Only through Eau Rouge do a Grand Prix driver’s eyes roll over white. Only at Imola’s Acque Minerali does a lone Ferrari flag wave from the scarlet roof of a private nearby house. Only on the exit of the Beckett’s complex in rural England has a racer pulled 12G in less than four seconds. Only at Suzuka does a driver actually prefer to round “the spoon” than order another room service fruit juice from the calm of the circuit hotel.
Warn your heart to stop racing, however, because the Formula 1 of the very near future is a lot different.
Already, Imola has been replaced by a purpose-built circuit in an emerging market designed by German architect Hermann Tilke. Gone, too, is Austria, replaced by a purpose-built circuit in an emerging market designed by German architect Hermann Tilke.
Ditto Suzuka. Ditto Nurburgring and Hockenheim, who now share because they can’t afford the annual race fees. Ditto France and Britain, because billionaire Bernie Ecclestone always gets his way. Ditto Belgium, whose organisers know the feel of the F1 supremo’s axe all too well.
Oil runs thick in the veins of F1’s diminutive boss, but Ecclestone’s also the shrewdest former used-car salesman in town.
A half-decade after musing that Europe is the “new third world”, he has cut the ribbon at pristine $200m Tilke creations in Malaysia, Bahrain, China and Turkey. Next on the list are Abu Dhabi (2009), India (2009) and South Korea (2010), and in the queue wait Russia, Singapore and Greece.
It’s no mistake or coincidence that the F1 calendar of 2015 will probably feature a Tilke-penned Indian GP instead of crusty old Silverstone — Goldman Sachs estimated this week that the Indian economy will perform a Schumacher-style overtaking move on the UK by the middle of next decade.
Granted, it’s a little naive to romanticise a $3bn a-year circus that houses millionaires and provides global carmakers with the luxury automobile market’s best shop window. But propping up the lot, remember, are the fans — those poor sods who pay €200 at the GP gates and wander away a bit confused as to why they’ve just lit another Marlboro.
So a heads-up Bernie, we don’t know the difference between Tilke’s Turn 8/China and Tilke’s Turn 5/Malaysia, but we do know the difference between Acque Minerali and Eau Rouge.
There’s something uninspiring about knowing that the crests in Turkey were concocted with computer-aided-design software, but we love the fact that Spa-Francorchamps turned left before Blanchimont because racers in the 1920s had to jink to avoid a tree.
We don’t care if the hospitality suites at Toyota-owned Fuji are better suited for the high-rolling Japanese guests, but we do care that the dated and awesome Suzuka is no longer on the calendar.
Bernie — we do care.