Are you really a Formula One fan if you haven’t cursed a Tilkedrome at least once in your life? It’s pretty commonplace to lambast the series for the hellishly boring, cookie-cutter approach to track construction since Hermann Tilke joined the racing scene with a vision of how to bring F1 into the 21st century. But Tilke’s fall from grace is a pretty damn interesting one.
Chain Bear F1 on YouTube has put together a great visual illustration of just what makes all the infamous Tilke-designed circuits feel like they’re basically just the same track, just scattered across the globe. If you’ve ever wanted to put your annoyance into coherent words, this video is for you.
The video looks at circuits that are wholly designed by Tilke (not ones that existed before but which he’s added some changes to, or at street circuits whose design he’s informed). Basically, Tilke came on the scene in 1999 with the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia and from the get-go had a very distinct style. He liked stunning track architecture, long straights, wide tracks, hard braking zones with sharp hairpins, fast corners, precise radius turns, and in-and-out turns (which Chain Bear F1 refers to as ‘snaily’).
When Malaysia hit the calendar, that was just what fans needed. The design created an entertaining track that allowed for an impressive amount of side-by-side action and lots of overtakes. If this was what F1 was going to be in the future, it was a good sign.
Except, all the tracks started to look... kind of the same. As the video says: “F1 could sell a ‘Build Your Own Hermann Tilke Circuit’ from a box of about five different shapes.” And that’s not totally inaccurate.
That’s not to say they’re all bad. The Circuit of the Americas, for example, is well-loved. Bahrain is fun. Istanbul Park in Turkey was awesome, and so was Korea International Circuit. We’ve had some duds: China, for example, and Abu Dhabi. Some tracks just feel like they were cobbled together, not carefully designed for maximum drama.
The problem is mainly that all the tracks are just so similar. It’s like watching the same exact race five times a year. It’s not totally exciting or surprising.
Chain Bear F1's solution is one I agree with—Tilke isn’t wholly terrible, but F1 desperately needs some other skilled circuit designers in their midst, if only for the variety it would bring.