Transforming 5 Hermann Tilke Tracks into the Style of Classic Formula 1 Venues
Hermann Tilke's creations dominate the modern Formula One calendar.
The prolific track architect's first full circuit redesign was done in 1995. The fast, sweeping Osterreichring disappeared from the Styrian countryside, replaced by a shorter, slower circuit which is now known as the Red Bull Ring.
Sepang in Malaysia was next, followed by the likes of Shanghai, Bahrain and Marina Bay. In between, he oversaw changes to existing venues such as Catalunya and Hockenheim.
Of the 19 venues hosting a race in 2014, Tilke had a hand in 10 of them. They all share common features such as huge straights, tight hairpins and—perhaps—far more corners than necessary.
Fans of Tilke say his circuits provide overtaking opportunities and good, safe racing. Critics say they're bland, identikit copies of each other with overly forgiving run-off zones, zero character and even less soul.
Both sides are right. They do meet the needs of modern F1—but at the cost of variety and challenge. Wouldn't it be nice if they had more in common with the classic, organic tracks of days gone by?
Now, it's their chance to get some revenge.
Here are five of Tilke's creations, re-designed in the manner of circuits of old.
Buddh International Circuit
The Buddh International Circuit is as Tilke as Tilke can be. Two hairpins either end of a giant straight, twisty and varied infield and a single, special-looking corner to add a splash of uniqueness.
Our new version stays mostly true to the original's shape.
The start line is moved onto a shorter main straight. The hairpin at the end is opened up into a somewhat quicker curve, and the technical section which followed is removed entirely and replaced with a single, medium- to high-speed left-hander.
A Donington-style hairpin replaces the old multi-apex "special corner."
Two medium-speed corners follow, before a flowing series of high-speed turns take us back onto the old pit straight. The former Turn 1 is retained, but the hairpin is again bypassed—this time in favour of a series of three corners, each one quicker than the last.
The final two feature a rapid change of direction, and fire the cars back onto the new pit straight.
Bahrain International Circuit
In the early days of the F1 championship, many British circuits were thrown together on recently abandoned airfields. They were simple, challenging and very, very fast.
Bahrain's makeover sees it transformed into a circuit after that fashion.
The first corner is the old layout's Turn 12, flipped around. It leads up to another quite fast sequence taken from elsewhere on the track.
Next up is a long, very quick right-hander borrowed from a famous British airfield-based circuit (anyone recognise it?).
The old Turn 9 is employed as a left-hand kink, then we come to another section lifted from elsewhere—the old Maggots, Becketts and Chapel from Silverstone. They were laid out like this for the first-ever race of the world-championship era, way back in 1950.
The next corner is a fast right. It leads onto a medium-length straight, before a slightly opened version of the old Turn 13 forms the final corner.
Valencia Street Circuit
The Valencia Street Circuit was one of the most hated circuits in recent F1 history. It disappeared from the calendar after the (actually quite good) 2012 European Grand Prix, and is unlikely to ever return.
In the old days, street circuits were not sterile, purpose-built race tracks deliberately placed next to the sea to look nice and touristy. They were long blasts through the countryside, running through villages on streets designed for road cars.
There wasn't a lot that could be done to the old circuit (short of a few thousand pounds of dynamite) to give it a reasonable new layout.
So we've gone a few miles down the Spanish coast and found some lovely public roads winding through and around the Parc Natural de l'Albufera Valencia (map). They make up the new Valencia Street Circuit.
The new 15-mile course is a little bit too long to describe in detail, but it features all the staples of an old-school street circuit. Huge straights, a wide variety of corners and some sections which would be downright terrifying.
Just don't get stuck behind the safety car...
Shanghai International Circuit
The Shanghai International Circuit has been on the calendar since 2004. Perhaps more than any of his other creations, it can be made to look "old-style" just by moving some corners around.
Our redesigned version starts with a series of corners inspired by the current layout, but quicker and longer. We rejoin the existing track at what is now Turn 3 and set off onto a short straight.
The hairpin at the end is replaced by a long, fast corner which is a flipped-around copy of the old Turn 7. It leads into a quick kink, then the old Turn 8 sends the cars onto another short straight.
A medium-speed left follows, before the old Turns 9 and 10 are employed as a left-right pair.
The final corner on the new layout is a mirror image of the old Turn 13, but the entry would be much quicker and—hopefully—the challenge much greater.
The new pit straight is a little longer than the current one, to make up for the loss of the "runway" on the Tilke version.
Korea International Circuit
The Korea International Circuit has probably held its last grand prix, but like Valencia it's still a decent candidate for a redesign.
And like China, a lot of the old corners can be retained.
The pit straight has been moved, but the opening three corners are identical to those on the old layout.
Next up are slightly modified versions of the old Turns 7 and 8. They're now quicker, and lead out onto a short straight which bypasses two corners before meeting up with the old layout again.
The old Turn 13 is significantly straightened to give a quicker entry to a series of corners consisting of the old Turn 14, 15 and 16.
A long, fast left-hander is installed to send the cars back towards the end of the lap, and the final corner is now a medium-speed right.
That Felt a Little Better...
It's unlikely some of the layouts would produce good racing in the modern era. The new Korea ended up a little bit tame, and neither Bahrain nor Valencia would get past the FIA safety people.
But Shanghai and India could probably hold their own on the current calendar.
What do you think? Are any of them better or worse than the layouts Tilke designed?
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