Formula 1 track designer Hermann Tilke has come out in defence of his work on the much-maligned Yas Marina Circuit, suggesting he did the best he could under the circumstances.
Host of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Yas Marina Circuit has been widely panned in its twelve years of existence for creating processional races, but Tilke says it is important to recognise the parameters he was forced to work with.
“The Yas Hotel, which is integrated into the circuit, has two hundred rooms,” he explained to Der Standard. “But nine months before the end of construction it was said that it should be twice as big.
“Then we built the same hotel again and put it in the water in front of it. A city district was actually supposed to be embedded on part of the race track, but this was never realized.
“That’s why we couldn’t play with the camber of the corners, which would have brought in more dynamics.”
In addition to Yas Marina, Tilke has also designed or re-designed many of the other circuits on the F1 calendar, with successes such as the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, and unpopular ones like the Sochi Autodrom in Russia.
According to the German, the differences between a good circuit and a bad one often come down to the sort of circumstances that affected Yas Marina.
“There is no such thing as the perfect track, and not every football game is exciting,” he said. “Some circuits tend to be more boring races, some to be more exciting. A good example is the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. It has good racing dynamics and is ideal for overtaking. The races there are often exciting.
“But Sochi tends towards more boring races, yes. It is located in the middle of the Olympic grounds and is built like a street circuit. We didn’t have a lot of leeway, the 2014 Olympics had priority back then. It wasn’t an easy project.
Pressed on how circuit designers can promote overtaking, Tilke said “With passages that provoke mistakes”, but insisted “that’s difficult for Formula 1, which has the best drivers in the world.
“They make mistakes on Friday and virtually none on Sunday. They have the best technicians. Many factors, such as tyre wear, play a role.”
Even the classic long straight followed by a heavy braking zone is no guarantee according to Tilke.
“If the corners before [the straight] don’t allow you to catch up with the car in front far enough, it’s no use. Faster cars can’t make up this gap on the straights. The Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi suffers from this phenomenon. It’s also due to the aerodynamics of the cars. That may change with the new rules.
As to the charge his designs have led to a proliferation of all-too-similar ‘Tilkedromes’ on the F1 calendar, the German argued there is a difference between tracks having some similar elements and an overall similar character.
“The [use of] long straights and sharp corners are due to the overtaking opportunities. If you break it down to these elements, yes. If you compare the total routes, no. They are different in character.
“We cannot build ten Red Bull rings just because it works well.”