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Hermann Tilke - Circuit designer - A profile of the man behind many of the F1 tracks on the calendar

Published by Christine

This article was originally written for BellaOnline, but is republished here for posterity.

The majority of work carried out on Formula 1 circuits, either building new ones or making adjustments to existing tracks, is carried out by Tilke Engineering. This company was started up by Hermann Tilke, who has a lot of experience in building the circuits and racing on them.

He started out as a touring car racer, particularly on the old Nuburgring, and after retiring and setting up his company, was given the job of redesigning small sections of it. This successful job meant he was given other circuit contracts, and since then he hasn’t looked back.

The new races on the calendar in Bahrain, China, Valencia, Turkey and Singapore were all designed by Tilke Engineering, and there are many more to come. The company has also secured contracts to redesign many existing circuits, including Barcelona, Nurburgring, and Donington.

There are some elements of Tilke’s designs that stand out, particularly a hairpin at the first corner, to try and make overtaking a possibility. Whilst some elements have been well received, the exciting Turn 8 at Turkey as an example, there’s a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the designs. They are all quite similar, with a seemingly standard selection of straights and corners. They’re also quite flat, which gets rid of the element of undulation in a circuit.

Valencia in particular has not been received well at all, with the location coming under fire, before even looking at the track detail. A long course, with about 25 corners, none of them particularly stand out as a key area. The only major part of the track was the bridge, which was already there and had to be incorporated in the design. It seems as though Tilke Engineering is running out of ideas.

Perhaps this is because the same company is designing all of them, and it’s time we got some fresh eyes to take a look at what Formula 1 needs. Tilke often asserts his desire to design a track with overtaking in mind, but somehow this never seems to come to fruition.

Of course, it could just be that there aren’t many options in designing an F1 corner. I’ve seen tracks for junior Formulas where a hairpin was so tight, the cars could barely get round. This wouldn’t look good in the top motorsport series. Either way, it seems as though we should at least let someone else have a go at the designs. A monopoly is never a good thing, especially when it comes to creativity and ultimately, fan enjoyment.