Is Hermann Tilke Slowly Killing Formula One?

Michael Griffin was mortified at the terrible action at the European Grand Prix last week, and now wonders if Hermann Tilke is killing the sport?

by Michael Griffin (Senior Writer)


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August 28, 2008

Auto Racing, Formula 1, Editorial

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Hermann Tilke, born Dec. 31, 1954, in Olpe, Germany, is an architect and designer of Formula One motor racing circuits.


Tilke established Tilke Engineering in 1984, combining skills in architecture, civil engineering and electronic engineering to provide complete solutions for motor racing and waste disposal projects.


One of his first, minor tasks was a short access road at the Nürburgring, earned due to contacts made by his racing efforts there. He later redesigned the first turn complex of the circuit in 2002.


Tilke’s first major redevelopment job was the dramatic change from the fast Österreichring to the much shorter A1-Ring in Austria, in 1996 and ready for 1997.


Having made numerous controversial changes to the established stable of F1 circuits, Tilke secured the contracts to design many high-profile new circuits from scratch. These include:


NOTE: If I have missed any, please inform me.


Tilke was also involved in the massively controversial overhaul of the Hockenheimring in Germany. He also redesigned the Fuji Speedway in Japan for circuit owners Toyota.


The alterations that were carried out to the Hockenheimring have generally not been well-received by many fans of F1, who believe he has castrated a once-great circuit. He removed the ENTIRE section of the track that blasted through the forest at over 215mph.


The blast through the forest is what the track became famous for, and it was even featured on advertising for the Grand Prix of Germany. The main reason for the redevelopment was safety, despite the fact that the track had not seen a death in over 20 years. It was always a difficult track to set up for.


If you had a fast car in a straight line, you were sure to finish well. If you didn’t, you were screwed.


Tilke has already carried out minor work to the Circuit de Catalunya, where he removed the sweeping penultimate corner in favour for a tight, three-turn section that then exits on to the start/finish straight.


Tilke has also made changes to Monza. For the 2000 Italian Grand Prix, Tilke redesigned the first corner complex for a much slower, twisting section. The previous layout had the cars thunder through two left-right sections before making their way down to turn five.


Tilke will be involved in designing a new infield section of Donington Park in time to host the British Grand Prix in 2010.

Tilke's trademark of circuit is a mixture of long straight and tight hairpins, most at the beginning of his tracks, which is supposed to encourage overtaking.

I think every track he has done so far is boring, only turn eight at Turkey is interesting. He killed the Hockenheimring, and will probably be pleading with Simon Gillet to do the same to the Kraner Curves at Donington.

Sepang is just ridiculous, and it presents just two good overtaking opportunities. Bahrain has a similar corner to Malaysia and again presents just two, perhaps three overtaking places.

Shanghai again has four good places, but only if you are on an overdose of brave pills. Off the stupidly long straight you can easily overtake, but the rest involve more bravery than driving skill.

Valencia was an absolute failure in terms of racing action, and there were three overtakes all afternoon. Abu Dhabi is meant to be a street circuit that is ridiculously wide, and has silly run-off areas like Bahrain.

That isn’t a street circuit, is it? Tilke is on a mission to obliterate Formula One, and maybe the new aero rules next year can be the only thing to save the art of overtaking.

The question I ask of you is this, is Hermann Tilke slowly killing Formula One? Are his tracks becoming increasingly boring?

Thanks for reading.




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comments (31) write a comment »

  1. interesting views
    for me, nothing can undo what he did to hockenheim... turn eight at istanbul is good... nothing else is that spectacular if i'm honest
    I didn't know he'd designed so many circuits though, he's making an awful lot of profit i'm guessing

    1. Yep, he is one rich bastard that is for sure. I will never forgive him, Bernie or Max for ruining Hockenheim.

  2. Outstanding work Michael, a worthy read.

    1. Thank you, much appreciated.

  3. i think istanbul's turn 8 - is a master piece mate

    sorry we have to agree to disagree on Tilke

    sakhir and shanghai are also very challenging and provides ample overtaking opportunities

    michael won in shanghai from P6

    Kimster last year

    so - i think tilke killing f-1 - is actually an exaggeration

    1. I never said that they don't rpovide overtaking opportunities, in-fact, I said they have a few, but the races do tend to be boring, apart from 2006 and 2007 in shanghai. apart from that, that is it really.

  4. you've always had a thing for being a prima donna

    am still gonna hold you to the federer retiring at the end of NY this year

    1. are you still remembering that? Jeez, I couldn't myself!

  5. and Michael

    I still am a touch irked - that you left my Istanbul vote out of the RT ... for some reason am not able to let that go ...

    for i was the only one who even brought Istanbul into the discussion

    you should have included me Mike .... probably dont count the votes - but it irks me


    1. Well we'll forget about that, I have, and so should you really.

    2. PEACE ! we'll drink this down ... but please do let that be the last time Mike -

      appreciate it

  6. Agree with you mike , Hockenheim is now majorly boring in comparison to the old one .

    I think the people who designed Spa's layout should take over , there arent enough forrest adventure type Grand Prix' , which i think are the most exciting , Herman Tilkke makes me wanna eat a Razor Blade sidewards .

    5* and POTD

    1. too much - as always .... too overboard

      like you wanna kill luca di - and tilke razor blade

      too much - vintage you !

      i think tilke is fine - definitely not razor blade domain

    2. Sideways? Razor Blade? You REALLY don't like him haha!

    3. Why whats wrong with that LJS ? If i wanna say he makes ME WANT TO EAT A RAZOR BLADE SIDEWARDS then ill say it , i didnt say id do anything to herman like your putting it across !!!!

      Im giving my opinion and Herman Tilkke circuits are boring , the only decent one in my eyes is actually Valencia , maybe singapore can change my mind but i doubt it .

  7. Tilke is trying to create tracks where cars can overtake so he is rather limited on what he can do. You can't overtake at fast tracks like Silverstone. Generally his tracks do very well in the overtaking charts at the end of the season, better than the classic tracks we all love dearly.

    All the precautions are taken with the new tracks whereas they certainly weren't when tracks like Silverstone and Spa were built. Designers aren't allowed to design a Spa or Silverstone anymore.

    The other problem against Tilke is that most of his new tracks have been built where F1 is not that popular so thats why these new races lack atmosphere. Turkey is a great track but it's hardly used all season which is why it's so dirty offline and hard to overtake, also the lack of F1 interest isn't his fault.

    If he had built the Turkey circuit in France or Britain it would be a much more loved race track.

    I agree with maybe someone else should have a go at designing a track but I don't think Tilke's tracks have been that bad.

    I actually have an article planned about new track Vs classic tracks where I will be doing comparisons in different criterias. So we will see which is better.

  8. What's the bet that Tilke has a silent partner, one Bernie E!

    1. Oh god yes, it's a dead cert.

  9. Is Tlke ruining motor racing tracks? Undoubtedly he has done some significant harm to some tracks, Hockeheim being the worst of the worst. But we shouldn't be too quick to fault Tilke overall.

    Overtaking should not be a function of the track, but of the cars. The problem is Aerodynamics. This aspect of racing has taken over the sport to it's detriment. The addition of wings was unfortunate and it has led to a long line of innovations. The incredible down force being created by F1 cars permits them to go too deeply into corners shortening the braking distance in slower corners so much that there is little chance to pass. In the fast sweepers little or often no braking is required and thus passing becomes impossible when all cars are on the limit and have to take more or less the same line through. Add to that the fact that faster cars cannot too closley approach a slower car in front because grip will be lost in dirty air as the cars turn in, giving the leading, and slower car, the advantage. That leaves the best opportunity to pass by making a faster exit from a corner that leads onto a long straight where the extra speed can be used, hopefully, to pass the car in front. It works well between, say Ferrari or McClaren and Force India and others of that ilk, but the leading cars are so closely matched that only seldom does it work. So now we are left with what has become the major way to pass--wait for the pit stop and hope for the best. Sad.

    The sport needs to return to mechanical grip as it's main development interest. Until that happens overtaking with be very difficult no matter the track layout. Aero development has been so great that it has ruined racing as it once was, taking much of the excitement out--after all wheel to wheel racing is where the great challenge is for the drivers (who love it) and most of the excitement for the spectators who also love it. Cars should be cars, not inverted aircraft.

  10. Is there any way that Tilke can be banned from designing tracks? The highlight of his career is Turkey turn 8.

    1. Yep, one turn is all that defines him. I wonder if anyone else will ever design a circuit?

    2. mike - einstein will forever be defined by just one simple equation

      E = Mc2

      you dont need a million pieces to be regarded as good - ? get the drift

    3. Not sure I agree, one corner does not a race track make!

  11. Woooo ... Go on mate, nice one ... I like it !

    Some interesting views ... ALTHOUGH ... I am on the fence on this one, I dont dislike any of the circuits mentioned ... So while I am not disagreeing I am not particularly agreeing !

    GREAT article though mate !

    1. See, I don't particularly hate the circuits, just don't like them, i suppose lol.

      Oh and thanks for the POTD, or whatever it is now.

    2. No bother mate !

  12. This is great stuff, and a new angle for us to think about.

    You've convinced me the guy is guilty - who's got the rope?

    5* and Pick.

    1. Cheers for the stars and the Pick mate, much appreciated.

  13. I agree 100% with Ted, its the aerodynamics not Tilke that is harming the sport, like I say in the article I've just written, this year is good but next year is going to be awesome! Unfortunately at a few tracks this season I have found the Qualifying more exiting than the race...

    1. Aerodynamics are part of it, but still, this aeor package works fine at a place like Monaco where we often see overtaking now. Tilke is the main reason, and yes, next year will be truly insane, can't wait for slicks to come back.

  14. What i heard is that hockenheim was redesigned because they wanted more sponsorship to be shown, Don't know if its really true.

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About the Author Michael Griffin (senior writer)

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