Herman Tilke is not a name most people will have heard of, yet he is the most influential person shaping Formula One - literally. Tilke, and his company, Tilke GmbH & Co. KG, is the leading engineering firm in designing racetracks (Tilke GmbH have either designed entire racetracks or redeveloped 10 of the current 20 F1 tracks in use today). His latest design is in the form of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. This is the tenth track (attempt!) to be given the headline of United States Grand Prix since 1950, and probably the best hope for F1 to make it successful in the USA for the long-term. For whatever reason in the past F1 has not had a great experience in America - something every constructor in the sport is frustrated about. Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, Ford-Cosworth, McLaren, Red Bull and Lotus are all either engine manufacturers or constructors with powerful brands behind them that want to explore the American market using the thing they invest millions of pounds in every year.
The last time F1 was in America, was in 2007, and held at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway circuit. The circuit was okay, but had zero character. Utilising half of the banking on the main oval circuit used for the Indy 500 race, an in-field was built but it was very unexciting and didn't really create good racing. However, Indianapolis will forever be remembered for the calamity of 2005. Back then, there were two manufacturers supplying tyres for the teams - Bridgestone and Michelin (today, Pirelli supply all 12 teams). All the Michelin-shod cars were unable to take the banking corners of Indianapolis flat out without risking of exploding at high-speed. Michelin wanted a temporary chicane to be installed to slow all cars down, naturally Bridgestone (of which Ferrari used) rejected this. No solution was found, and as the cars left the grid for the formation lap, only six cars lined up to take the starting lights (two cars each from Ferrari, Jordan-Toyota and Minardi-Cosworth). All other cars returned to the pits and withdrew on safety grounds. Suffice to say, the American crowd were not best pleased, and was one of the biggest errors in Formula One management. The fact F1 managed to return to Indianapolis at all in 2006 and 2007 was impressive, but you felt the end was in sight - and it was.
So it's taken five years for F1 to return to America. But this time it's different. Never before has a circuit been built from scratch in America for the main purpose of it to take a Formula One car. Also, in country which is famed for entertainment and "putting on a good show" the circuit has to be exciting. On paper alone, it looks very exciting - Tilke must have been looking at pictures of Great Britain to get inspiration, so it is bound to be exciting then!
Seriously though, the charge down to the first corner is going to be scintillating - a 130-foot uphill climb from the grid approach into a tight left-hander, before heading out into a circuit which appears to have taken the best elements from the best circuits around the world. The Becketts/Maggots complex of Silverstone is in there as well as what looks like the infamous turn 8 (albeit taken at a slower speed) from the Istanbul circuit in Turkey, and not forgetting a Tilke-trademark: an insanely long straight into a tight corner - one of the best ways to encourage overtaking.
I will be crossing my fingers, eyes and toes (sexy look, I know) in the hope that F1 in America at the Circuit of the Americas is a success. For Formula One to be a true WORLD Championship it has to include America. I love this new-look F1 where they truly travel the world and have a race in 19 countries (in 2012). This is no Baseball World Series...America, this is Formula One. Embrace it, like it, don't say goodbye to it. Here's hoping F1 has a very nice day, come Sunday 18th November 2012.
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