17 November 2013
United States Grand Prix: Experiencing Austin
“The initial meeting was 'Christian, can you design a track and include some of the best corners out there in F1'. We had a list of all these turns and the track would have been 30 miles long if we had included them all! So, of course, we had to limit it a little.
“The signature turn here at Austin is definitely turn one, and then you'll recognise other sections, such as sector one - turns two to seven - which is a bit like Maggotts-Becketts at Silverstone; the Hockenheim stadium section after turn twelve; and a little bit where we have the Istanbul section, the triple-apex turn [at 16-18].
“What we have tried to do is design a racetrack that is challenging for these drivers - which is very, very difficult as they are so good - and I think that CotA turned out quite a good racetrack.”
There are limits to what could be included, both from a practical – Epp admits that the original design had more than 20 corners – and safety point of view, with some of the older classics simply not workable in a more safety-conscious 21st century.
“We would like to replicate or create a 'classic' circuit, but there are regulations today, FIA safety regulations, that we have to stick to,” he points out, “We could be more creative of course, but the track would never get homologation. It's always a trade-off with making a track safe. When we do F1, or [tracks for] any other FIA races, it is almost impossible for us to redo the old classics.
“The Nurburgirng has so many features that you could do so many tracks just out of the Nurburgring, but we always try to be inventive, to do 'new' tracks. There is nothing here in Austin that exists somewhere else, the entire track is completely tailor-made for this site, this venue.”
After a difficult gestation, in which the venue suffered the increasingly common disputes, wrangling and doubt before becoming a reality, the layout was widely lauded by the F1 crowd.
“It's got a bit of everything really, so it's good,” Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber said on the opening day of the circuit's 2012 F1 debut, "It's quick, especially the first sector which is quite full-on, although sectors two and three are more traditional and similar to other tracks. As with all new circuits, you've got to work out where you can prioritise your time and where to compromise.”
Former McLaren favourite Lewis Hamilton similarly described the layout as 'a great drivers' track', reporting that 'it's very tough to pull together three perfect sectors' and admitting that he found the final two sectors easier than the first, noting that 'those high-speed changes of direction need a good set-up, and balancing that requirement against the demands of the slow-speed stuff is tricky'.
Erstwhile team-mate, and current McLaren team leader, Jenson Button has the same opinion, claiming that 'turn one to turn nine is a brilliant and free-flowing section'.
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