Exclusive interview with Hermann Tilke: Safety top priority


Whilst in conversation with Autoblog UK, track architect Hermann Tilke says he's pleased to see that his work on the track layout in India is much appreciated. Safety remains top priority.

There were the usual doubts before a new race – will everything be ready in time, will it all go to plan? We've now seen that it's all come good in the end, but were you yourself ever in any doubt?Hermann Tilke: There's always a moment of doubt. If you'd been here two months or one month even before the event, then you would've truly believed that it would never be ready. But how on earth could anyone be certain? We were very confident, though, that the Indians, and the Indian construction companies in particular would pull it off. And now we're all here and looking forward to a great event on Sunday. The track is just perfect, you have to admit. It's, very, very good without any reservations – the circuit is excellent in every detail, especially as regards safety.

Drivers have even commented on the brilliant layout of the track and think it could turn out to be one of the most interesting ever. What do you the architects think of that?
Hermann Tilke: Well, it makes us enormously proud, of course, to get such positive feedback. What happened when we started here four years ago was that we said to ourselves, the countryside is very flat and boring, and we want some changes in height. We wanted to throw in a couple of small hills at the very least. Ultimately, we moved four million cubic metres of earth in total and created a very interesting layout by introducing the third dimension, which makes the track much more exciting than if it were completely flat.

The safety aspect is also right. After the accidents with the Indy cars and the incident in Sepang, safety is currently a very hot topic, isn't it?
Hermann Tilke: Safety is the first thing that you have to get right. Nobody wants to experience a dramatic accident. Everyone enjoys seeing drivers make a mistake, spin off or go round a turn at a funny angle, but nobody ever wants something really bad to happen. The FIA has a standard that has taken years to develop, and a lot of research is still being carried out. The FIA does a very good job as regards safety – not just where cars are concerned, but also in terms of the track itself. To my mind, we have the most up-to-date safety standards ever in F1. Of course, racing will always be dangerous. Ultimately, everything that has to do with speed is dangerous. We hope nothing will happen, but it doesn't matter how safe the track is, accidents will always happen as we saw recently in Malaysia, where actually the track had nothing to do with it. It always makes me very sad when something happens, but accidents cannot be completely avoided in motor racing.

Does it really get to you when something goes wrong at one of your tracks, even if the track itself wasn't actually at fault?
Hermann Tilke: Well yes, it has a massive affect on you, no matter where it happens. It's something very terrible, quite horrible really. I was watching a motorcycle grand prix on television when there was an accident that upset me enormously for the rest of the day.

Was this the first time there'd been an accident at one of your tracks?
Hermann Tilke: Yes, the first time that something like that had occurred during such a big event. It had happened once before, of course, but as I've already said, that's motor racing and there's always an element of risk involved, no matter how hard you try to make cars and tracks completely safe. Unfortunately.

The Indy car ovals are a different matter, though. What do you think?
Hermann Tilke: Completely different. Yes, that's true.

Because they don't have the right standards?
Hermann Tilke: They have their own standards, which are unique to them. The problem is that they race at incredibly high speeds for long periods and there are a lot of cars on these relatively short tracks at any given time. When something happens, there's a chain reaction that can end really badly.
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