Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Thursday Thoughts - Sending Tilke to the moon - Looking at what works and what doesn't on the F1 calendar

Published by Steven Roy

Great subject for the first Thursday Thoughts of the off season. I still think the best way to improve the tracks on the calendar is to remove Hermann Tilke from the scene. Maybe Branson can sacrifice one of his spaceships to take him to the moon and let him plan a track there. He would have a lot of work to do surveying and allowing for the lower gravity and lack of atmosphere that by the time he was finished everyone would have forgotten about him and he could be abandoned there torturing himself rather than us with his inadequate imagination.

The biggest problem with most recent tracks is that there are simply way too many corners. Obviously it helps to have a bit of gradient and downhill braking zones obviously mean longer braking distances. We haven’t seen many of those from Tilke. The single easiest way to improve the chances of overtaking is downhill braking zones and the man with the monopoly on track design hasn’t tried it yet. Some of the best and closest racing there has ever been was at Monza before there were chicanes; 3 miles of track with 5 corners. Compare that to Abu Dhabi’s 3 miles and 23 corners and you don’t need a doctorate in physics to see the problem. If a car of roughly similar performance follows another car on a straight it will go faster than the car in front because of slipstreaming. If the same two cars go round a corner together the car in front will be faster because the following car will lose downforce. So the fewer corners you have the better the racing will be. It really is that simple.

There are many existing tracks that need to be modified. I think Valencia could me modified by the addition of a 7 mile straight to the Ricardo Tormo circuit. No need for a return straight because no-one in their right mind would go back. The Tormo circuit is not great but it is better than the dockyard industrial estate track. It seems crazy to build a new F1 track 7 miles from an existing one unless the new one is going to be vastly superior. Instead of that Tilke built one that was substantially worse.

Monaco requires the careful positioning and well timed application of several tons of dynamite put a straight from Mirabeau to the tunnel entrance and another from the end of the tunnel to the start finish straight. The locals may have some short term issues with noise and dust but I am sure they would think it was worth it.

All the Tilke circuits could easily be re-aligned by making use of the vast acres of run off and someone channelling the spirit of Jon Hugenholz. They may all be flat but every single one of them would benefit vastly from losing at least 60% of their corners. By re-routing a track across the run offs it would be easy to come up with something better than Tilke has ever managed. Bahrain has already made a good step by removing the ludicrous 8 corner addition for next year’s race. I think the owners of all Tilke tracks should be sent a letter telling them they have to lose at least 8 corners or they will be removed from the calendar.

Hungary has many advantages over many of the Tilkedromes. It has plenty of gradient to work with and sits in a natural bowl which should mean great viewing if only the circuit were not so inadequate. The main straight is fine but everything else needs to go. I am sure we could have a competition for ten year olds to join the ends of the straight in a more effective manner than the original designer.

One thing that needs to happen is that the tracks need to get longer. The minimum requirement now is about 2.5 miles which is nowhere near long enough. One of the reasons Spa is so popular is because it is about the longest track on the calendar. You could not have a 2.5 mile version of Spa so all new tracks have to be at least 5 miles long. This means that blue flags will be a lot less of an issue amongst other things. All existing tracks will be given three years to build extensions. No track will be allowed more than three corners per mile.

So there are your basic principals in improved race track design. All you need are longer tracks with lots of gradient change, fewer corners and downhill braking zones. Add to that Hermann Tilke’s removal from the planet and the racing will be vastly improved.