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Hermann Tilke, FIA and more

A German Engineer who is also a designer and an racer in his own rights, Tilke has been the face of the many new circuits across the globe. Often criticized for the similarity between his tracks, Tilke is still the preferred man for many of the new aspiring projects. His popularity is growing with each passing day and so are the criticisms. But should he alone be blamed for all the debacle?

Editor's Pick 15 Dec 2012, 09:50 IST

A German engineer, who is also a designer and an racer in his own rights, Tilke has been the face of the many new circuits across the globe. Often criticized for the similarity between his tracks, Tilke is still the preferred man for many of the new aspiring projects. His popularity is growing with each passing day and so are the criticisms. But should he alone be blamed for all the debacle?


In this off season, a big word that’s been passed around is that the Circuit of the America isn’t exactly being designed by Hermann Tilke himself. There are many unconfirmed things at the moment but it seems the organisers have actually used Tilke to engineer a concept which was penned by Tavo Hellmund and Kevin Schwantz. Some reports have said that Tilke has been hired only to ensure that the track passes the safety requirements and that Tilke didn’t give any input on the design of the circuit at all.


Although Tilke can add COTA to the list of his portfolios, it would be really unfortunate if it’s learnt that Tilke hasn’t had any say in the design of the circuit at all. We use the term ‘unfortunate’ because it is a well known fact that many sections of the public have praised Tilke for his efforts at COTA and has labelled it as one of the best circuits of the recent decade. It can also be observed that the circuit actually possess many of the characteristics of Tilke and his projects. So it has to be believed that Tilke played a part in the design of COTA. For a designer of his caliber and for someone who has been instrumental in making some ambitious projects across the globe, there has been constant criticisms as such.

His total projects tally now stands at 25, including the ones that are under construction. These 25 projects are the ones that have been built from scratch, but then there are few other projects that he has done where he has just altered an existing design, and many of his projects have been used in the current F1 Calendar. It’s really easy to identify a circuit that’s been designed by Tilke and that’s why he has been facing criticisms as such. All the circuits share some resemblance with one or many of his previously designed circuits.The circuits that are pioneered by him usually have a long straight and many run off areas apart from a long multi apex corner. A common claim is that his circuits are really good for driving but it is bad for racing. This is a crucial comment and it is really unfortunate that many people have shared the similar opinion on Tilke.



Bad for Racing

The cry for the need of the legendary circuits in a calendar is growing with the induction of new circuits. It’s not that a common man hates a new circuit or a new destination, but it’s generally because of the fact that the new circuits haven’t provided any sort of excitement as found in a legendary circuit.
We are not here to blame Tilke and it’s really unfortunate that Tilke is being blamed for the similarities that he provides between his circuits, but it’s down to the regulations that is been penned by the FIA.

FIA, on their part, have given strict regulations only to ensure nasty accidents don’t happen. They have clearly learnt from the past and are ensuring that there is minimum chance of fatalities that can happen on track.

Sometimes it really feels like a loop and to blame someone will be really inappropriate. But maybe it’s down to FIA now and it’s important for them to remove some of the strict regulations that they have enforced on the new circuits. There is still time for them to rethink on what will be better for the sport, but how long before they react?

The following are some of the regulations that are needed for a new circuit to qualify for the FIA licence:

- The maximum permitted length for straight sections of track is 1.4 km.

- If the circuit is intended for FIA Championship, Trophy or Cup events, the length should be calculated to satisfy the minimal stipulated in Supplement 2. It is recommended that the length of any new circuit should not exceed 7 km.

- The length of a circuit for the calculation of race distances, race records and classifications is considered to be that of the centreline of the track. Unless otherwise stated, all references to straights and curves in these criteria concern the actual trajectory followed by the cars with the highest performance and not the geometrical form of the layout (The trajectory, when traced on the plan, will generally have the effect of reducing the straights and elongating the curves: when planning or modifying a course, the designer must base his calculations upon it).

- When planning new permanent circuits, the track width foreseen should be at least 12 m. Where the track width changes, the transition should be made as gradually as possible, at a rate not greater than 1 m in 20 m total width. The width of the starting grid should be at least 15 m; this width must be maintained through to the exit of the first corner (as indicated by the racing line).

- Along straights, the transversal incline, for drainage purposes, between the two edges of the track or between the centre-line and the edge (camber), should not exceed 3%, or be less than 1.5%. In curves, the banking (downwards from the outside to the inside of the track) should not exceed 10 % (with possible exceptions in special cases, such as speedways). An adverse incline is not generally acceptable unless dictated by special circumstances, in which case the entry speed should not exceed 125 kph. Any variation in transversal incline, particularly along the entry and exit sections of a planimetrical curve, should have adequate altimetrical transitions, based on the trajectory and on consideration of point 7.4. Systems for adequate drainage of water from the track, pit lane, paddock and public areas should be treated as a priority in the planning stage.

- Unless otherwise indicated because of features such as pit exit and entry roads, a permanent track should be bordered along its entire length on both sides by continuous white lines clearly marked in anti-skid paint, minimum 10 cm wide, and compact verges, usually between 1 m and 5 m wide, having an even surface. These verges should be a continuation of the transversal profile of the track, with no step between track and verge: any transition should be very gradual.

- A run-off area is an area of ground between the verge and the first line of protection. A run-off area should be graded to the verge. If the area has a slope, this should not exceed 25 % upwards (does not apply to gravel beds) or 3 % downwards, with a smooth transition from track to run-off area, in relation to the lateral projection of the track surface.

- For standing starts, there should be at least 6 m length of grid per car (8 m for the Formula One World Championship). There should preferably be at least 250 m between the starting line and the first corner. By corner, in these cases only, is understood a change of direction of at least 45°, with a radius of less than 300 m.


Pressure on others

FIA doesn’t seem to realize some of the facts for the lack of excitement. Some of the regulations that they changed in the last couple of years were down to the fact that overtakings during a race is absolutely minimum and which is the reason for the fall in excitement and a dip in viewership. All the legendary racers for sure would be disappointed at the way Formula 1 is being held now. DRS is one such step that is enforced by the FIA to assist overtaking and this has been criticized by many as racing has been turned to an artificial affair which is not a good deal for the sport. Along with the FIA, Pirelli too is trying hard to create an excitement in the sport. They have ensured that the Tyre strategy too plays an important role in the race which was missing ever since the ‘Refuelling’ was banned from the sport. They made sure that tyres play an important aspect of a team’s success and the operating range of each compounds was tweaked in several aspects for this season. Pirelli has been the reason for the unpredictability that we saw at the start of the 2012 season as many teams found it hard to understand the tyre compounds. Although the teams are better prepared for the next season, it was an interesting contribution from Pirelli. It has to be noted that several people have started criticizing Pirelli for what they have been doing ever since their return to the sport. Although it’s entirely a different topic, the whole agenda for Pirelli was to create an excitement over the course of the race.



Well, it will be a surprising fact to many but it’s important to know that along with Tilke, there are three other designers recognized by the FIA. The other designers are Clive Bowen (Apex Court Design), Alan Wilson (Wilson Motorsport) and Ron Dickson (D3 Motorsport Development).
It will be interesting if anyone will think beyond Tilke now. But one has to realize what others can do if they are provided with strict regulations. There is little scope of improvement but it will be really good if someone hires a designer other than Tilke to see what sort of improvement can be made and a fresh air and a fresh thought is also good for the sport. But unfortunately, all the new aspiring projects are been been penned by Tilke at the moment and no one seems to think beyond him. Velociudad Speedway is one of the new aspiring projects and they have gone with a different approach altogether. (Read More on Velociudad here and the Interview of Efi Freedman who is one of the promoters of the circuit)

Hermann Tilke and stats:

Sepang        76
Shanghai      90
Bahrain         72
Valencia        79

Singapore      62
Korea             33
India               31
Abu Dhabi      51
United States 59

This is the what the overtaking stats were for this season on the Tilke designed circuits. Last season, Korea witnessed 46 while the Buddh International witnessed just 27. Although the reasons for the lack of excitement at Buddh International Circuit can be understood for this season, Korea doesn’t seem to be in a comfort zone. Most of the F1 Universe doesn’t seem to be far too impressed with the Korean circuit and with the organisers themselves are in a spot of bother, that’s one circuit which seems to be under immense scrutiny. It will be fair to say that Korea deserves a break from the F1 Calendar for now. But would a change in date in the F1 Calendar help the Yeongam circuit?

With the change in regulations among many factors, the stats don’t seem to be too bad for Tilke’s projects, especially in the last couple of seasons to say the least. Last season saw Singapore and Abu Dhabi witness 54 and 64 successful moves, although both of them witnessed 28 and 13 moves respectively in the 2010 season. While in the 2009 season, it was down to 2 successful moves at Singapore while Abu Dhabi witnessed just 6 moves.Other circuits of his have the similar stats and the growth seems to be spiked by the change in regulations and this explains the absolute need of DRS for now, but the story so far is clear. Without the change in regulations, many of the new circuits would have been constantly criticized and if it wasn’t for the change in regulations, we could have seen the last of the few new tracks.So where does this put Hermann Tilke?It would be completely unfair to write him off the charts. Yes, his tracks share same characteristics but he alone cannot be blamed. FIA should share the blame and with the introduction of new regulations along with Pirelli, they have proved that racing can be made exciting but the question would be for how long does this artificial racing going to exist? The other question would be to ask someone what more can be done in places like Valencia and Singapore where there is minimum chance of experimentation. Tilke certainly has improved over the years, Buddh International Circuit and Circuit of the America are prime examples of the same. But then, a lot more is really expected of him, especially in his upcoming projects. Failing to improvise will result in more criticism and it might put an end to his contribution at the pinnacle of motorsport.

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