I love Istanbul Park.
Seriously, it’s a bloody fantastic racing circuit. OK, it’s a shame it’s in the middle of nowhere and nobody ever turns up to watch anything that goes on here, but it is a well thought-out, well designed racing circuit.
The drivers love it, and rightfully so. It’s a huge challenge, and the possibility to take different lines around the corners and maintain overall laptime marks it out from many other tracks. Watching Lewis Hamilton race here in the 2006 GP2 Series emphasised just how awesome a circuit it was. The amount of overtaking here is mindblowing, and with KERS and diffusers agogo in 2009, the F1 race could be a classic.
The track is the brainchild of Hermann Tilke. Yes, the Hermann Tilke who is so roundly criticised for creating dull and lifeless tracks. But this one’s different. In many ways it is his masterpiece and it all owes a little something to history… and in a funny way, I’d like to think I played a small part, too.
Back in 2003 I started work on a project for Formula 1 Magazine. I wanted to come up with the greatest circuit ever designed. The concept was really quite simple – speak to a bunch of F1 drivers across the generations and ask them which was the best corner they ever drove. Then we sent all the corners over to Mr Tilke, and the German genius put them all together in one mega track.
Ultimately it was about as long as the Nurburgring Nordschlieffe, and included the likes of 130R, Parabolica, the Boschkurve, the Corkscrew, Casino Square, Dingle Dell… it was some track.
In the end, F1 Mag went tits up but Matt Bishop at F1 Racing loved the idea and printed it in his mag rather than watch it disappear. F1 Racing then paid me the tremendous honour of including it in a special 10th Anniversary issue they created to include the best articles from their first decade.
Anyway, back to Turkey.
Last year I got chatting with Hermann Tilke for an interview we did in GPWeek, and we spoke about Istanbul Park and the Ultimate F1 Track we’d spent so long creating, and he said that the concept of that article had helped to shape the Istanbul track when he’d first got down to designing it. He told me though that rather than trying to recreate old corners, he had instead looked at some of the great corners and used them to influence his track design… so the first few corners here are fairly similar to the opening two corners at Interlagos… that kind of thing.
He said that he’d looked at the past, looked at what drivers loved to drive, and used it to influence his design in Turkey.
If the rumours are true and this is the final year we come to Istanbul, I, for one, will consider it a huge loss. It is a brilliant circuit, and one which reflects everything that I love about F1. It is high tech, it is hugely impressive to behold, but it takes influence from the wealth of history that this sport has to offer.
In many ways, it is a lesson for the sport.
F1 will continue to march forward, and in increasingly uncertain times it will soon be forced to make a huge choice about its future. The architects of F1’s future would do well to remember that while we can never go back, the very best things happen when you take off the blinkers, and remember to respect all that has gone before.