven by an ex-motorbike racer who knew it well. The flow of corners, uphill and downhill swoops and the almost unbroken forest alongside left a deep, deep impression.
      Beautiful, impractical track.

  9. IndyCar no longer races on any NASCAR-owned tracks anymore. I’m glad as IndyCar now goes to smaller ovals now which require braking, they don’t feature endless side-by-side full throttle racing. Fewer big ovals is a good thing imo.

    Homestead, Kansas, Fontanta etc – ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

    1. sorry to tell you but they are also nascar tracks

    2. MVEilenstein
      17th June 2011, 22:30

      Also very boring NASCAR venues, those three.

  10. “Fontanta” – oops – meant Fontana!

  11. I love Nordschliefe, incredible to play on Forza Motorsport.

    Indeed the cars can afford to get much closer in NASCAR.

  12. Lewis is a wonderful natural racer. All these criticism about him makes me feel that F1 has become a chauffeuring event rather than racing. To add to that the artificial overtaking technique of DRS makes it even worse. I think Lewis will do great justice in NASCAR , his style of racing will really suit here. Also one does not need to to have a rule book in the left hand while driving NASCAR. That means Lewis can race more openly and genuinely there. I have been following F1 for almost 20+ years now, I feel it has become a show event like WWE rather than a real sport.

    I sincerely hope F1 can do justice to Lewis’s Talent.

  13. UKfanatic (@)
    18th June 2011, 0:46

    Whatkins Glen is not run in the same spec in other categories like indy and Nascar, it is run on the smaller version, its similar to the difference between Brands hatch specs

  14. Speaking of iconic tracks, I dream of a racing series that would be free from political and personal financial looting motives and race on truly great tracks (including great ovals, rather superspeedways) around the world even corresponding with great events at these tracks such as the Daytona 24 Hours, Le Mans 24 Hours, Indy 500, Macau Grand Prix, Monaco Grand Prix, Bathurst, etc. Here’s the list of circuits that would feature per season in my dream championship:

    Daytona Speedway, Florida – USA (corresponding with Daytona 500)
    Albert Park, Melbourne – AUSTRALIA
    Laguna Seca – USA
    Long Beach – USA (corresponding with the Long Beach IndyCar round)
    Sepang – MALAYSIA
    Istanbul Park – TURKEY
    Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo – MONACO (corresponding with Monaco Grand Prix)
    Indianapolis Motor Speedway – USA (corresponding with Indy 500)
    Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe – FRANCE (corresponding with Le Mans 24 Hours)
    Watkins Glen – USA
    Spa-Francorchamps – BELGIUM
    Nurburgring Nordschleife – GERMANY (corresponding with Nurburgring 12 Hours)
    Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal – CANADA
    Brands Hatch – GREAT BRITAIN
    Silverstone – GREAT BRITAIN
    Monza – ITALY
    Taupo – NEW ZEALAND
    Algarve, Portimao – PORTUGAL
    Motorland Aragon – SPAIN
    Jerez – SPAIN
    Bathurst Mt. Panorama – AUSTRALIA (corresponding with Bathurst 24 Hours)
    Phillip Island – AUSTRALIA
    Surfers’ Paradise – AUSTRALIA
    San Luis – ARGENTINA (coinciding with the GT1 round)
    Interlagos – BRAZIL
    Talladega – USA
    Marina Bay Circuit – SINGAPORE
    Suzuka – JAPAN
    Macau – MACAU (coinciding with the Macau Grand Prix)
    Kyalami – SOUTH AFRICA

    I know it’s a huge calendar but I’m dreaming anyway. I don’t have any affinity for the Tilke tracks, but included Sepang thanks to its long straights, and Istanbul Park thanks to the challenging Turn 8.

    1. Great “wish list”.

      Bernie needs to fine tune his approach on new venues coming in lately. I can’t understand why fancy Abu Dhabi circuit is on the calendar. I understand that good on demand tend to be pricey but Bernie must be reasonable. This new order Bernie has designed will force classic races, typically placed in more fiscally responsible and democratic nations, to “new money” places without significant motor racing interest and regulations tighten circuits that do not favor the show.

      I would love to see Portimão in the calendar one day, but I doubt it would pass public approval in debt stricken Portugal anytime soon…

  15. PT–excellent lineup!! I couldn’t agree more on the Tilke tracks being overly homogenized. We need a return to tracks like Spa, Monza, and the Glen.

    1. Couldn’t agree more.

    2. @The Racing Line,

      Thanks mate! I call this imaginary championship UMOR (Ultimate Motor Racing) A1 World Cup. The ideal world in which UMOR will happen is an environment where the various racing series work together for the greater goal of making motor racing better.

      This top flight imaginary single-seater championship of mine will feature wide-track cars with hybrid power and some of its races will be held along with the illustrious races of other premier championships such as Indy 500, Le Mans 24 Hours, Bathurst, Nurburgring 12 Hours, etc.

  16. I went to the last 3 Indy car races at The Glen and the attendance kept dropping which may have contributed to the Indy cars leaving. You can see them race the whole track on TV.

  17. hamilton at the glen. !!! awesome. With monty, kimi and villeneuve. To tell you the truth i think exitement is coming back to motorsports. The 2008 mclaren was much better that todays f1s as well.
    Monty saw it first, but if not for those boring oval races, nascar is the pinacle of motorsport excitement.

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