Start, Nurburgring, 2013

How to increase passing? Look at the Nurburgring, says Tilke

2018 F1 season

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Formula One circuit designer Hermann Tilke denies claims his layouts do not promote good racing and says his changes to the Nurburgring show why.

Speaking to RaceFans in an exclusive interview, Tilke said it was “not true” that overtaking is more difficult on tracks he designed.

“Look to the Shanghai race this year, look to the Bahrain race this year. What happened? Overtaking. Also with these cars, which is really very difficult to overtake. And look to Austin. Always overtaking, and always wheel-to-wheel fighting. So this is just not true.

“Of course you have some races which are boring. But you have also football games which are boring. And if the fastest is in front of the less fast car, nothing happens. So what then? Then the fastest is going and the second fastest is behind. Nothing happens.”

Tilke said the changes he made to the Nurburgring grand prix circuit in 2002 show overtaking can be promoted by adding slow corners to tracks.

“The first version of the Nurburgring was at the end of start and finish, it was a chicane,” he explained. The quick Castrol S curve tended to make the cars run “one behind the other and a long gap between”, he said.

“So this is the first thing where you can spoil a race during the start. And then we made this sharp corner and very wide.”

“You have this, and then again you have a slow corner. This brings the field together again, like an accordion. This works in 70, 80% of the cases. [Then] after the start, after one lap the cars are close together. And then you can overtake.”

Overtaking in F1 so far

Data: Mercedes

Dieter Rencken’s full exclusive interview with Hermann Tilke will be published later today on RaceFans. Read all of Dieter’s weekly columns here

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  • 42 comments on “How to increase passing? Look at the Nurburgring, says Tilke”

    1. I really don’t think he would readily admit that some of his designs are less than ideal for overtaking.

      1. @bukester
        Yeah, but take a second to ask yourself whether that’s really the case. There are quite a few tracks that have a bad reputation for producing races with hardly any overtakes, but most of these weren’t designed by Tilke. I don’t have any data to back my impression up, but I can think of 5 tracks that regularly host processional races:
        – Melbourne
        – Barcelona
        – Monaco
        – Budapest
        – Suzuka
        None of these tracks were designed by Tilke, and two of them were slightly modified under his supervision, in a way that didn’t affect the tracks’ general characteristics.

        I know that Tilke is some sort of bête noire in the F1 community, a scapegoat for anything that is perceived to go wrong. I think that’s nonsense. The one reproach I think is valid, is the lack of soul, the interchangeability of his designs, regardless of where in the world they are. Some of these designs don’t usually produce entertaining races despite ostensibly being designed for that end, so I could understand why some fans would feel that that lack of soul isn’t compensated for by a satisfactory degree of overtaking-friendliness.
        The question is whether that problem is ultimately due to Tilke. In that case, I like to refer to the redesigned Silverstone layout, which I feel is the worst Tilkedrome to date, with the added irony that it wasn’t even designed by him.

        1. I agree with all of that, although Budapest’s reputation perhaps needs to be redressed.

          1. @george
            Oh, don’t get me wrong, I quite like the track. In fact, Barcelona is the only one in that list I’m not too fond of (but also not really bothered by).

        2. Great input, I agree with all this. Seems silly to have a scapegoat in the form of Tilke when it’s the teams refusal to work with each other and the FIA in formulating a set of rules that would dumb down the cars where necessary to allow for more natural overtaking.

      2. @bukester Sepang, Shanghai and Bahrain are alright tracks with good overtaking opportunities. Sadly, his more recent creations are dreadful in every way, especially Sochi and Abu Dhabi, which only contain slow and boring corners. Also the concept of having a very slow corner followed by a very long straight is flawed. Bahrain and China have medium to high-speed corners leading to a long straight and those tracks almost never produce boring races.

    2. Look at motogp. No areo and they can run in each others wheel tracks.

      1. MotoGP has no aero just like F1 has no moveable aerodynamic devices.

      2. 25 seconds a lap slower. Gt3 cars are faster so could not do that in F1.

    3. Funny… I don’t remember Tilke designing and implementing DRS.

      Hermann is clearly taking an F1 fan for a fool with these kinds of statements. He designed crappy cookie cutter circuits, which were so bad that they needed to add DRS to help overtaking on these circuits. Now once DRS started increasing overtaking, Tilke wants to take the glory?

      He designed a couple of decent circuits in Malaysia and COTA, but he was responsible for the monstrosities that were Valencia and Abu Dhabi as well.

      1. ‘Monstrosities’ implies ugly. Can we go for ‘abominations’?

      2. Tilke tracks like Austin, Malaysia, Bahrain, China and Baku deliver good racing imho. Even the some Tilke tracks we lost already like India and Korea were pretty good.

        Then, of course, there’s Abu Dhabi, Valencia, Mexico and to a lesser extent Singapore that tend to produce less entertaining racing. However, if you ask me it’s the so called “classic tracks” like Melbourne, Monaco, Spain, Hungary, Suzuka and Monza that produce the really boring races. Even other classics like Silverstone, Spa, Montreal and Brazil are a bit processional at times.

        To me, the most important factor in producing good racing is always going to be the ability of the cars to race with each other. After that they should look at altering tracks like Spain, Monza, Abu Dhabi and Mexico to invite more battling.

        1. @jeffreyj

          The point is that without DRS a track like Baku would be the most boring one on the calendar. We generally have good races there because it’s a fast street circuit which leads to a lot of drivers in the wall, and safety car periods. The track in itself isn’t great for racing. China is generally exciting because of the DRS zones, without them there isn’t a lot of overtaking on the circuit. Just look at the pre 2011 era for how exciting races at China were.

          Even other classics like Silverstone, Spa, Montreal and Brazil are a bit processional at times.

          Spa, Montreal and Brazil are rarely boring. I’m not saying all classic circuits are great, but on average they either produce exciting races (Spa, Monza, Montreal, Brazil, Silverstone, Hungary) or are challenging driver circuits (Monaco, Suzuka, Spain, etc.). There are a lot of Tilke circuits that have absolutely no redeeming qualities. They aren’t fun to driver nor are they fun to watch – Abu Dhabi, Valencia, Mexico, etc.

          1. @todfod I would disagree to an extent – spa has not produced that many classics in the last few years, the best races tend to be rain affected. tilke circuits have a tendency to be dull for a variety of reasons (and I am highly critical of some of his choices), but not in terms of how easy passing is.

            I think his quote is worth remembering:

            if the fastest is in front of the less fast car, nothing happens

            You can always have great races, not every event can be 100% excitement, you have to have the light and shade.

            1. @frood19
              My point exactly.
              Not sure if any of us have any authority on deeming Tilke’s work a failure. We watch the races and call it bad circuit design ? Short sighted. I think the job involves a lot of niche visualization.
              With the regs changing every now and then, dominant cars (teams) every 4–5 years, we are bound to have some races that are either boring or unpopular. Overtaking is
              Let us all remember that there is no one right answer in circuit design. We do not know if it will be a good race or a procession until the track is raced on. Simulations will only help so much. There could be a multitude of reasons for a boring race or an exciting one. Tilke’s design *maybe* one of them.

            2. @frood19
              My point exactly.
              Not sure if any of us have any authority on deeming Tilke’s work a failure. We watch the races and call it bad circuit design ? Short sighted. I think the job involves a lot of niche visualization.
              With the regs changing every now and then, dominant cars (teams) every 4–5 years, we are bound to have some races that are either boring or unpopular.
              Let us all remember that there is no one right answer in circuit design. We do not know if it will be a good race or a procession until the track is raced on. Simulations will only help so much. There could be a multitude of reasons for a boring race or an exciting one. Tilke’s design *maybe* one of them.

            3. @webtel

              But he didn’t really design them with information on what the rules changes were going to be in the future. The regulations weren’t decided or even envisioned then. His designs were based on what the current cars were like China, Bahrain and Malaysia (were at the end of the V10 or start of the V8 era). Valencia and Abu Dhabi came later. China, Bahrain and Malaysia were among the most boring races when they were launched. At the time he designed them his circuits were the worst among the calendar for racing. Abu Dhabi and Valencia have to be the worst racing tracks ever designed for F1.

              With the addition of DRS and in the new regulations have suddenly produced exciting races there, but none of the credit needs to go to Tilke for this. It’s nothing but pure luck that other additions to F1 finally made his tracks raceable.

            4. @todfod
              i am designing a track. I know the regs defining the car.
              Is there a definitive way of saying “yes, this track will provide exciting races” ?

              I dont see how we can conclusively call one design as good and another as boring until the circuit is used for racing. It is sort of an occupational hazard.

            5. Is there a definitive way of saying “yes, this track will provide exciting races” ?


              I would think so

    4. ColdFly (@)
      9th May 2018, 9:17

      changes to the Nurburgring

      Only after getting back on my chair I noticed that it was to the F1 part and not the Nordschleife. Pffff.

    5. Whilst I am sure the whole interview with Tilke will be illuminating, Tilke comes up with the very useful, even if true, excuse of the cars and aero making overtaking difficult.

      If that is the case Herman, why not design the new tracks to work with this? Ie the racing line is fastest but with negative camber or some such to assist the attempted overtake.

      I am not a track designer, not a racing engineer or anything like this. But everything has a weakness, surely the combination of these cars and tracks have a weakness that a new or redesigned track could factor in?

    6. Why was he allowed to design so many tracks when his first ones hardly set the series on fire?

      1. Because the Nurburgring (GP Layout), Turkey and Malaysia are actually really good circuits.

        1. Turkey is good but overrated in my opinion. The first few corners are good, as is the four apex corner, but the rest is your standard Tilke

      2. I read he gets the contracts because he gets the job done on time within budget.
        If you are thinking about redesigning your circuit, who do you go to? There aren’t that many circuit designers/contractors, and you don’t want to risk anything, so you go to the guy you know gets the job done.

    7. In fairness to him, in the top 20 of the rate the race results he’s on top 11-9, with only Canada, Hungary, Spain and Brazil in there from the classics.

      Granted in the bottom 10 it’s 8-2, with only Australia 2015 and Brazil 2015 having horrendously bad results.
      Interestingly though Brazil and China (1st and 2nd in best races) are also down in 6th and 7th in the list of worst races. Valencia, whilst sitting 3rd and 4th has a race in the top 20.
      Of the other tracks in the bottom 10, all but Australia, Russia and Germany (Fernando is faster than you) don’t appear in the top 20.

      Excluding Germany, I think that the data shows that the split between classic/tilke is rather even. There are a number of tracks I haven’t even mentioned on either side, because both fall into the average range, which is good for us as viewers. It gives us the thrills when its awesome and a bit of dull when its at a slow pace.
      Also how all bar 2 of the bottom 9 (not inc. Ger) are in the top as well shows we can have excitement wherever we race.

      That’s my 2cents on it anyway :)

    8. There is a huge difference between Motorsport fans and Formula 1 fans. Most Formula 1 fans know very little about the other categories and unfortunately have an elitist attitude towards the other categories. Unfortunately this wonderful site really brings that to the fore.

      I’ve seen epic races in saloon classes and boring ones. It just happens. F1 aero nullifies close racing. DRS are used on all tracks(old and new) and were not implemented because of his track designs, even DTM uses DRS because of the aero on these cars.

      If racing on his tracks were boring, then the racing will be boring everywhere whether it is on the old classic tracks, new tracks.

    9. FlatSix (@)
      9th May 2018, 10:40

      I’m actually quite amazed Tilke made so many tracks. It’s like the governing bodies never tendered it, just ask Hermann.

      1. Someone has to pay for the race track to be built (and its not F1 or the FIA), its the country, they then have to pay to host an F1 race. The country paying for the race track needs a company that delivers a maintainable, good value for money race track. Often its publically funded or with limited private investment. Tilke delivers what they want so they so they keep getting the contracts. Whether some fans claim to feel more or less “excited” (regardless of how good the races are) is pretty much irrelevant. The fact that the track in Turkey was considered a great track counts for nothing as it didn’t make enough money, whereas the masssive attendances in Mexico make it a far more successful track.

    10. I have to disagree with Tilke. The hairpin in the GP-Strecke is badly designed, with a short apex and a wide exit. There’s literally only one way to take that corner. Successful dives are negated by the weird tightness, and switchbacks are hindered by the crazy, almost apologetic exit.

      1. @wsrgo
        I don’t think it’s as bad as you’re implying, if you get down the inside and manage to block the apex then you can usually hold the position, and if you get an overlap on the outside you can sometimes stick it around there. I agree that it’s quite horrible to drive though, as well as the next three corners.

        1. @george I suppose you’re right about the passing opportunities, but it still feels quite weird. Getting traction out of that corner must be so frustrating for all the drivers. The erstwhile Castrol chicane entry could have been made tighter to increase passing, and that would eliminate the need to put the ghastly loop in turns 2-4. The rest of the track is not all that bad though, the Schumacher S can be quite challenging with heavy fuel and oversteer, and the run up to the chicane is pretty sweet for overtaking.

    11. What I have never understood is why this one man has the monopoly for f1 track design???? I really don’t get, he made a bunch of bad tracks in succession for a while there, some off the Callander already, why dont the ever give others a go? Gamers make better tracks in computer games. Also most of his tracks are So ugly, too much runoff, no trees or walls…

      1. That’s the misconception. Its not one man, its a company with 150 or so employees. Its a business in the real world where things cost money. Gamers in the virtual world don’t have to worry about that when designing tracks.

    12. Some people here seem to be confusing themselves with why DRS was invented. It has nothing to do with tracks. DRS exist to overcome a car design “problem”(i.e. aerodynamics). This problem has existed since what the 70’s/80’s. Back then it was solved using Ground Effects and frankly unless F1 goes back to using GE then DRS will be here to stay. :-(

    13. I think everybody agrees that it is the cars that are the problem. Not the circuits when it comes to overtaking. When the v8supercars went to abu dhabi it was a good race. Same with cota, barcelona or silverstone or suzuka with other cars. F1 cars are just too fast, too easy to drive so drivers don’t make mistakes and you also have the best drivers who rarely make mistakes. Put them all into the mercedes safety cars and them loose on barcelona and you’d have a great race.

      1. Qualifying times should be set in the Mercedes Safety car. Every driver gets a fresh set of P-Zero Corsas or whatever Pirelli is hawking these days, 10 gallons of fuel, and three laps. Then they line up in that order in their race cars based on lap time. Or you could have 22 of those cars and have one 3 lap melee, but that could get costly for Mercedes.

        1. Or all the manufacturers could get a shot at fielding a car for a race weekend. When not the Merc it could be Ferrari 488s or GTCs. Or Honda NSXs. Renault doesn’t make anything super, but I’m sure I’d be entertained by those guys driving around a place like Monaco even if it was in a Megane RS. They might even be prompted to finally build the new A110!

    14. IMO, the glaring problem that is hardly ever mentioned is that most of the tracks (except the straights) are too narrow and the cars are too wide. You can’t pass if there’s hardly any room or no room at all.

      People like to MotoGP as an example, well there you go. Plenty of room for a variety of attacks on the bike in front. Plus, MotoGP doesn’t have the aero problems, so slip streaming works well.

    15. DocNuke (@)
      10th May 2018, 2:26

      We harp on Tilke and his tracks when it comes to F1. However there are places like Bahrain and COTA which were designed by him or in conjunction with another entity that have produced some great races over the years.

      The issues with the track that everyone is pointing at with F1 isn’t entirely on Tilke. The issues with just overtaking in general means that the races are dull and boring, a point that I would not point directly at him being related to the track.

      On the flip side, some of the damn fine races that have occurred that people enjoy have come on Tilke designed circuits. So when you look at it from the other races that occur on them can you really lay all the blame directly on his shoulders?

    16. Concentrating on track design to increase overtaking is just feeding F1’s addiction to current generation misconceived aero regs. And the problem isn’t that Tilke can’t make a good track, it’s that he is to F1 tracks as Ikea is to furniture…

    17. Michael Brown (@)
      10th May 2018, 18:56

      Bring back Nurburgring!

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