x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Around the circuit with the man who designed it

He may not be seen at the wheel of one of the Formula One cars tackling the Yas Marina Circuit, but Hermann Tilke has a unique knowledge of the track - he designed it.

Hermann Tilke, the designer of Yas Marina Circuit, says 'you can make a beautiful thing, but you need a track.'
Hermann Tilke, the designer of Yas Marina Circuit, says 'you can make a beautiful thing, but you need a track.'

ABU DHABI // He may not be seen at the wheel of one of the Formula One cars tackling the Yas Marina Circuit this weekend, but Hermann Tilke has a unique knowledge of the spectacular track - he designed it. Mr Tilke, a 54-year-old German, is the founder of Tilke Engineers and Architects, the leading designer of F1 race tracks. He drew the plan for the circuit, putting in all its feints, turns and straights.

"You can make a beautiful thing, but you need a track," Mr Tilke said. Describing a lap of the circuit as he designed it, he added: "From the first corner, you go uphill and there is a very fast corner, which is about 280kph. "The hill was made so people in the north grandstand arena can see the cars coming from very far down the hill. Then they slow down near the arena and there is hard, hard braking.

"There is a slow corner so the spectators are very close to the cars. On the other hand, it was made so the cars get very close up to each other, with no downforce." From there, there was the long straight and a run-off at the end that went under the grandstand, a new feature, said Mr Tilke. "Then on the next corner, and this is also a new feature, we have negative banking - the angle is on the wrong side to the way the driver enters it," said the designer.

"At the marina, this is one place you can have action. We have fast corners near the marina and this is for the atmosphere, for something new. For the drivers, this is also challenging. "Then you are coming through to the hotel with a difficult corner, and then you are back at the start-finish straight." Mr Tilke, a former touring-car racer, also designed the circuits at Bahrain, Sepang, Shanghai, Istanbul, Valencia and Singapore.

@Email:rhughes@thenational.ae