September 01, 2010

Dissecting The Austin F1 Circuit Map

There comes a time in every person's life when one of their core beliefs is shaken to its very core, and they must reassess everything they thought prior to that time in response.  My friends, one of those times has come to me, for reader David has pointed me in the direction of a press release from the promoter of the new US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.  This press release contains a proposed circuit map as designed by Hermann Tilke.  As readers of my F1 posts are aware, I am not fond of Hermann Tilke as a track designer.  Only his design for the Istanbul Otodrom is any good as far as I'm concerned, with his other layouts ranking "meh" at best.  Here's the overhead map for the Austin track:

I have to admit, publicly and with no shame whatsoever, that I actually like this.  There seem to be a number of homages to other tracks here, like Tilke sat down and borrowed some of the best features of them.  For example, I see Suzuka's famed "S Curves" or Silverstone's Maggots-Becketts-Chapel complex in the Turns 3-4-5 on the map, Montreal's Hairpin at Turn 11, Turkey's Quad-8 at Turn 16-18, and Abu Dhabi's massive back straight is echoed by the 3/4th of a mile long back straight here. 

All of which is nice, to be sure, but it gets better... oh yes, yes it does... when you look at the elevation map.  Seems this time, Tilke's gotten to play with something other than a featureless plain.


Suddenly, the rather bland Turn 1 becomes a blind hairpin at the peak of a huge (for F1, at least) hill climb.  One's imagination allows us to see modern F1 cars imitating the cars of the '60s as they zip over Turn 10, getting slightly airborne as they do... in truth, nothing of the sort will happen, what with all the downforce that modern cars generate, but we can imagine it at least.  And that's something that a Tilke track has never allowed us to do before. 

In fact, the elevation changes are what's going to make this circuit.  The back straight, which at Abu Dhabi is simply kinda dull despite the high speeds attained, becomes a roller-coaster affair here, which adds flavor and spice.  The whole thing reminds me a lot of Spa-Francopants, to be honest, which is a GOOD thing.

There's even three obvious passing locations here, which is about three more than you get at a normal Tilke circuit.  Turn 1 is obvious, as is the hairpin at 11.  I'm thinking Turn 12, at the end of the back straight, is the third.

There are some apparent clunkers on the map, too.  I believe that if the circuit went from Turn 12 to Turn 15 directly, as opposed to going through that little "R" shaped segment, the excitement levels would be through the roof as the cars charged into the Quad-8 clone.  I'd trade a passing opportunity to see that spectacle, no question.  Without a doubt the "R" makes it a safer circuit by slowing cars down after that long sprint, and rightfully so, but I can't shake the feeling that Tilke missed a chance for a true classic there.  It also seems, at least from these maps, that Turn 7, which appears to be a nearly 90-degree bend, might ruin the rhythm section that the run from Turn 2 to the Hairpin is supposed to be.  I can just imagine what it's like to have gotten a good flow through the S Curves that leads you beautifully into what I'm going to call 180R... and then have to crank on full lock to make Turn 7.  Disturbing, and I'm not even driving.  I'm also curious as to where the pitlane release is going to be.  From the overhead, it looks like it'll probably be just before Turn 3, which'll make it one of the longest pit outs in F1, but it also could be just before Turn 2, which'll make for a fine accident waiting to happen.  We'll see.  All of that's just nitpicking, of course... the track as a whole looks awfully entertaining, both for a spectator and probably for a driver.

All of which makes me wonder: is Hermann Tilke actually a talented designer who was never given the correct canvas to work upon?  Or a bland formulaic designer who has just gotten lucky, like a hack artist who is suddenly told he gets to apply body paint to Christina Hendricks? 

UPDATE: I've just read the official article on formula1.com, and they confirm the whole "homage" thing, specifically mentioning the Magots-Becketts mirror and the Quad-8 clone, along with the "R" being a tip o' the cap to Hockenheim's stadium section.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:47 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
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1 ))(&^%@)% windshield smashed in by flying pig strike!

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at September 02, 2010 01:21 AM (mRjOr)

2 That track is a thing of beauty!

Posted by: Mallory at September 02, 2010 10:24 AM (WJ2qy)

3 I just found a larger version of the track map here: http://formula1unitedstates.com/images/pressKit/Draft%20Track%20Layout%20F1%20USGP.pdf

It looks to me like pit out is at the end of the front straight right before turn 1, but I can't imagine that's correct.

Posted by: David at September 02, 2010 10:55 AM (oyblT)

4

That big map shows the expected line.

If it's right, it makes the T15-T18 complex a lot less interesting. Seems like the road bed is wide enough so that the expected line through there is a smooth curve. It doesn't have the challenging aspect of "Quad 8" (I believe it was called).

The problem is that it's too small. If those exact same turns were further apart, then it would be much more challenging.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 02, 2010 02:03 PM (+rSRq)

5 I wonder about that, Steven.  I suspect that what we'll really have is a "turn" that will have a changing radius depending on which apex you happen to be looking at.  That's what the Turkish Quad-8 does, and I can't imagine them NOT copying that feature.

I'll note that the elevation map seems to show three distinct "kinks" in the turn, which is why I think what I do.  I also note that the Austin-8 (hey, I think I've got something there!) appears to be going uphill, too.  That's gotta make it more difficult, too.

I'm pretty sure that Turn 1 will be pushed as the signature turn for Austin, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Austin-8 will wind up with the accolades in the end...

Posted by: Wonderduck at September 02, 2010 07:06 PM (blg68)

6 So when is this track going to get used?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 02, 2010 09:54 PM (+rSRq)

7 F1 returns to the USA in 2012.  No exact date yet, but it's a sure thing that it'll be either the weekend before, or the weekend after, the Canadian GP; figure sometime in June or July.

Posted by: Wonderduck at September 02, 2010 10:01 PM (blg68)

8 I was thinking, 21 GPs in 2012? 19 this year, adding India in 2011 and US in 2012, that would be madness! But it looks like right now China, Istanbul and Japan have been dropped for 2012. Not that surprised based on turn out for the first two. But no Japanese GP? Seems odd. But no Japanese teams so...

Posted by: Buttons at September 17, 2010 12:42 AM (NOsNG)

9 Buttons, Darth Bernie says that 20 races is the maximum he thinks the calendar can carry.  The three races you mentioned aren't contracted past the 2011 year.  There's currently 18 tracks that'll be run for 2012, with the possibility of Moscow joining for #19.  Bring back Japan for #20.

Posted by: Wonderduck at September 17, 2010 07:04 AM (blg68)

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