Is Istanbul Park the best Tilke track?

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Rubens Barrichello, Honda, Istanbul, 2007, 470150

Is Istanbul Park the best F1 track Hermann Tilke has designed?

Bernie Ecclestone’s track designer of choice gets a lot of flak from fand for building dull circuits. But Istanbul’s mix of gradients, a pair of decent overtaking opportunities, and the impressive four-apex turn eight make it one of his more popular efforts.

How do you think it compares to his other tracks?

A1-Ring, Austria (1997) – Tilke lopped all the fast corners off the old, super-fast Osterreichring and replaced them with hairpins. the result was a soulless track but one that was at least good for overtaking and produced a few decent races, before being dropped in 2003.

Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia (1999) – Mixes fast corners and long straights, but few really impressive bends.

New Hockenheimring, Germany (2002) – Widely derided for turning the high-speed Hockenheimring into just another stadium track without a corner worthy of the name.

Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain (2004) – An A1-Ring in the desert. Flat and featureless.

Shanghai International Circuit, China (2004) – Vast sums spent on a totally charmless track. It’s flat, it’s wide, it’s medium-high downforce, and it’s only interesting when it rains (fortunately that happened the last two years in a row).

Fuji Speedway, Japan (2007) – Stripped away the fast, sweeping corners of the Fuji circuit and installed a series of tight, slow corners in their place. A miserable replacement for the mighty Suzuka Circuit.

For more information on these tracks see:

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Is Istanbul Park the best Tilke track?”

  1. in my opinion the ratio of bad (far to many) to good (far to few) tracks he has built does not make him a good track designer at all. school results of this nature would result in an instant and definite failure. its further sad that he has been allowed and gone on to butcher and sterilise many other once great circuits.

  2. There was one feature in F1 racing a while back, a supercircuit with all the great turns, and all with the right entry speed and elevation. Sublime.

  3. Nikos Darzentas
    8th May 2008, 21:01

    from driving his tracks on F1 simulators (on PC), I have to say that I really enjoy Bahrain… the others are good, with the exception of Fuji which is as boring as being at home without electricity

  4. Has Tilke ever driven a race car?  It’s either that, or he’s too reigned in by the FIA’s track design rules to make an interesting track.  There’s no way someone could be so clueless as to what makes a track fun, unless they’ve never driven on a track before.
    Fun: Fast corners/kinks (like Eau Rouge); Corners combined with elevation ‘peaks’ to make the car light (aka the airport corners @ the old Nurburgring); Corners with elevation ‘valley’s to make the car grip (like Eau Rouge); Combinations of the last two (‘Corkscrew’ @ Laguna Seca); Banked corners – not so much NASCAR banking, but just enough to let you take the corner quicker than you should (the “esses” @ Watkins Glen); Tricky combinations (the “esses” @ Suzuka).
    My personal favorite though is corners that allow about 98% throttle, although designing a track for this is nearly impossible as the radius this dictates is very dependent on the car being driven.

    Not fun: Long straights followed by tight hairpins, or just hairpins in general; Tight chicanes (although quick chicanes can be quite fun);  Off-camber turns (some drivers may enjoy these, but to me they’re just painful).
    Looking at my above list, I can see one problem – ‘fun’ corners are pretty mutually exclusive to ‘good for overtaking’.

  5. That’s a good point Scootin in fact I touched on that in an earlier post: Don’t blame Tilke, blame the rules

  6. TommyBellingham
    8th May 2008, 22:19

    Turkey is always a boring grand prix :S What overtaking oppertunities?

  7. Turn one and the tight corner at the end of the long straight. It’s still not easy in F1, but that’s the fault of the cars not the track (see the second video here for example).

  8. Terry Fabulous
    8th May 2008, 23:15

    I love Turkey, it is Tilke’s masterpeice although I have a real soft spot for the A-1 ring.

    I remember hearing martin brundle talking about how the evolution of the cars effects how the circuit is rated.

    When he started racing at Suzuka the Esses where a convential squirt and brake series of bends, but by the time he left they had become the supreme seperation of the good and the Brilliant as you flicked the cars through.

    Or the reverse, Eau Rouge used to be the supreme test, Montoya described it as “Easy Flat”

    Try it..
    Get into F12005 on Playstation2 and try driving Suzuka in a mid 80’s spec car and see how boring the Esses are! Or how tough Spa is.

    My point is, the circuits need to reflect the capactities of the cars.

    Having said that, a good circuit is one that produces good racing, and by that rationale, his best circuit is by far Fuji since it is located where is rains every day at 2pm!

  9. Paul Sainsbury
    8th May 2008, 23:23

    While I certainly don’t want to see a return to the bad old days of drivers losing their lives, I do think the huge run-off areas of the modern circuits remove much of the challenge. I agree with Stirling Moss on this who has pointed out that if a tightrope act consisted of walking across a tightrope 1 meter from the ground, anyone could, and probably would, have a go. That is why spa is still so awesome, imagine a season of 18 races on tracks of that quality… would be incredible!

  10. This is tough because I agree with nearly everybody on this blog as you all make great and valid points. My favourite Tilke track is the A1 Ring, which as you pointed out Keith, did give us some good races in the late ’90s early 00’s.
    My main criticism of Turkey, which is my favourite ‘new’ Tilke track, is the disuse of giving the corners proper names.
    A four apex corner of such mega proportions deserves a name a little more glamorous than Turn 8, after all, F1
    is a sport that prides itself on its glamorous heritage. The names Eau Rouge, Copse, Tamburello, Ascari, Parabolica. These names mean something, they make the average petrolhead’s hairs stand on end, could not we conjure up something more mystical and worthy than Turn 8?
    Also, I agree strongly with Scootin’, in that Tilke may well have been handicapped by safety regulations when he designed tracks like Bahrain, Turkey, and China, infact its almost certain he was.
    When you factor in the number of safety measures that have been carried out on the cars and the circuits, surely we can have future circuits that are a little more aweinspiring than the ones we have had of late?

  11. Whilst he has butchered some of the circuits the question does come down to how much his hands are tied.

    There is a a video on YouTube ( about how Herman Tilke designs his tracks, a fascinating insight on how he goes about it. As for what Stirling Moss said is correct, but do remember that before Senna and Ratzenburger died the last fatality was 12 years previously so really the cars between 83 and 93 were safe enough as well as the tracks they were on. Regulations had made the cars safer after the fatal year of 82 which were then relaxed for 94 before being overtightened by an incompetent twit beginning with M.

  12. Turkey is brilliant! Either in terms of fast corners, gradient changes, and it’s interesting to watch on TV. Not to mention, it’s also fun on the Playstation.

    For Tilke’s other tracks, I wouldn’t put a lot of blame in him. First, he has to work with whatever piece of land given to him. In Bahrain and Shanghai, the land is flat, so the track is too. It’d be crazy to artificially build slopes on those tracks.

    And about the “bland” straights and tight corners which Tilke is criticized for, it’s the F1 cars inability to follow closely that is to blame. I’m sure if F1 cars behave like GP2 cars, Tilke can have a lot more freedom to install fast corners. In a nutshell, I think Tilke has done what is demanded by the location, overtaking possiblity, hospitality, and safety. We can fantisize having a modern Spa or Nordschleifer, but that’s just unrealistic in this day & age (sadly).

  13. Not forgetting that F1 is only one of dozens of series that race at all these circuits, on both four and two wheels. He doesn’t design F1 circuits, he designs racetracks. That said though, I’d rather race Suzuka than Fuji any day!

  14. Friend of mine raced motorbikes few times in Shanghai and he finds that track very challenging, especially the first few corners. I will get him to talk more about his experience. It will not answer the question whether it is a good track for F1 though :-) (Unfortunatelly he will have to think back a year or two, he could not fly there this year, beause Chinese authorities cancelled all the MotoGP support races shortly before the event because of “security concerns” …)

    I also know few guys who keep their racing Porsches at Sepang and race there often, will get them talking too, to bring some different perspective on that track too …

    From F1 point of view – I really like the Istanbul track and drivers do seem to enjoy going there too.

    Shanghai – If there is no rain, there is always the manhole cover that can stand up and hit tyre of the approaching car :-)

  15. bring back unrestricted V10’s and slicks and watch his tracks become beautiful again.

    Turn 8 of Istanbul isn’t full throttle in a V10.

  16. Whewbacca the Cookie
    9th May 2008, 11:20

    I think Istanbul Park is probably Tilke’s best effort. A-1 would be a close second. However I agree with the limit regarding naming the corners. There are some unofficial names floating around but Turn 8 certainly deserves a special name.

  17. Good call Sush.
    Driver’s like fast corners where they can push the car to the limit, but you cannot overtake through a fast corner. So there needs to be a good combination of fast corners for the driver’s enjoyment and slow corners for the spectators enjoyment. I think A-1 was awesome, it really showed who the fastest was. I think Turkey is definitely his best so far, Malaysia not far behind. Terry Fabulous made a good point, that playing his tracks on a video game are definitely a lot of fun. I think China and Bahrain are fun to drive in a video game.

  18. Firstly , as described above “the mighty Suzuka” , I totally agree is one of the most awesome tracks – on a PC game in my experience , I can just imagine what it must be like in reality. And I don’t think that was designed by Tilke. Neither was Laguna Seca , which in my mind is another brilliant track – but maybe not suitable for F1 . Bahrain is no bad track , except could have more in the way of faster corners in place of the many sharp kinks. As for the “Old” Nurburgring , obviously many safety problems , but otherwise definitely would seperate the men from the mouse. Whether it’s Tilke or someone else , perhaps sections of a combination of the best should be copied and included in the next design.

  19. The problem is this overdesigning and overanalysis of circuits and their characteristics. I mean, we’re actually trying to design in overtaking opportunities when a track like Spa has few if any “obvious” overtaking zones yet produces more passing than any of the new circuits.

    At Spa, Suzuka, and the old Hockenheim, a number of the most prominent overtaking zones were into 100+mph corners, or by means of slipstreaming down the long “straights”. If we’re looking at things by current standards, Blanchimont should be screwing up passes into the Bus Stop and Eau Rouge should ruin passing into Les Combes, but that doesn’t happen.

    A variety of racing lines is created when you have a series of bends and corners of proper magnitude and make up that you get a very sinuous layout, which doesn’t necessarily have one perfect racing line. Of course, this is not easy to do, and can cause more problems if done wrong. The esses going into the infield at Bahrain screw up virtually any overtaking attempt into the hairpin that follows. And then the curve before the next hairpin screws up passing into that corner as well.

    If there is a problem with F1 cars, it is not a specific issue. It is not just the aero dependency of the cars. It is not just inadequate mechanic grip. It is not just a matter of too high a braking potential. It is, near as I can tell, a case of the cars being so on edge at all times. Those crazy GP2 displays can occur because the track in certain respects offers more potential than the cars can make use of. Therefore, the cars still have that kind of compliance in the Maggots, Becketts, Chapel complex for instance.

    Given how much money Tilke has to work with, and the amount of earthmoving involved anyway, why not make some hills in the flatter landscapes to make the tracks better?

    I don’t find Tilke’s tracks to have good, cohesive flow, so they are or generally would be frustrating for me to drive in a simulator. Anyone can string together what appear to be a series of challenging corners; the real test lies in making the track fit together as a whole.

  20. The Arabs could of made hills for the Bahrain track, They have houses on the ocean..

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