Much has been made of the homogeneity of current grand prix circuits, with wide-open run-off areas reducing the challenge of threading a 200mph projectile along a ribbon of tarmac and layouts seemingly designed to deny overtaking opportunities, but an equal amount of time and ink has been spent on coming up with the perfect combination.

To round-off Lewis Hamilton's world championship-winning season, McLaren 'technology partner' ExxonMobil presented the Briton with one final challenge for 2008 - to design his ultimate 'supercircuit'.

The fantasy race track would be a combination of the toughest corners, chicanes and straights from Hamilton's favourite circuits around the world, but also provides a fascinating insight into where adrenaline and performance levels - of man and machine - are at their highest.

Hamilton planned a counter-clockwise circuit to be the definitive challenge of both a driver's skills and a car's technological performance and stamina, and called upon corners from personal favourites Monaco, Interlagos, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps amongst others to build his very own dream layout.

"I wanted to create a circuit that would be challenging, exhilarating and enjoyable but, most of all, somewhere you would love to have the chance to drive and provide the definitive test for any driver, in any car," the youngest-ever world champion explained of the ten-turn Mobil1 Supercircuit.

Here, then, is a lap of the fantasy venue, complete with Hamilton's own descriptions of the corners involved....

"Waiting for the red lights to go out, heart rate climbing to 170bpm in anticipation of the start, releasing the clutch lets loose in excess of 750bhp through the rear wheels as we accelerate towards Turn One..."

1. Turn 8, Istanbul Speed Park (5th gear, 260 kph, 5g)
A super-fast corner to begin the lap. Hamilton withstands up to 5g for six seconds through the quadruple-apex left-hander, making it the longest and most physical corner on the grand prix calendar. The prolonged lateral loads place the engine's 300 moving parts under enormous stress and make it staggeringly tough on the neck muscles.

"You have to attack this corner," Hamilton says, "A bump at the first apex destabilises the car and you have to be very careful with how you position it, otherwise you can have a big oversteer moment."

2. Estoril, Magny Cours (5th gear, 200 kph, 3.5g)
The neck gets little respite because Estoril, another long and fast corner, comes next. It's a double-apex right-hander, through which the driver has to plant the throttle in fifth gear without being able to see his exit. The track undulates through 180 degrees, resembling a high-speed rollercoaster.

"Due to the high speeds, the car generates a lot of downforce through this corner and it feels planted to the track," Hamilton says, "It's great fun, but it's vital to make a good exit because a long straight follows."

3. 130R, Suzuka (6th gear, 295 kph, 4g)
Hamilton will have to wait until 2009 to drive a grand prix at Suzuka for the first time, but such is the track's fearsome reputation that he has included two corners from the former F1 venue on his Mobil1 'super lap'. 130R is a left-hander, so-called because it has a radius of 130 metres, and it's taken flat in top gear with the engine screaming at its 19,000rpm limit. A smooth turn in and letting the car run wide over the smooth exit kerb ensures as little speed as possible is scrubbed off.

4. Eau Rouge, Spa-Francorchamps (7th gear, 295 kph, 3.5g)
Like 130R, Eau Rouge is a section that's taken flat-out. The corner is in fact three bends, a left-right-left flick up the side of a hill, and sees Hamilton and his rivals experience both lateral and vertical g-forces. The car loses a bit of speed as it climbs the hill, but the whole section still takes only one second to complete at 305kph.

"This is one of the best corners on the calendar," he says, "It's not difficult, but you're just excited all the way through it. As you climb up the side of the hill, there's a moment when all you can see from the cockpit is the sky. It's fantastic because you lose your stomach over the crest at the top."

5. Tabac, Monaco (4th gear, 172 kph, 2.5g)
After a long period on full throttle, Hamilton needs to be careful not to out-brake himself on this slippery section of street circuit - where, incidentally, he clipped the barriers on his way to victory in the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix. Tabac is the slowest corner on his lap, through which the Mobil 1 oil inside his Mercedes V8 engine travels faster than the car. Slippery white lines on the exit of the turn can induce oversteer as Hamilton tries to get back on the power, making it a great test of driver skill.

"At the Monaco Grand Prix, we have maximum downforce, so the car feels planted to the ground," Hamilton reveals, "But, with the barriers so close, there is no room for error; you have to be very precise."

6. Turn 1, Suzuka (5th gear entry, 255 kph, 3.5g)
The car accelerates quickly along the downhill run towards Suzuka's first turn. Hamilton is into seventh gear when he turns into this double-apex right, through which he has to turn, brake and change down three gears before hitting the first apex. Without changing his steering lock, he then hustles the car to the second apex, where he gets back on the power and accelerates uphill towards the exit kerb.

7. Pouhon, Spa-Francorchamps (6th gear, 260 kph, 4.5g)
The second of Spa-Francorchamps' entries on the Mobil 1 Superlap Pouhon is much like Suzuka's Turn One with its downhill approach, but Hamilton doesn't touch the brakes before he turns into this double-apex left. He has a small confidence lift, changes down one gear and then gets back on the power as soon as possible.

"You have to carry as much speed through the corner as possible," he notes, "and that means having the guts to get back on the power as soon as possible. You have to be careful because you can't touch the kerbs."

8. Casino Square, Monaco (3rd gear, 130 kph, 2.5g)
The casino is the most famous landmark in Monaco, and the cars pass to the left of its revolving doors as they enter Casino Square, where they are faced with a blind and bumpy right-hander. Hamilton slows his car to just over 160kph and positions it in the middle of the track for the entry but, as soon as he hits the apex kerb, he's back on the power, wary that he needs to pay attention to two bumps at the exit which induce wheelspin and make it difficult to feed in the power.

"I really enjoy driving through here," he admits, "because one corner leads to another. There is not rest for the driver."

9. Mergulho, Interlagos (4th gear, 175 kph, 3g)
The corner where, on the final lap of the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton prepared to pass Timo Glock for the fifth place that would claim his maiden world title isn't the only reason why he's included it on his ultimate lap. A tricky corner in its own right, a clean exit is vital because Hamilton needs to carry as much speed as possible all the way to the final corner on the lap.

"This is a very bumpy left-hander," he reveals, "It slopes downhill and you can carry more speed than you initially think is possible because a compression in the middle of the corner helps to turn the car. You're really on the limit and you need amazing car control to keep a hold of it."

10. Copse, Silverstone (7th gear, 290 kph, 4.5g)
One of the fastest corners on any grand prix circuit, Copse grabs Hamilton's attention in more ways than one. He approaches it in seventh gear and literally throws the car towards the apex barrier, which separates pit-lane and track and makes the 273km/h corner completely blind. The direction of the wind influences car performance through the corner because a headwind generates more aerodynamic downforce than a tailwind.

"You can't touch the brakes," Hamilton insists, "You have to turn in with a small lift and just hope you get round. If the conditions are right, you can take Copse without a lift, but that's pretty scary!"

From there, he lets the MP4-23 run onto the flat exit kerb and powers his way across the start-finish line to begin another lap.

Do Lewis' selections match your idea of the perfect combination for a grand prix circuit? Are they chosen more for driver enjoyment than passing opportunities? Are there better options? Let us know via the Forum.... HERE


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