Formula One is the second most expensive sport after equestrian (Thomas, 2017). The almost 100-year-old sport has regained its popularity with the Netflix series Drive to Survive’, which started in 2019 and covered parts of the races and behind the scenes. The series gave the fans a backstory to their race weekends to connect with their favorite driver, team, and sport. Every year more and more viewers join online and offline to watch the races. It has a total of 21 races throughout the year across different countries worldwide. This sport consists of the race track, the paddock, team buildings, and the spectators’ arena. Here is where architectural intervention comes into the picture. There are regulations by the FIA, FIM, and other industry regulating bodies. The race tracks have to be designed, keeping the requirements and regulations in mind. There are two types of race tracks: 

  1. The temporary one 
  2. The permanent one. There are few architectural and engineering firms dedicatedly to working toward designing such engaging tracks.
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Australian Grand Prix 2022_©Asanka Brendon Ratnayake
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Skysports Lewis Hamilton F1_©https://www.skysports.com/f1/news/12040/12665224/mercedes-excited-f1-world-champions-promise-more-to-come-in-2022-after-upturn-in-form

Temporary Race Tracks

The temporary race tracks in Formula One are also known as street circuits. They are built within the main roads of the city. It adds to the architectural challenge of constructing the whole space in a short time in a limited area. The best example is the Monaco track which is only 3.337kms long, whereas an average race track must be at least 3.5kms long. Safety regulations are among the most stringent limitations placed on circuit design. Designers must take into account how much run-off is required wherever a stretch of track is laid. To do this, the populous look at the speed of the previous corner. The speed can be calculated through the new corner, and use the simulator to confirm it. After running those speeds through the CAD program, they can determine what happens when a car deviates from the track and onto the run-off using the FIA-supplied formulae. Additionally, it enables them to compare various run-off kinds, including asphalt, gravel, and combinations of the two (Collantine, 2010).

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Baku Street Circuit_©Red Bull Content Pool
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First look at Baku City circuit_©Formula 1 YouTube

Permanent Race Tracks

Permanent circuits have concerns such as location, availability, and condition of the land, the regulations of the city, and so on. Apex Circuit Design Ltd is an award-winning motorsport engineering consultancy that according to its website “is responsible for the design and delivery of the world’s best race tracks, test and training facilities, destinations, and temporary motorsport events. We are proud to have been the first circuit engineering firm to be accredited by the FIA for our response to environmental impact(Destination and Event Design and Delivery, 2005). The creation of permanent Formula One race tracks (or road courses) that are seamlessly linked with neighbouring and adjacent non-automotive developments is one of the company’s abilities that has been internationally demonstrated and acknowledged. They collaborate closely with the FIA, FIM, and other industry regulating bodies to achieve design approval. A good circuit design must take spectators, TV cameras, marshals, and officials into account in addition to designing the course well for drivers or riders. Our 3D modelling approaches offer all stakeholders optimized viewing and fun (Permanent Race circuit Design and Delivery, 2005).

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Austrian Grand Prix_©https://f1experiences.com/de/blog/austrian-grand-prix-getting-around-guide

Tilke Engineers & Architects

Established in 1983, the firm is regarded as the top designer of racetracks and testing facilities worldwide. When it comes to planning and project management for significant projects in the automotive and motorsports industries, they are one of the most experienced businesses. Tilke seeks to construct unique, cutting-edge race courses, as well as grandstands, pit buildings, team buildings, and other infrastructure facilities, by meeting the needs of their clients and the constantly shifting standards for safety and track layout. The firm is a trustworthy and very beneficial planning partner in the field of track design due to a unique balance between these needs, vast technical expertise and skill, and Hermann and Carsten Tilke’s racing driver careers (COMPANY « TILKE, n.d.). The firm designed its first Formula One track in 1995 – the Red Bull Ring. At present, they have constructed 17 Formula One tracks. Their most expensive F1 circuit is Yas Marina Circuit.

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Top view of Yas Marina Circuit_©Andrew Balfour

How Designing a Race Track Differs from Other Sport Complexes

Each potential new Formula, One race track location faces unique difficulties, as architect Hermann Tilke notes: “We first have to carefully look at the terrain. There are limits to every property. We attempt to understand the topography. Everything has an impact on the design. Another crucial aspect of the area is its topography. We consider the infrastructure and the soil’s condition and quality.” Hermann makes it apparent that he nearly never starts a project with a clean slate and is therefore bound. They aim to include new tracks into the topography wherever possible. They make an effort to ensure that it blends in with the surroundings. Sometimes they have a very small budget, and it’s also intriguing to work with a small budget, but the minimum for a brand-new Formula One circuit is around €100 million ($110 million) (Hermann Tilke: My F1 circuit design methodology | thejudge13, 2015).

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F1 Miami plans_©https://motorsport.nextgen-auto.com/en/formula-1/plans-for-f1-race-in-miami-back-on-track,158637.html

Petel Whal said “We are limited by the given piece of land. The exception was the Buddha track in India, where we placed 4 million cubic meters of soil to create a couple of level changes. Certainly, it would be great to flow in some 20 million cubic meters, but the problem is that no one can afford it” in an interview. Tilke said, “One of the main issues is that the client wants the track to be both F1 and MotoGP compliant. That leads to compromises in the design” (The dark side of track design, 2014). 

Buddha International Circuit aerial, India_©https://www.wikiwand.com/de/Buddh_International_Circuit

How Architecture Influences the Sport

There are a few points where Architecture can help design Formula One track. The primary requirement for the track and its surroundings to be designed was for safety concerns. It had to be designed and tested through simulation to make it less fatal. After that, if the budget and land regulations allow any topographic changes, the track can be designed with more flexibility. The next thing is to design better arenas for the spectators to watch. The thing to be considered moving forward when designing one such track is while these tracks are used for F1, F2, F3 races, MotoGP, and many more races, how can they be utilized when the race isn’t happening? Like many cricket and football stadiums being used during concert events, these tracks should also have alternate use.

Citations:

ACM Media. 2018. TIMELAPSE Monaco Grand Prix. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHs4bZVDk6Q. [Accessed: 28/08/2022]

Apex. 2005. Destination and Event Design and Delivery. [online] Available at: <https://www.apexcircuitdesign.com/> [Accessed 27 August 2022].

Apex. 2005. Permanent Race circuit Design and Delivery. [online] Available at: <https://www.apexcircuitdesign.com/race-track-design/permanent-race-circuit> [Accessed 27 August 2022].

Balfour, A., 2020. Yas Marina: The most expensive F1 circuit ever built. [online] F1experiences.com. Available at: <https://f1experiences.com/de/blog/yas-marina-circuit-most-expensive-f1-circuit-ever-built> [Accessed 27 August 2022].

Collantine, K., 2010. Silverstone’s architects on making F1 circuits challenging but safe (Part 2) · RaceFans. [online] RaceFans. Available at: <https://www.racefans.net/2010/08/20/silverstones-architects-on-making-f1-circuits-challenging-but-safe-part-2/> [Accessed 27 August 2022].

F1framework.blogspot.com. 2014. The dark side of track design. [online] Available at: <http://f1framework.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-dark-side-of-track-design.html> [Accessed 27 August 2022].

Thomas, A., 2017. Most expensive sports in the world | Playo – Playo. [online] Playo. Available at: <https://blog.playo.co/4-most-expensive-sports-in-the-world/> [Accessed 24 August 2022].

thejudge13. 2015. Hermann Tilke: My F1 circuit design methodology | thejudge13. [online] Available at: <https://thejudge13.com/2015/07/17/hermann-tilke-my-f1-circuit-design-methodology/> [Accessed 27 August 2022].

Tilke Engineers & Architects. n.d. COMPANY « TILKE. [online] Available at: <https://tilke.de/en/company/> [Accessed 27 August 2022].

Author

Prashanti is an Architect from India, who is currently pursuing her master’s in Design Research in Germany and got lucky to study in the Bauhaus Building. She is a potterhead and plays guitar. She feels excited and blessed to be able to share her stories through RTF.

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