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Suzuka puts Tilke's designs to shame

Steve Sutcliffe

Wasnít it great to see drivers taking different lines around the same corners at Suzuka during the Japanese GP? Okay, the race itself wasnít the most memorable to watch, but the fact that the cars didnít just follow each other like robots through each corner just looked, well, so refreshing.

And as for the way Captain Banzai himself, Kamui Kobayashi, seemed to be able to find grip at the hairpin Ė not just on the inside line but as Jaime Alguersuari discovered the hard way, right around the outside as well Ė he made the whole thing look like F1 from yesteryear. In which the cars had way more power than grip, and making them go quickly was more the responsibility of the driver, not merely the aerodynamicist.

Why canít more circuits be designed like Suzuka? Why does Hermann Tilke still have a monopoly on designing all the new F1 circuits, despite having come up with only one truly decent track so far (Turkey). And what is it about the Suzuka layout that allows F1 cars to pass one another so easily?

I believe it is Suzukaís unique combination of bumps, heavily cambered low speed corners, its old school fear factor and the positioning of the braking areas following the medium to high speed corners that makes it so right for contemporary F1.

Which begs the question: how hard can it be, when armed with F1ís seemingly open-ended chequbook, to replicate Suzukaís charms when designing a brand new circuit? Surely it canít be that tough? Surely, with the kind of resources available to him, it should be pretty easy for Hermann Tilke to copy and paste a combination of Suzuka, Spa, Silverstone and Brazil to create some kind of uber-driverís circuit? In which case, maybe itís time they gave someone else a goÖ

Thought this was interesting. I think Sutcliffe may be right too.

I tend to agree that Tilke having the monopoly on new F1 circuit designs is a bit annoying and you would have thought that a variety of designers would be preferrable for F1.

There was an article some time ago where Tilke was questioned on the issue of a lot of his new circuits being similar and somewhat characterless because of this, to which he explained that the FIA rules are very stringent and this makes it difficult to create more variety, whilst still designing a circuit that allows decent overtaking opportunities.
Quite how he was able to create a circuit like Istanbul if the rules were so strict, which is quite different to the run of the mill "straight to hairpin with some twisty bits", I don't know.

I think we also have to consider that if the FIA's current circuit design regulations were applied to other historic circuits (think Monaco in terms of run off areas) they would probably have to be removed from the calendar, which everyone would totally disagree with. The best tracks are unfortunately, probably less safe and do not comply with current regulations, so it might not be possible to create a Suzuka-Brazil hybrid today.

I actually think that Sepang is a pretty decent circuit, I think it was the first of this current crop. Unfortunately it is now seen as being too similar to some of his other tracks.

This is my best guess, I can't guarantee these are the reasons or the facts, but seems to make a little sense.
I read an interview with the guy, and he was saying the amount of investment it would take to build a great circuit these days would be astronomical. Not only are there F1 regs to worry about, most investors want the circuits to host other types of racing (such as motorbikes) that require different regs. To make them meet all the regs, also makes them more boring. A circuit designed with just F1 in mind would require more investment, something people aren't willing to do. He also said a lot of the great circuits weren't always the way they are, but evolved into great circuits over time.

Istanbul is great, and quite honestly, I like Yas Marina as well (not just because it's nearby).
Tilke applies the same formula over and over again...tricky technical section leading onto long straight into hairpin. Boom, overtaking opportunity under braking. While it's true that it works, you end up using half the track to create one overtaking place, which is typically quite easy to defend, and then there's no other place on the rest of the track, or maybe one more.

Tilke is the standard designer for F1 not because he's a brilliant track designer so much, it's because he's so damned good at designing the infrastructure; he knows exactly what the media, the CVC, the FIA, etc. want, and where to put it, and he creates relatively turn-key designs, which you know Ecclestone loves because he puts everyone on such a tight schedule for new grand prix...we announce it, we want it up and running 2 to 3 years later. Other designers lacking the experience working with formula 1 are simply unable to do that. And thus, we trade quality for convenience.

Not to say that Tilke doesn't have some good designs, but when you end up with 2/3rds of the calendar looking about the same, you have to wonder why we're doing it this way.
QUOTE(clarkma5 @ Oct 13 2010, 11:37 PM) *
Not to say that Tilke doesn't have some good designs, but when you end up with 2/3rds of the calendar looking about the same, you have to wonder why we're doing it this way.

Could be worse...they could all be ovals.

I would like to have seen some races on the old Spa circuit back in the day.
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