Archive for September, 2010

Imitation is the highest form of flattery – Austin’s F1 Greatest Hits

September 2, 2010

Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Yesterday the proposed layout for the new Austin F1 track was revealed. When the promoters stated a few months back that they were seeking inspiration in existing circuits, it turns out that they weren’t joking. The track seems to be a collection of corners from a ‘Greatest Hits’ album of the world’s racetracks. The diagram below highlights the sections in question. The Maggots/Becketts section could also be likened to Suzuka’s first sector and the Hockenheim and Istanbul sections are also unmistakable.

Mr Tilke has had some hits and misses in recent years, creating some hugely entertaing and challenging tracks one year (Istanbul) then turgid, precession generators (Bahrain) the next. I know the current aero regs are partly to blame, but his output has been a mixed bag. With the Austin track he seems, to my mind anyway, have struck gold as a ‘curator’ rather than a ‘creator’. What a fantastic jigsaw puzzle, taking your pick of the world’s great corners and piecing them together to form a new and unique circuit. This layout is augmented by some dramatic elevation changes, with sector 1 looking particularly spectacular thanks to a climb up to turn one with the track falling away afterwards.

It’s fun to think what other corners might have been discarded as options. Obviously the track needs to flow and remain coherent, so something like Spa’s Au Rouge leading in to Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew sounds awesome but probably wouldn’t work in practice. It’s an intriguing way to go about designing a circuit, but not one that you would want repeated too often. Stringing together these great corners does not guarantee lots of overtaking, potentially quite the opposite, but there’s enough variation for both quick, barnstorming corners and slower, overtaking places.

Overall, I’m very glad that F1 is returning to the US, it’s about time and the fact that the track looks so interesting means that 2012 could well be a year to look forward too.