A Straight Request

It is of course excellent news that Formula One is to return to the USA for 2012, at a purpose-built circuit near Austin, Texas. It is not such great news that Herrman Tilke will be responsible for circuit design. According to this on Adam Cooper’s blog, the site is hilly and Tilke has been asked to create a fast track with challenging corners that resemble those of classic circuits.

In his guest post for Sidepodcast, F1 – How It Should Be, Steven Roy pointed out that many circuits have too many corners. Aerodynamically sensitive F1 cars have enough difficulty following the car in front through a turn without the additional handicap of most straights being too short to get a run at the car in front.

In recent years, I can think of two circuits at which if someone qualifies badly, I still think they can overtake their way up the field in the race, Interlagos and Indianapolis.

At the São Paulo track, there is a medium-speed corner followed by a number of flat-out left-kinks onto the start/finish, effectively equating to a very long straight, which gives the driver behind the chance to slipstream up to and alongside the car in front. Additionally, the track then turns left downhill and then right, so even if the driver in front protects the inside going into the first part, the driver behind can attack around the outside for the inside in the second part.

At Indianapolis, it also featured a medium-speed corner followed with a long flat-out blast, onto and along the banking, before the cars swooped down this time into a right-left, which provided good overtaking opportunities.

So Mr Tilke, we know designing straights is boring, that you are just itching with all your being to pack this circuit with as many corners imitating the classics as you possibly can, but please, please, please put in a great long straight off a medium speed corner onto a downhill esse. Is it too much to ask that just for once we get a Formula One circuit designed for F1 cars to overtake on?

At least the owner specified a “fast” circuit. Just imagine how many corners Tilke would put in if asked for a slow circuit!

(I will try to get around to an entry on past Grands Prix in the USA.)

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9 Responses to “A Straight Request”

  1. Tilke to design USGP circuit | F1 Says:

    [...] A Straight Request « effjuan [...]

  2. Alianora La Canta Says:

    Suzuka also allows for epic fightbacks – Kimi Raikkonen’s 17th-to-1st charge in 2005 comes to mind – but then again, it too has a long(ish) straight into a slow(ish) corner.

  3. Pat W Says:

    Shanghai has the long straight into a tight corner which seems to sometimes work – but so does Abu Dhabi and that doesn’t. Turkey has a good sequence as well, the curve and straight into the left/right/left.
    The curve somewhere along the flat-out section seems to be important.

  4. Sebastian X Says:

    I think it might be a question of the sheer length of the flat-out blast. The curves may be important because they are turns F1 cars can do full-on, even behind another car, effectively creating a longer straight than circuits of the modern age have. At other circuits, we all too often see the car behind disadvantaged in the previous corner by the disrupted airflow, and then not have enough straight to use the slipstream to catch up with the car in front.

    The hairpin at Hockenheim also seems reasonably effective (as the one at Magny-Cours saw some action). What I like about the Hockenheim arrangement is the track curves to the left, and the car in front takes the inside, so the car behind can try for the outside, becoming the inside-line for the right-hairpin.

    Obviously, something needs to be done with the cars, but I would have the Austin track feature a monster-straight like the Paul Ricard circuit used to have.

  5. Steven Roy Says:

    The problem with a lot of Tilke tracks is that they have sequences of corners packed closely together which just spread the field out. When that sequence is before the straight there is just too much of a gap between cars which can’t be made up on the straight. If the straights were 5 miles long there would be overtaking regardless of what went before or after the straight.

    Modern cars are just too fast and capable for modern circuits. Unfortunately as the cars have become more capable the circuits have become shorter and tighter. So the answer is either make the cars less capable or make the circuits longer and more open. Personally I would do both.

    • Sebastian X Says:

      Fine point well made.

      Another benefit to less corners is low-downforce set-ups. At the old Hockenheim, part the attraction was how skittish the cars could be through the Stadium section. It also increases the braking distances and makes any slow corner even slower. I wonder if low-downforce set-ups would reduce the effect of following another car through a corner; really not sure. At the old Hockenheim, it sometimes seemed possible for a car to follow another through the forest and chicanes to overtake at the third chicane or into the Stadium section.

  6. Steven Roy Says:

    A low downforce set up helps a great deal because as well as not having the downforce in the first place the cars don’t create such a choppy wake and therefore disturb following cars less. If we had F1 cars with the wings that are run in the Indy 500 we would have more overtaking.

    The one thing that is quite clear from history is that the more downforce that has been put on the cars and the more sophisticated the aerodynamics the less overtaking there has been.

    If the downforce is generated by the underbody and the car has no front wing the problem is significantly less at higher downforce levels than with a normal set up.

  7. USGP check-in: Tilke not worried about deadlines | F1 Says:

    [...] A Straight Request « effjuan [...]

  8. Tilke expects wild weekend of spins and overtaking in Korea | F1 Says:

    [...] A Straight Request « effjuan [...]

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