Hermann Tilkes new palace of speed 19 Aug 2005
The new Istanbul circuit marks another new chapter in the history of Formula One racing - this being the third race introduced to the calendar on an all-new track in just two years.
Like the other members of this new generation of Grands Prix - Bahrain and China - the race in Istanbul will be taking place on a circuit designed by German architect Hermann Tilke. He has also been heavily involved in redesigning existing circuits, including the changes that were made a couple of years ago at Hockenheim.
The new circuit in Istanbul shares some common Tilke design traits, including the use of low-speed corners at the end of straights to optimise passing opportunities, but also features some dramatic gradient changes, with a number of blind turns. There are two long straights, one for the start/finish and the other at the back of the circuit, featuring a flat-out high speed right hand kink approximately half way down it. Many of the corners will be taken relatively slowly, but the high-speed turns two and three should present the drivers with a serious challenge.
Constructing the 5.34 kilometre (3.32 mile) circuit was a massive task, and one that was undertaken impressively quickly, with building work officially started just under two years ago. No fewer than 1450 workers were involved in the project, with two shifts being worked to ensure the most efficient use of time in the face of the tight deadlines. The project was certainly on a grand scale - no less than 2.6 million cubic metres of ground was excavated to create the gently-contoured track which features six right turns and eight left turns. The circuit has seating capacity for around 130,000 people and two seven-story VIP towers which can accommodate up to 5000 guests between them. The vast car parks have space for up to 12,000 vehicles - while no fewer than 124,000 tyres went into the construction of the impact-absorbing tyre barriers.
Like all of the new circuits, Istanbul has been constructed to the highest safety standards, designed with carefully modelled gravel traps and run-off areas, and grandstands protected by tall debris fencing.
Tilke himself is happy with his company's latest creation - although apprehensive before the race itself: "There is a 180 degree corner consisting of several straight segments, therefore not having a flowing radius - it's not easy to meet the racing line there. If a driver manages to do so, he can stay on full throttle, but if not, he will have to make corrections and lose a lot of time.
Now he's just hoping that the inaugural race will go as well as the construction process: "I'm always a bit nervous before a new track is used for the first time - there's so many things that can go wrong. It could be the electrical work, it could be bumps coming up - that happened at Malaysia a week before the GP. It's only after the first race that we'll be able to make a full judgement of what it's like."