A Tilke F1 track designer explains why FIA rules mean no more Suzukas


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Christian Epp, Circuit of the Americas, 2013Recreating great F1 corners like Eau Rouge and popular tracks like Suzuka is practically impossible due to the FIA’s rules on circuit design, according to the man who designed the newest track on the calendar.

Christian Epp, a director at Tilke Gmbh who created the finished design for the Circuit of the Americas, explained how regulations have stifled creativity in circuit design.

Speaking to F1 Fanatic at COTA last week Epp said FIA track regulations made it impossible to recreate corners like Eau Rouge.

“Definitely from the compression that you would have, from the driving dynamics basically that you would generate on a car you could… they would not be approved by FIA,” he said. “So the FIA has certain regulations in place today that we would not be able to develop.”

In the case of COTA, race organiser Tavo Hellmund originally approached Tilke with a list of classic corners from other circuits to draw inspiration from. Epp recalls the conversation being: “OK Christian, we want elements like Eau Rouge, we want the corkscrew, we want like Suzuka, we want Maggotts/Beckets section…”

But fitting in many such corners was not achievable. “Some of them – for example Eau Rouge – if you take Eau Rouge in Formula One you need to drive it with 300 kilometres an hour,” explained Epp. “So to set up a turn of 300 kilometres an hour you need a straight of almost a kilometre to reach that speed.”

“So it’s not that easy. Once you want to incorporate one of these features you’re very limited. You can do maybe three or four of these features but for sure not ten. It would be, really, it would be 30 or 40 miles long track if you would try to incorporate them.”

Run-off and safety

COTA 2012Former F1 driver Anthony Davidson recently criticised modern track design, telling The Guardian “on some modern circuits it’s pathetic when you see drivers going off the track and nothing happens” due to the vast expanses of run-off.

Ahead of last week’s race in Japan Jenson Button said he especially enjoyed the Suzuka track because the limited run-off made it “unforgiving”.

Epp admitted a degree of frustration that modern tracks were compared unfavourably with older circuits which were built to less exacting standards but said: “on the other hand… people want the safety”.

“So when [Ayrton] Senna died, for example, or when any of these Formula One idols die people question a lot, and they say ‘what happened, what went wrong, what can we do better?’ So they worked on the car and we worked on the track so that’s what happened the last 20 years, really a track evolution and making it much safer for the drivers.”

‘Playing with topography’

In order to create dramatic corners designers need suitable land to work with in the first place. “Eau Rouge is Eau Rouge only because of the change of elevation,” says Epp.

At COTA, they had that. “On this particular track we were lucky enough to be involved in selection of the piece of land,” said Epp. “So really being able to choose a piece of land that provides this elevation change.”

The opening sequence of fast corners at COTA, which won praise from drivers during its inaugural race last year, “basically plays with the topography”.

Start, Circuit of the Americas, 2012“We do not get that every time so other race tracks we come and it’s a flat piece of land and we have to live with that land and have to create the best thing we can do. I think we were fortunate enough here to play with it, it’s much easier for us, gives us more opportunity to create an exciting race track.”

But beyond just creating the layout of the track Tilke have other objectives to fulfil. “We at Tilke do much more than than only the track and the track safety and the features,” said Epp.

“We really develop a turn-key venue so that all of these different players can come and use the venue from day one. It’s media, it’s drivers, it’s teams, it’s FIA, it’s the spectators, all of these different type of groups.

“For example on race day you have 120,000 people that one day one need to experience this venue. And they all will give you the feedback on what it is. For sure the driver is the one that we care a lot because we want to have a great track and it’s about the track. But also every spectator has an important opinion on the work that we do.”

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Images ?? F1 Fanatic, Tilke, COTA/LAT

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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128 comments on “A Tilke F1 track designer explains why FIA rules mean no more Suzukas”

  1. I appreciate that we aren’t going to see any new ‘Suzukas’ in the future. That is understandable.

    However, as long as we keep getting more ‘COTAs’ and less ‘Sakhirs’ or ‘Yas Marinas’, I’ll be perfectly happy with that.

    1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      22nd October 2013, 13:13


    2. +1 and good riddance to Valencia. Malaysia and Turkey have proved OK, but some of the others are so sterile. unfortunantly the Austrian a1 track is coming back, that is as bad as most tilke tracks

      1. At least A1 is build in Europe …

      2. Well the A1 ring is in fact a Tilke designed track.

        1. ha, I did not know A1 was tilke designed… that explains it then.

          1. I’ll get on my traditional hobby horse at this point and say “I want more A1-Rings”.

            I like A1-Ring because it’s from a period of time seemingly before Tilke got paid by the corner. Simple, short layout, not the relative behemoths of Yas Marina, Singapore, and, yes, COTA (although it’s relatively decent for a modern circuit, it’s still overdesigned).

            On a wider note, yes I can see how modern regs would make it difficult to do anything “old school”, so therefore the trick must be to find ways to create modern wonders of the F1 world. Turkey’s Turn 8, as an example.

            What might also help, and is another of my hobbyhorses, is a bit more variety in who gets the gigs, and even a bit of competition/tendering perhaps.

          2. Yeah Tilke got his rep for butchering the A1 ring into that really weird in/out/in/out/in/out and 2 straights layout. Im not quite sure he ever got why the change was an issue.

            Go and drive it on a Geoff Crammonds Grand Prix, its not that great.

    3. @magnificent-geoffrey exactly.

      No more Suzukas doesn’t mean more Chicane-fests like Yas Marina…

      The regulations don’t forbid interesting corners… there’s more variation than 90 degrees corners, Tilke-boys !

      1. @magnificent-geoffrey

        However, as long as we keep getting more ‘COTAs’ and less ‘Sakhirs’ or ‘Yas Marinas’, I’ll be perfectly happy with that.

        To be honest, I don’t think that there’s too much wrong about the Bahrain circuit apart from its abysmal location.

    4. I love all about sahkir but the turmoil.

    5. I think most fans (and drivers and teams) would agree with that @magnificent-geoffrey

      Off course it also needs Bernie to find locations that offer what the designer mentions

      we were lucky enough to be involved in selection of the piece of land,” said Epp. “So really being able to choose a piece of land that provides this elevation change.”

      They tried it with Abu Dhabi (see that did not work) and putting in artificial elevation. And India got a solid haul of moving earth around too, but its still a track on a flat piece of land.

      To add to what you mention – Its great that they don’t make tracks just like Suzuka or Spa, or Monza. Because that is what makes those tracks stand out and have character.

      1. Yeah, when I read up there that they asked them to recreate all those classic corners, I was thinking “no… you still don’t get it.” It’s not that fans want a Frankenstein of all their favorite corners, it’s that we want something unique with character. A great example is turn one at COTA. Why is it so praised? I for one have never seen another corner quite like it. You could maybe compare it to Druids, but it’s still pretty far off from that with much more speed on entry and a flat apex instead of the banking that Druids has. Also it has a pretty spectacular view compared to Druids which is boxed in by trees.

        Point being corners that have made a name can’t be cloned and expected to retain their reverence and lore. I hope future businessman starting new F1 tracks can grasp this so we get “give me elevation change LIKE the corkscrew” not “we want the corkscrew.”

        1. I not a fan of the modern tracks. It might ruin it but quite a few of the old tracks just need some facilities upgrades and a couple of safety tweaks on a few corners to put them back on the calendar

    6. Tanks for the info, following the algarve GP i got curious on how the protimão circuit was certified for f1 races, has for the layout, safety barriers flood lights etc, it seems that there is no doubt, but regarding the pavements structure and anti skid resistance, aswell as materials requirements for pavements and drainage systems i cant find any info, isn´t there any specific guidelines or specifications for circuits, is it supossed to follow the standards for highways? the actions that a rear tyre of a F1 car deliver in hard braking or launchin are totally diferent from any comercial vehicel!!! In Portimão the concrete gutter exploded probably due to lack of resistence of the concrete mixture or bad execution, no concrete testing is taken from this type structure if done on site but if they are precast they should have a certify of conformity to the “specs” for the concrete mix and fabrication process.

  2. COTA is one of the best addings to the calender in recent years but that’s basically because of the first sector. The two last sectors are boring as most Tilke tracks.

    1. …other Tilke tracks. Come on man! Have you seen the elevation changes at CoTA? Not only the first sector but coming out of the esses from turn 7 to turn 10 and then down the hill into the hairpin turn 11. This section, IMHO, is one of the best turn complexes on the calendar. The back straight, which isn’t straight or flat is pretty cool, too. I can take or leave the stadium section but I spent a day there watching the Aussie V8s and there was plenty of action. The triple apex, 16, 17 & 18, turns really set you up for turn 19, which saw a lot of action.

      This isn’t just a simple Tilke design, yes they mastered it and made it happen but Tavo drew it up and knew what a good piece of land would do for it.

      I live here in Austin (just outside) and have seen the track mature from a piece of scrubbrush to the World class facility that it is.

      1. Indeed!

        I’m considering a move to Austin because 1) COTA, and 2) I hear Austin is a pretty awesome city.

        1. meh…


          It’s OK, but hardly awesome. It’s in Texas, after all…but if you’re a gun-toting Jesus freak who doesn’t think women should have any rights, who thinks Science is anti-Christian and Creationism should receive equal time in science text books as proven theory of Evolution, and you want to arrest all immigrants – or simply shoot ’em – then yeah, Texas is great.

          1. Austin != Texas. It’s a college-town liberal oasis — and who knows, enough liberals in cities like Austin combined with enough migrants might eventually change the face of Texan politics (and the current hysteria is just a futile rear-guard battle).

            Indiana went to Obama in 2008 partly on the strength of college-age voters in their own liberal college oases

    2. I hated the look of the Hockenheim-stadium-like section when I first saw it, but to be fair it produced some good racing as the width of the track and nature of the switchback meant so many different lines could be taken. And the penultimate corner proved tricky. I’m not sold on the turn-8 style corner due to the slow approach, or the general appearance of the expanses of tarmac (although the colouring makes it far less bleak to look at than most new circuits), but otherwise I think the whole track is pretty decent.

  3. So, we would have to blame FIA ? Yes, but not only. Nobody asked Tilke to put that many straights/hairpins combos in his tracks. And so few fast corners.

    1. Nobody asked Tilke to put that many straights/hairpins combos in his tracks.

      Actually they did, The FIA as well as Bernie himself asked for that sort of layout as its long been believed that it was the slow corner/long straght/slow corner configuration that allowed for more overtaking opportunities.

      Tilke did it when he altered A1-ring & it worked, He did it again when he re-did Hockenheim & it worked & its also worked on tracks like Shanghai, Bahrain, Sepang & Istanbul.

      You don’t get much overtaking in high speed corners & you don’t get much overtaking on circuits with no or short straghts, Its why traditionally there was never as much overtaking at circuits like Silverstone, Suzuka & Imola when compared to circuits with long straights into slow hairpins such as Bahrain, Istanbul, Sepang etc….

      1. The trouble is that most of those circuits still only end up with a couple of main overtaking spots, and Tilke sometimes failed to capitalise on making the rest of the circuit genuinely fast and interesting. Abu Dhabi is of course the prime example. Other times he got it right, notably in Turkey and Malaysia.

    2. Its the constant radius corners that frustrate me the most. There’s nothing in the regs that stipulate that a corner must be an arc. Luckily, it seems Tilke and his employees have finally discovered the Bezier curve tool, and I love the COTA.

      Nice work getting an interview with the designer, very interesting Keith.

  4. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    22nd October 2013, 13:04

    The new circuits are too wide. Look at Suzuka, it’s quite narrow so the cars dominate the track, so to speak, rather than seeming lost in a huge expance of tarmac.

    1. You are totally right. Look at Shanghai, Yas Marina or COTA. The cars are just drowning in the track. If you make a mistake, the is still a few metres of track and than another 50+ metres of tarmac run-off.

    2. Totally agree @jackisthestig there’s barely any reason for them being so wide either, because with the tyre marbles it’s hard to take advantage of the really wide tracks anyway (either when trying overtake or defend)

    3. I miss the old Hockenheim straights in the old design (even with chicanes) up to year 2001 I think. that cars looked so great on the narrow road, and it was great seeing them side by side. side by side on these tilke tracks doesn’t look as interesting. Monaco would be as boring as Yas Marina if it had the massively wide road.

    4. I agree. In some sections a wide track can be good, as it encourages different lines during passing attempts, but on fast sections where passing is highly unlikely it only serves to make the circuit look a bit bleak and the driver less talented.

    5. I totally disagree, the narrowness of the track at Suzuka (originally for motorcycles) is its one fault, a wider track would allow more real overtaking.

      1. Completely agree.

    6. Not sure I agree. One of the most interesting IndyCar circuits was built on at an airport using existing runways. It worked well because the track was wide enough to give multiple fast lines through corners and allow the cars to race two or even three abreast. Monaco, in comparison, is a poor circuit because it is it so narrow that there is only one line for the cars to follow. If you look at old film from the 50’s and 60’s you can see starting grids with the cars lined up in threes on what were quite narrow circuits like Aintree.

      1. That would be Cleveland. The first corner, a pretty fast ‘hairpin’ crossing between two whole runways would allow drivers to enter it 6 abreast on lap one, it was so crazily wide! The traditional line just seemed such a long way to travel…

        1. HA! I was just about to say Burke Lakefront Airport! I grew-up in the Cleveland suburbs and loved that race!

  5. Love anything track related, Keith! Nice one.

    Interesting about the topography. I thought they could artificially create elevation now?

    1. @ecwdanselby Yes they can. The Indian circuit has many undulations. It is built on a plain land and everything was landscaped. @keithcollantine

    2. +1 to both points! I thought that’s what they did with India’s first few turns :S

  6. They could have given CotA my favorite feature of Suzuka, which is the crossover. I made an illustration of it a while back.


    1. Very nice layout: the slow section after the back straight magically disappears, and interesting turns 3 & 13 appears ! Good job.

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        22nd October 2013, 14:52

        I wish COTA was done this way. Great illustration

    2. Wow impressing!

    3. Woah!!! Nice :D

    4. Just goes to show we don’t need Tilke to design a good track, no doubt though they are very good at the logistical requirements which is where you, I or a Tavo Helmund may not succeed.

      I would radius your turn 4 to prevent a 1st.lap bottleneck affecting the overpass.

      1. Yes, I am sure that several of the turns would need to be re-profiled and run-off areas changed because they were being run in the opposite direction. I did this just for fun when the track was being discussed on another forum more than a year ago. Interestingly, the natural elevation would make the run from 3-4 overpass 12-13 pretty easy to pull off.

    5. Oh, and thanks for the nice comments.

    6. So, your post here made me want to throw in a couple track redesigns that I’ve been doing for an alternate-history story on F1 and IndyCar in the 1990’s. (Senna goes to Williams in 1992.)

      Both examples are the German tracks, and incorporate some of the pre-existing service roads, which would need regraded, expanded, and repaved, but the land would already be cleared.

      Here’s Hockenheim redone in a way that’s shorter but less sterile:


      Nurburgring, incorporating some of the Nordschlief:


        1. Actually, the original plan to shorten Hockenheim involved a loop cutting through the woods shortly after the first chicane, not too different than what you’re showing here. I think this one would make a much better and more interesting layout than the current configuration.

        2. A prevalent feature of some of the older tracks like Spa, Suzuka, Nurburgring and LeMans is that they gave you a sense that you were actually “going somewhere”. I think you picked up on that theme with your re-design ideas. Very nice.

          1. Thanks! I saw the track shortening as an inevitable trend if you were to start the change in the 1991-1992 offseason. I love the crossover you have, it adds for another straight with a near-blind uphill 130ish-degree corner, instead of going the other way.

          2. Spa, Le Mans, and Nürburgring actually did go somewhere. Suzuka does, too, but not to the extent that the others do.

  7. Blah, blah, blah. We should now look into getting the FIA to change some of their track restrictions.
    Heck, even if we need a lot of run-off for safety, why can’t most of it be gravel? Still very safe, better at stopping cars before they crash into a wall, thus we’d get smarter, better racing (hopefully), without kamikaze overtakes with easy bail-outs.

    The run off size of today doesn’t seem like it’ll be reduced in any way. But my god do we need 1. better stopping power in those zones, and 2. more punishing materials than tarmac. We could pretty easily do this, all while keeping the masses and masses of runoff. Plus I’m pretty sure gravel is cheaper than the laying of tarmac.. no? What’s the problem FIA, what’s the problem? Worst case scenario put in a couple of those huge speed bumps like the two at the final turn in Montreal.

    P.S. Does anyone have a link to the track regulations that must be met?

    1. Problem is, you need tarmac initially to lay the gravel..

      Also, you can’t have speed bumps on run-offs. That’s even worse than gravel for making F1 cars air borne!

    2. Michael Brown (@)
      22nd October 2013, 15:31

      Gravel is less safe than tarmac, and has a higher maintenance cost versus tarmac

    3. @timi gravel traps have to be several centimetres deep, whic adds to the expense. That’s not really the issue though (most countries F1 goes to have plenty of money to spend) – it’s that gravel is not a sealed surface. So it is easy to dig in and roll, a much bigger safety hazard than just hitting a barrier head-on (which is actually quite safe these days).

      1. Paul Sainsbury
        22nd October 2013, 19:52

        I am afraid I really must correct you on this.

        Whilst a car rolling does indeed have its risks, looks spectacular and trends to get commentators very excited, on the whole, this type of accident, thankfully, tends to leave the driver uninjured. It is the ‘head on into the barrier’ accidents that are still very dangerous, even with today’s cars.

        1. The problem with gravel traps is, indeed, that the cars tend to roll if they go off at any angle other than straight ahead. The car is then out of control in three rather than just two planes and is much much more dangerous. Airborne cars are too scary.

        2. Not so: the problem with rolling cars is they can then strike the barriers at a point which is very weak, such as the driver’s head, for example. It also drastically increases the likelihood of going over the barriers.

    4. @timi newer circuits are multi-purpose. Gravel cant be used if u want to host events. I remember the Indian circuit once hosted an automotive award event and the guests were seated on the runoff at the parabola turn. The cars were displayed on the tarmac…..if the circuit had gravel run-off it would have been difficult to host the event

  8. Tilke definitely needs to up his game, but the restrictions placed on him by the FIA means he is really attempting things with one hand behind his back.Creating tracks with a kilometre long straight as well as a pit straight is a waste of the available real estate since the lap is usually 5-6km in length. They should be allowed to build 7-9km length circuits so that they can really “develop” the circuit properly and incorporate their ideas fully, then maybe we would not have disappointing finishes to a lap like Turkey and COTA.
    Also does anyone know where to get data on the f1 tracks-e.g. track maps, capacity of former circuits e.g. Zandvoort

      1. No update since 2005, sadly. But yes, wonderful site.

      2. Yes. I’ve been here many times, but sadly, as @bebilou said, it’s not up to date. If you get a chance take a look at the original Suzuka plans! Sectors 2 and 3 are more or less unchanged, but sector 1 is epic!

    1. I don’t think Tilke needs to up his game, he has had long enough, 15 years or more. give someone else the contract, why this monopoly????

      1. +1, lets see if someone can do better within these regulations

      2. why this monopoly????

        Because Tilke comes as a package.

        Tilke’s company designs the circuit, The infrastructure & the facilities. Tilke’s company as well as contractors regularly used by Tilke’s company also then build everything to the same standards since they all know the procedures & whats expected of every part of the operation.

        Its far easier & much simpler bringing Tilke & his company’s in than having one guy design the layout & then have a couple other people/company’s have to come in to design/build everything else as well as the circuit.
        One example of this is Korea, Tilke designed the circuit layout but the Korean’s insisted on doing everything else themselfs & the whole thing was a mess that to this day has never been completed.

        Not saying its not possible for anyone else to do it, Its just much more complex when compared to bringing in 1 person & 1 company that’s well organized, efficient & knows exactly what there doing.

        1. after reading your comment I ask the same question, why this tilke monopoly???? anyone else can also design the infrastructure and facilities, why keep the same designer that has not been popular and no doubt lost money for F1 because of his lame designs for 2 decades?? he must be a friend of a friend or someone very very high up, otherwise how can F1 be so commited to one man engineering not only tracks, but the state of f1 as a result of that??? it is pathetic.

          1. anyone else can also design the infrastructure and facilities

            Its not just about design, As I said Tilke’s company does everything including the construction & its the having 1 company do everything & understands whats expected that makes Tilke & his company so appealing to those wanting a new circuit.

            Yes other people can design & build, However as far as im aware there is nobody else than can do everything from design, planning & construction under 1 roof & has experience of circuit design, exactly what facilities are required & the best processes when it comes to laying tarmac etc….

            Its not about Tilke having ‘friends’, Its just about having 1 guy/company handle everything making it far easier & far cheaper than having a couple different people/company’s handle each aspect totally separately.

            The thing that got Tilke so popular when it came to new circuits & modifying existing circuits was just that, You contact his company telling him what you want & his company handles the rest. That much easier & ends up been much cheaper than having to hire a couple different people & company’s to do each individual thing.

          2. Other tenders might not be up to his standards. Ever been to a track like Zandvoort? It is a right mess, the facilities were built in 1997, but feel much older, not to mention the infrastructure is a nightmare.

            This article is an interview with someone who works with Tilke, so you should probably reconsider your idea Tilke alone designs the tracks.

          3. @gt-racer as far as im aware there is nobody else than can do everything from design, planning & construction under 1 roof & has experience of circuit design, exactly what facilities are required & the best processes when it comes to laying tarmac etc….

            Well yeah of course there is no one else who we would be aware of, when F1 track design for new GP circuits is totally monopolized by Tilke and his firm. Are we even aware if other firms have attempted to win the business like that which was COTA project??

  9. I don’t think its just the FIA rules to blame, or even Tilke. The whole process is backwards.

    If a country wants to run an F1 race these days, it needs to build a circuit. The circuit is given some land and it is created within the boundaries of the rules. That’s what we now end up with. Sometimes it is successful, sometimes not so.

    In earlier years, a country would apply for an F1 race BECAUSE it had a track… often a great track. But even if it wasn’t that great, it would often come about through a love of motor sport, an evolution of tarmac through the local terrain.

    This is probably overly romantic but there is a point in there somewhere. You can’t force a natural track rhythm and atmosphere.

    1. In earlier years, a country would apply for an F1 race because it had a track

      Spot on.
      I think COTA is a great addition to the calendar for any series and for the American motorsport, but why don’t they (FIA, Tilke…) just update and/or upgrade existant circuit?

      We all don’t want circuit graveyard all around the world, don’t we?

      1. The issue is the FIA keep raising the bar for safety and facilities, meaning the classic/existing circuits have to spend money keeping their standards up to the grade to host an F1 race – they lack money because of how the sport is run so don’t/can’t invest.

        On the other hand, a new build can very easily acquire/burn through investor or public money because of the ‘perceived’ benefit of creating jobs, tourism and/or business for the area. They, of course, rarely get that return on the investment in the time-frame they’d like.

        1. I think Spa lost a bit of its challenge due to recent upgrades.

          I miss the old 130R corner at Suzuka too …

          Only Silverstone remained itself in recent years.

          1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
            22nd October 2013, 15:58

            Only Silverstone remained itself in recent years.

            @paeschi I loved the “octagon” shape more than the current one.

  10. FIA rules are making F1 rot from within.

  11. What ruins COTA for me:
    the run off and a tight hairpin leading onto a long straight.
    Also that sector 1 is just a copy of maggots, becketts, chapel.

    1. @sato113

      sector 1 is just a copy of maggots, becketts, chapel.

      Having now driven on both in real life I would say they’re really not that much the same. OK, they’re both combinations of switchback left and right curves, but the similarities end there.

      The Silverstone bends are quicker on the way in, flatter and don’t go on as long. The COTA turns have more gradient and some blind entries. I don’t think they’re any more similar to Maggotts and Beckets than the Esses at Suzuka are (I haven’t driven those yet!) – they’ve all got a bit in common but they’re all great in their own right.

      COTA definitely started with Maggotts and Beckets as the inspiration but ended up with something of their own.

      1. @keithcollantine
        i agree the first part is a copy then the end bit is their own, but i dont like how it really slows down. why not make the whole twisty bit really fast? could have some moves down into the hairpin before the straight.

      2. than the Esses at Suzuka are (I haven’t driven those yet!)

        Get @keithcollantine in a car to do that as well soon!

        Maybe when Honda step in with McLaren they could do something like that … please, pretty please :-)

  12. I don’t mind safe tracks. Safe is good. But what I don’t want is a tarmac run off that is wider than the track itself. Put some gravel in it or something.

    1. Especially when the track is 50m wide!

  13. But fitting in many such corners was not achievable. “Some of them – for example Eau Rouge – if you take Eau Rouge in Formula One you need to drive it with 300 kilometres an hour,” explained Epp. “So to set up a turn of 300 kilometres an hour you need a straight of almost a kilometre to reach that speed.”

    This bit I don’t get – the straight from La Source to Eau Rouge is way less than a kilometre, yet modern F1 cars take it flat in the dry. Even in the ’90s, it was often taken flat.

    1. I didn’t get that either. I suppose the steep downhill gradient perhaps aids the important early acceleration, but not that much.

    2. That’s a drastic understiment of how quickly F1 cars accelerate I think. They easily hit 300km/h in 500m as long as the corner they are exiting from isn’t stupidly slow.

      1. Like La Source ;P

        1. @raceprouk it’s actually not too bad: it opens up quite a lot at the exit ;)

    3. Yeah me too..and how can the FIA forbid a corner like Eau Rouge to be built on the grounds of safety when one already exists? Super confused there.

  14. I’ve had an idea which may work: why don’t they attempt to border the tracks with a 10cm deep “water trap”? That shouldn’t cause a significant enough deceleration to flip a car I don’t think but it’d slow them down and of course you can’t dig into water. It’s also mean run-off area lengths could theoretically be reduced significantly and there’d be no get out of jail free after making a mistake.

    The only problem I could see would be recovery and speed of attention, but since it wouldn’t be that deep it may work.

    1. of course you can’t dig into water

      Oh yes you can, quite easily if you hit it at speed. Then you have a car upside-down with the driver’s head partially submerged.

      1. @raceprouk that was why I was careful to specify a lower depth! Just enough to cause some drag.

        What was meant by the part you have quoted is you can’t physically get a tea tray dug into water as you can with gravel. Fair point with the submergement though.

        1. Maybe, but the tyres can still dig in.
          If you’d said 10mm instead of 10cm, then the idea has merit. Then again, some circuits already have enough issues with drainage without adding shallow canals all over :P

        2. JP (@jonathanproc)
          22nd October 2013, 16:49

          @vettel1 The main problem with this is that it would be incredibily difficult to get 10cm of water to stay where you put it. You’d have to create entirely flat run-off areas, or have huge dips to stop it running onto the track which in itself would be more dangerous.

          Of course this could be solved by having flat tracks…but then that just recreates the problem of flat = boring.

          1. @jonathanproc I was thinking gradual slope downwards to prevent spillage onto the track conceptually.

            Again very valid point though: if course it would have to realistically be a feautire incorporated into the design plan itself, but I think it could have been a decent solution for places like Korea’s T1 for example (which is what I was thinking of when I envisioned the idea).

            Wouldn’t work at Spa though!

    2. @vettel1 – Aaaah, just like Driven!

      j/k, Max.

      1. I’ve never actually watched driven, so I’m not getting the reference! :/ @bullmello

        1. No great loss there @vettel1 . Just the final bits of the movie take place with lots of water involved and one driver ends up upside down in it… Like I said, no great loss you haven’t seen it, that was just my first thought on seeing your idea. :-)

    3. Why not jelly ?

  15. So it’s too dangerous to create modern equivalents of classic circuits, but the classic circuits we have are safe enough to race on? There’s an inherent contradiction in the FIA’s track safety rules…

    I know the whole ‘it’s too safe’ argument never carries much weight, but I don’t see how creating something like Spa or Suzuka is any more dangerous than having the drivers race between concrete walls and crash barriers at places like Valencia or Port Imperial…

    1. (@bookoi) said on 22nd October 2013, 16:25
      I know the whole ‘it’s too safe’ argument never carries much weight, but I don’t see how creating something like Spa or Suzuka is any more dangerous than having the drivers race between concrete walls and crash barriers

      Exactly. Some circuits like Singapore and Abu Dhabi seem more ‘enclosed’ and likely to result in accidents than Spa and Suzuka.

  16. Just a comment on the Run-Off.
    Think its important to remember that it was the GPDA which began the big safety push for more run-off & it was also the GPDA which began pushing for Tarmac run-off.

    I know a lot of fans would love to see gravel return but thats never going to happen because tarmac is at the end of the day a lot safer than gravel.
    Also consider that circuits cater for more than just F1, Motorcycle’s for example where the consensus is that tarmac is far safer than gravel which is why circuits where F1 doesn’t race but bikes do are also moving to tarmac run-off’s.

    Coming back to F1 we have seen examples in the past where gravel has made situations worse with cars flipping or simply skipping over the gravel without losing much speed.

    I see the argument above that there could be a bit of tarmac followed by gravel in the run-off, However at a high-ish speed the height difference between the surfaces would have a higher probability of flipping the car. Plus again that layout is probably more dangerous for bikes as well.

    I also think there’s an element of some younger fans not knowing or simply not remembering the push-back after Imola 1994 which began the big proactive safety campaign that were still in.
    After Imola ’94 F1 was getting hammered in the media for not been proactive with regards to safety, Its a part of why Max Mosley went so aggressive with safety, He as head of the FIA was having criticism hurled at him from all directions for allowing 2 drivers to die in front of a live worldwide TV audience.
    As Max says in the new documentary ‘1’ (Which I saw while in the US last week since its on the US itunes store), The discussion in the media was never why did they crash, It was all why did they die, why were they allowed to die & why wasn’t anything done to prevent it.

    1. Great points @gt-racer . So many times people were dissecting what happened at Imola and how could this happen? And, rightfully so. As an F1 observer from the days of Jim Clark I am extremely grateful for the ever continuing safety measures in all forms of racing. I think you are correct about a generation gap of sorts. Even though I grew up in the era of people standing right next to the track and many other things that would be labeled just plain crazy today, I am still amazed when watching older F1 races. YouTube is a wealth of information of how things used to be and why we do have all the safety built in today. Thank goodness.

  17. Perhaps it’s the way that article is edited but the headline and the justification are for 2 different things.

    On one hand he is saying that you couldn’t have Eau Rouge because FIA rules on things like compression wouldn’t allow it. Then he says the discussion for COTA involved replicating a selection of corners that included Eau Rouge and the logic was not that they couldn’t do it but that they couldn’t do all of them. Which is fair enough in itself.

    I’m no clearer now on how restrictive or otherwise the FIA are on track design or whether it’s simply a logistical issue regarding classic corner requiring the preceding bits of track that make them what they are and the elevation too.

    It does at least hint at the fact that Tilke themselves are not the sole problem when it comes to modern tracks. Firstly COTA shows that. But knowing Bernie and how tightly controlled everything around Formula One is, it would be naïve (and now we can see it would be inaccurate) to assume that Tilke were fully responsible for designing the terrible tracks that they were producing not so long ago. They had at least one hand tied behind their backs all along.

  18. I don’t see why everybody hates the circuits so much. Okay, they aren’t Suzuka, no, but they are not supposed to be.

    I like most of his circuits that he has done (the only one I dislike is China). The racing is good, and the flow is not bad either. India is one of my favourites. Brilliant flow through sector 2 and 3.

    As for the run off area — it is excessive but it means that the drivers push more on track, rather than tip-toeing around scared that they will beach themselves. If a driver makes a mistake then it means they aren’t out of the race. Maybe they should be a touch more punishing (a grass strip before the tarmac acre would do nicely), but overall they are not too bad. They maybe shouldn’t be as big as they are, but it doesn’t matter too much, and it is in the interest of safety after all.

  19. TIL

    La Source to Eau Rouge is 1 km… … … …

    1. No, just under 700 m from La Source to the lowest point of Eau Rouge/Turn 3.


  20. Very informative article @keithcollantine . Glad to see an article including the frequently absent designer POV. We hear a lot from all the other points of view, but rarely any explanations from the designers. Having a say so in the land selection makes sense. People can complain about having a flat track with no elevation changes, but obviously that may be all the designer had to work with. Doubtful that fans, drivers, spectators, teams and all other interested parties will ever be completely satisfied with any particular track because of all the many compromises involved and just plain differences of opinion from one observer to the next.

    Anyways, I’m quite envious that you got to drive the track at COTA. What fun! COTA is a worthy addition to the world of F1 and it was nice to gain some informative insights on how it came to be.

  21. I get the safety limitations, and the problems some designs might have…

    But from a man that’s part of a team that started with a blank sheet of paper in the shape of a desserted island like Yas Marinas, I’d not consider much of what he says.

    What they did to Yas Marinas was appalling. Even with the logical limitations, a pencil over a piece of paper can create infinite shapes. Drawing long straights followed by harpins or chicanes goes against imagination and creativity and only shows lack of interest or lack of skill, or they put too much focus on making tracks overtaking-friendly, while failing at that most of the time.

    1. @fer-no65, I totally agree and would also suggest that in order to make those, chicanes, hairpins and right angle corners useful as overtaking points there has to be a sector of interesting turns where the car/drivers gain or lose ground, otherwise all we see is a bunch of drag races and brake tests.

    2. 100% agree: Tilke should be ashamed of Yas Marina’s layout. Having so much money, so much space, and ending with with something like this… It hurts.

  22. I think the problem with good circuit design is that everyone tries to break it down into a simple mathematical equation that, when applied correctly, will always produce the same desired result.

    But I think the secret lies in a more holistic approach. Legendary corners do not exist in isolation – they have some impact on every other corner on the circuit, just as every other corner influences the approach to it.

    A perfect example of this lies in Turns 9 and 10 of Bahrain. These corners require technical driving skills to master: braking and turning simultaneously. But Turn 8 is a slow hairpin, which removes a lot of the challenge. How would that turn change if it was preceded by Spoon Curve, or Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel?

    Corners should compliment one another, rather than compete with one another. When done properly, the end result is an Istanbul or a Sepang. When it is nor done properly, you get a Korea or an Abu Dhabi.

    When I was a kid, I used to dream up all sorts of racing circuits. The margins of my school books were filled with doodles and designs (and I don’t think my teachers ever quite worked out what they were). And the one thing I worked out was this: I came up with the best designs in two minutes. The circuits really designed themselves; I just put pen to paper. Any longer than two minutes, and the end result was never very good.

    1. I still have notes laying around with track designs and the more I adjust them, the worse they become.

      Speaking of circuit design, someone should probably post in the Track Design Contest..

    2. @prisoner-monkeys not just that, there’s a concept in Tilkedromes that circuits just give opportunities to overtake.

      It’s like they start with that: let’s make a track in which cars can overtake each other, and the only solution is a huuuuuge straight with a tight harpin at the end of it.

      But Suzuka was not designed with overtakings in mind, it was designed to be challenging for the cars and drivers. Putting too much effort on aiding overtaking makes all tracks look the same, and worst of all, they don’t produce the end result…

    3. Well said – it’s like the famous old corners – Woodcote, Club or Curva Grande – that have become just somewhere to accelerate away from a slow corner. They tried to re-create the multi-apex monster from Turkey in India and Texas, with varied success – neither looks quite fast enough to me.

      The trouble with Eau Rouge (and Blanchimont, 130R and others) is an F1 car can take it at 300 Ks. The cars have outgrown these corners; the drivers say they’re easily flat. The rule-makers should lose a load of downforce, so these corners are a challenge again. It follows that the new circuits will become a challenge too in their fast sweeping sections (notice how they all have one, in an attempt to be all things to all men – the worst new tracks are a mess that tries to be a bit fast, a bit technical and a bit of street circuit, all in one.)

  23. “We do not get that every time so other race tracks we come and it’s a flat piece of land and we have to live with that land and have to create the best thing we can do. I think we were fortunate enough here to play with it, it’s much easier for us, gives us more opportunity to create an exciting race track.”

    I do think this is the main reason most modern circuits lack flow, interesting corners and atmosphere. Hockenheim and Spa were both run in woods, but the tracks were nothing alike. Zandvoort was in the dunes near the sea, the Nordschleife in the Eifel, each track representing a different kind of challenge for circuit builders (and racers).

    The problem started with tracks like Magny-Cours imo. Built in the middle of nowhere, flat and without any redeeming qualities of the surrounding area. If you look at the old Spa layout, or the Nordschleife, what often happens is; public roads are used to make a track or formed into a track. These roads would often be using the natural form of the land (even though today public roads are also quite boring, since they modify the lands for the roads).

    I think countries who want to organize F1 tracks need to do three things before applying for a race:
    1.Analyze the circuit location; can it be built into something interesting? Will it be beneficial to the area (as opposed to the Korean International Circuit) and will the circuit or area create something unique (the only thing Valencia got right).
    2.Get some feedback on the built or simulated track. Get the WEC or even a Historic Grand Prix, find out what the drivers say. Kerbs too high? Lower them. Run offs too wide? Move the tyre barrier 5 meters closer. Put some actual grass there.
    3.Learn from others’ mistakes. Don’t build the track in a wrong location (Korea/Turkey or historically, Zandvoort) or mess up on the preparations (the death stairs of the 2010 Korean Grand Prix would have been a much larger problem with more spectators) and make sure you get a good marketing plan (as opposed to Korea, India, Turkey, Valencia, etc.) and try to establish racing on a regular basis on your track.

    Sadly, I’m not drunk on my own money, not overly concerned about my income stream or completely lost on what that reasoning thing was, so I need not apply these ideas to any current F1 stakeholder.

  24. David not Coulthard (@)
    22nd October 2013, 20:07

    Now, I know that gravel run-offs are a bad idea, and why it is so, but what about grass run-offs, or perhaps ashpalt run-offs painted green or beige, with abrasive material included once hard tyres return to F1?

  25. Interesting point from Christian Epp. But I am hardly surprised. I like the Austin track and the whole event there was fantastic. Not like boring events in China, Bahrain and Korea with empty grand stands everywhere.
    I just would like around here: Before the Texan race there was much hype about the first corner buth I was left wanting, as they say in America. After a few laps it looked like nothing very speacial to me. Does anyone agree?

    Let’s forget for a while about Anthony Davidson’s remarks that “it’s a joke with all these big run-off areas” and that, in effect, the drivers don’t risk their lives at every corner like 40 years ago!

    1. If you rewatch any Chinese GP over the last few years you won’t find a lack of support in the stands.

      Don’t automatically apply poor attendance at 2 Asian races to others in the region.

  26. Guys, I may be wrong, but I remember that (1 of) the decision(s) behind the replacement of gravel with tarmac was related to safety and DNFs. More exactly, on gravel the car is pretty much stuck and the driver cannot do anything but wait for the impact, while the tarmac offers the grip and possibility to steer to avoid the impact totally or partially (partially = not a head-on impact). Plus, we’ve seen many retirements in the past decades just because the car remained stuck in the gravel. I think that was too much for a such mistake.

  27. Regarding the ability to build another Eau Rouge, please refer to a comment I made 8 months ago – it’s the last comment in link below – which indicates that I might possibly have played a small part in a relaxing of the overly restrictive rule governing abrupt changes in elevation, as a couple of years ago I informed Ross Brawn about it he didn’t know about the rule up till then, and 8 months later it was relaxed. Thanks of course to Keith for pointing us in the direction the rule in the first place. :)

  28. IMHO some body must stop this cloning process now, there has to be other brains involved, I saw more interesting proposals in this thread than what Tilke has done so far, except for may be COTA and 1 or 2 other tracks (being generous), so open the contest to more designers and then give the winner to Tilke to build (if there is no other choice), but enough already, if the rules are givig the same result, change the rules, keep safety as #1 priority but let the rest pose a different challenge to the racing approach, other wise you can use a vast flat surface somewhere and just draw a different circuit each race and teams don’t even have to travel to any other country to complete the season. that will help keep costs down, I am sorry for ranting but whoever is approving this circuits is not thinking racing, its only thinking revenues. as an example, amusement parks are all safe and yet all different, even international airports meet this criteria, so please.

  29. Yes there are rules defining what tracks can’t have, but I think a lot of the new tracks are way too conservative. COTA finally pushed the limits of the rules and look what they produced, something worthy of a race.

  30. This is a really valuable article. Great to hear from a Tilke designer and get some realistic perspective from someone who is confronted by the boundaries we constantly complain about.

  31. I am pretty positive they could design a corner like Eau Rouge if they wanted to. Finding the right topography is another matter entirely. (If the corner was really that dangerous I am sure they wouldn’t allow races to be held at Spa).

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