This F1 Life
This F1 Life

THE PROBLEMS FACING CIRCUIT DESIGNERS

Pat Symonds

When we debate how to create more exciting racing, the focus inevitably falls on the cars themselves – but there are many other elements of our sport that have primary influences on the spectacle. One of the most significant of these is the design of the circuits.

Many have already earned unfavourable reputations, such as Abu Dhabi for its lack of overtaking and Sochi for its unique effect on tyres. So why can’t we come up with a recipe for circuit design that provides the parameters necessary for exciting racing?

If only it were that simple. Circuit designers labour under many constraints, not all of which are visible to the spectator. The current leader in the field of circuit design is Hermann Tilke, whose company has now built or modified 75 circuits around the world, 12 of which are on the 2018 Formula 1 calendar.

The design and construction project required to commission a new circuit is enormous. From beginning to end will take up to three years, and at its peak may employ 3,000 construction workers.

When one considers how much the performance and the rules of F1 can change in that three-year construction period – let alone the lifetime of the track – one starts to understand some of the problems a circuit designer faces.

A track layout isn’t limited only by the designer’s imagination. The project is boxed in from all sides: the potential for noise and environmental impacts, local planning constraints, the size and shape of the plot allocated for construction, the topography of the site, and the local infrastructure surrounding it.

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March 2018