Designing tracks for overtaking

My remarks about the lack of overtaking in Abu Dhabi resulted in a lot of reaction. Among the responses was a email from Clive Bowen, who is the boss of Apex Circuit Design, which does a lot of work in racing, although Hermann Tilke continues to get much of the F1 work, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Bowen reckons that “research and liaison with teams and drivers” has genuinely achieved good results in his projects and he believes that the secret is to design the track geometry “to ‘build in’ confidence and grip for drivers just where they need it the most to make a pass”.

Bowen reckons that there are three ways to create more overtaking when one designs a circuit; the first is to ensure an ‘easy short apex, low-medium speed’ corner preceding a long straight which leads to a big braking zone. The key is the short apex as it results in the least period of feathered throttle; if the transition from braking to acceleration is as fast as a driver can make it then the car following can keep closer to the car in front at the start of the acceleration run and his opportunity for a tow is increased… a medium speed (i.e.120kph or so) corner with mechanical grip provided by banking or compression allows the following car to stay close despite wake turbulence and reduced aero grip.

The second way is to engineer grip into a corner – achieved either with compression or banking – just where a driver needs it to give confidence for a manoeuvre. This and the third option (or a combination of both) should result in more than one ideal line for a corner or should at least ensure an overlap in the braking transition into a corner to spoil the guy in front’s line.

The third is to have compound radii in corners – especially those where the apex can be made to be really late; this means the ideal line leaves the ‘door open’ for an opportunistic pass.

A subtle combination of all three – and different each time – is the best solution. This should mean some corners have multiple lines (i.e. same time through the corner irrespective of line), some other corners can act as mistake generators to spook the guy in front to overdrive and create the opportunity for passing and any other corners should instil confidence for a driver to be braver than he might otherwise be.

Bowen says that “I suspect it is the subtlety of a track’s corner sequencing and detail which affects its personality and this in recent times has been lost because of modern design processes”.

48 thoughts on “Designing tracks for overtaking

  1. The tracks aren’t the problem, the cars are. The average lap time difference was lower than previous years by quite a margin, yet that didn’t result in a lot more overtaking in races. Cars cannot race close together through corners… any corner. Thát’s the problem.

    1. The problem is not just the cars. They have been changed over and over and it makes no difference. The design of the cars can contribute but some tracks have overtaking and some do not. End of story. That is caused by the specific design of the circuit.

  2. Certainly the design ideas expressed in the article would help, but the significant thing left out is rubber.
    Effectively over a GP Weekend the “rubbering”of a circuit leaves just one line. Get off it and you loose grip.
    It would appear that changes in tyre design could do more for passing than changes in circuit design.

  3. @ joesaward
    I reckon that, since other types of cars can overtake at any spot at any circuit, there must be fundamentally wrong with today’s F1 cars. And while I’m certainly no specialist, I’m led to believe, from periodic discussions in the media, the past few years, that the problem is a lack of mechanical grip and an over-depencence on aerodynamics.

  4. Great stuff,

    Clive Bowen seems to know his stuff let’s hope he can get in on the act now.

    Nail meets head:>> “to ‘build in’ confidence and grip for drivers just where they need it the most to make a pass”.

  5. But some tracks are really overtaking paradise with other series. And the, F1 cannot follow each others.

    With the same tracks in F1, we get lesser overtakings each year.

  6. Surely the magic to overtaking is for a circuit to force drivers into making errors when under pressure. There weren’t any corners in Abu Dhabi difficult enough to make drivers make mistakes, whereas at the classic circuits, there are difficult corners, such as in Belgium and Suzuka.

    All this point-and-squirt stuff isn’t going to produce good racing, and even on a ‘good’ track where overtaking is easy, unless your car is considerably faster than that in front, the only way to get by is through an error.

  7. One of the problems when racing in the desert is that there will only be one clean line on the track as there is so much sand. Get off the line and there is no chance of overtaking for several corners as the tyres are covered in sand.
    I did hear that other formulas had no issues with overtaking at the Yas Marina, but if these are GP2 and the like then the talent difference of the drivers is huge. I would say that there is no comparison especially when looking at the top drivers on Sunday. When a driver lapping over 0.5 seconds quicker than the car in front cannot overtake as they cannot get off the racing line, or overtake coming out of a corner then the track and the environment appear to have conspired against a good race.

  8. I guess it is easier to change the cars than to change the tracks, but apparantly this has not had the desired effect, btw, does the overtaking working group still exist?

    Is there more overtaking in GP2? They often (always?) race on the same tracks, but with cars that probably are less “sophisticated” and closer to each other in terms of performance, so this might give an indication if it is possible at all to change the cars in a way to make overtaking easier…. Maybe GP2 plus could be feeder series not only for drivers but for new car specs as well.

  9. Sounds like Clive Bowen should get the next track contract to me. I bet if Tilke read the explanations above he still wouldn’t know good track design from his elbow… actually he his fond of long straights with a hair-pin at the end, someone overlay a picture of his elbow there I bet we get a match.

  10. There is a certain type of short oval corner used in US racing where it is possible for two cars to go through a corner side-by-side but on different lines and it is largely up to the driver who comes out first. The point is that on a long, slightly banked corner a high line requires less turning and consequently less scrubbing-off of speed. If the corner is progressively banked (gets steeper as you go higher) it is possible for the car on the outside line to carry more speed into and around the corner so that, even though he has further to go, the driver has a decent chance of exiting the corner first. There used to be a good example of this in F1 at the late lamented Mexican Grand Prix where the long, banked 180° Peraltada corner became a legend. There are none like it to-day. Why not?

  11. Obviously the cars are part of the problem, and the mistake of allowing the double diffusers effectively negated the efforts to diminish destabilising effects on following cars, but it’s right to focus attention on the circuits as well.

    * the tracks are too narrow
    * circuit operators have no money, because FoM over-charges them
    * circuits that are ‘challenging’, and thus respected, are challenging to overtake on
    * the classic circuits, Spa, Silverstone, Monza are out-moded
    * sweeps that used to require ultimate skill are now flat for every driver, making overtaking impossible
    * overtaking is dangerous
    * circuits are designed for safety
    * track surfaces are too grippy, which exacerbates ‘rubbering in’ and creates one line
    * tracks could be cleaned before the race to eliminate rubber/marbles, but operators can’t afford it

    Let’s face it, most F1 driving is a one-line affair. Careers are made and broken on the basis of ability in testing and qualifying. Cars are developed to be fast on their own, taking the one line. There is no overtaking or racing mentality in F1.

  12. Aside from cars and tracks the main reason we lack overtaking for me is simple – standard/orthodox qualifying rules.

    Qualifying in its very nature moves the fastest car to the front of the grid, the slowest to the back and so on – meaning the cars already start the race in the natural order of speed. And unless you have something (a qualifying to race affecting variable) to mix that order, like a first corner tangle, rain, grid penalties etc it’s difficult to change that natural order and allow a faster car to attempt a charge through the field.

    The success of series like GP2 has been on the top-8 grid reversal for the Sunday race – meaning the guy dominating the first race starts 8th and allowing him to use his car’s better setup to at least have a battle with those 7 now in front of him.

    And this is the worry for 2010 in F1 – with the cars all having the same fuel load for qualifying and for the start of the GP we have lost one “variable” and made qualifying even more determining than it is now.

    While this year you could have a Toyota (for example) gamble on qualifying light, taking pole and then battling during the GP to stay in front, now it’s a very level playing field. It’s fair in the sense of the best car+driver starts first on the grid, yes, but not helpful in terms of allowing overtaking moves and battles during the race.

  13. @Tony Martin, I agree. However many lines you might have into a corner, it’s the dark grey one which the drivers have to follow to ensure they stay off the dust and marbles.

    The tyres need to change too.

  14. GP2 is a good example of the cars being a factor.

    Since moving to the new chassis, which is much more complicated aerodynamically, with lots of little flicks and flaps, there’s been less overtaking. GP2 Asia still uses the older GP2 car which is less sophisticated and the difference can be seen in the overtaking (taking out the slightly biasing effect of perhaps less talented drivers in the Asian rounds).

  15. it’s a combination of factors.

    as mentioned, GP2 manage to overtake on tracks where F1 doesn’t, but braking zones are shorter, and the drivers are maybe closer in terms of talent. I think this is due to the over-reliance on downforce in F1. the rules have changed with the intent of reducing downforce, without actually necessarily reducing downforce. the only reason the cars have such ridiculous short braking zones is the grip from the wings. the ditry air also means that it’s a disadvantage to follow a car braking and through a corner, and as long as it’s a disadvantage to follow another car rather than an advantage, you’ll never get close racing.

    however, as i’ve said before, the tracks are also a problem. tilke has a recipe for synthetic racing, where he makes a massive long straight into a sharp corner for the slipstream / outbreak move, and then the rest of it is just insipid bland medium and low speed random corners designed to meet the FIA’s mandated minimum lap time. clearly some types of corner lend themselves to overtaking more than others. at each track, drivers will be able to tell you the few corners on which an overtake might be possible (or in the case of valencia and monaco, simply that you just can’t overtake under normal racing conditions). therefore, circuit designers should be working with teams and drivers to ensure that the new tracks, where we have a blank canvas, aren’t wasted. take the learnings from other circuits that allow and prevent overtaking, and make a track designed for F1 cars. if we’re going to have to endure souless concrete carparks in places flung far from the F1 fan, then we should at least have good racing there.

  16. Any comments from him on the double diffuser and how it creates the ‘dirty air’ that becomes a hurdle for the car behind to catch it?
    This was what they were trying to let go, by changing the aero design, but dd just took it off. I remember how good aussie race was with so much to talk about,then dd was legalized and all hope was thrown into dustbin

  17. This year the speed difference from front to back of the grid was (I would guess) around 2 seconds making the cars unusually evenly matched. Any driver with a bit of nous was easily able to block his opponent at the one or two places where overtaking is possible on (most) circuits.

    In the supposed ‘good old days’ that same two second difference was very often from pole to third place! So if we had a dominant car qualifying out of position it was comparatively easy for it’s driver driver to carve his way through the field to the front. Thus we saw the likes of Senna, Prost, Mansell and Schumacher regularly passing opponents as very often they were in massively dominant cars, often lapping the entire field in a race!

    It strikes me that you pays yer money and you takes yer choice. Closely matched teams make overtaking difficult. Dominant teams make passing easier but races far more boring as MS proved when he won 13 races in a season.

    Overall, I’d much rather have six drivers winning in a season even if there are fewer overtaking moves!

    Of course circuit design does play it’s part but technology these days is eroding that difference. For me F1 races are AWAYS interesting and fascinating, regardless of the number of passing moves.

    I logged into the F1 website timing screens whilst watching the races this year and at Abu-Dhabi I really enjoyed the continuous green sectors being put in by Mr Kobayashi, even though he was not featured on TV that much. I also cottoned on to JB’s late race charge far earlier than the TV cameras (or commentators)! He was carving into Mark’s lead!

    There is interest and enjoyment in every race, though I do appreciate that the casual viewer may not be attracted by the nuances of the formula.

  18. Factor 1 [and the main problem imo] – modern technology has brought us VERY short braking zones, therefore again, reducing even the best drivers chance of over-taking, when the only significant difference to his car and the one next to it is how good the tyres still are and how far he can get it to the edge of adhesion.

    Factor 2 – the cars are built within very tight specifications, therefore, with a qualifing that puts the fastest at the front and the slowest at the back, you are by definition reducing the chances of overtaking – car 1 is a weeny bit better than car 2 behind it and car two is never going to be quite different enough to make that pass on car 1. Obviously this doesn’t take into account qually errors, weather factors, etc, just pointing out the natural order should all other things be equal.

    Factor 3 – levels of competence combined with levels of all out balls and determnation. These factors are generally much closer matched in F1 than any other series, financially well supported rookies notwithstanding.

    Factor 4 – the circuit designs – they have changed or been designed to be ‘safer’, but their character is such that it has also introduced less chance of pulling off that overtake.

    I am no engineer, nor track designer, nor even racing driver [hells bells I don’t even own an Xplayboxstation thingy] but with all those factors, we should perhaps be looking at long term changes rather than knee jerk reactions.

  19. Clive Bowen is really talking a lot of sense – although I would also point out that you need to get out of the mindset of thinking about overtaking possibilities on a ‘per corner’ basis – often passing attempts take several corners to pull off successfully.

    “Bowen reckons that there are three ways to create more overtaking when one designs a circuit; the first is to ensure an ‘easy short apex, low-medium speed’ corner preceding a long straight”
    Yes – Interlargos is an excellent example. But a quick look at Tilke’s works shows a proliferation of long apex corners preceding long straights, so he clearly does not see the light.

    Indeed Tilke’s tracks seem to predominately feature long radius corners.

    We should also recognise that the cars this year have also been very closely matched. When 1.5 seconds cover the entire field, it is going to be difficult to find the extra speed necessary to pass another car.

    Plus how many times have the drivers simply waited until the pit stops because it is easier to pass there then on the track?

  20. How about a really radical change… drop qualifying and use either inverse championship order, or a lottery for the grid. That would really put the overtaking-as-a-design feature priority back onto the guys who really know how a race car works: the designers.

    It’s worth noting that an unintended consequence of this would be that the pile-up into the first corner would probably be even worse than it is now, so we might need to introduce rolling starts to go with this.

    Both features (no quali, and less first corner incidents) would reduce costs too 😉

  21. One factor in circuit design has not yet been mentioned is a plethora of slow corners to make the TV cameras linger as long as possible on the trackside advertising. I have reason to know that this is formally a factor in modern F1 track design.

  22. They should increase the mechanical grip of the cars and reduce the aero grip which is much affected from the front car.

  23. I have to say, this is wonderful to see. I suspect that if someone from Tilke of FOM read your original post they wouldn’t be so forward with there thinking. But hats off to Clive Owen for standing up and offering his thoughts.

  24. Indeed the best way to produce lots of overtaking is to mix up the grids; pretty much all the classic races this decade have been through rain-affected qualifying or the field being mixed up by safety cars during the race.

    I liked Purnell’s idea a couple of years back, in that qualifying would be two races, with the grid decided by a lottery. The second race would be a reverse grid of the first. Those who made up the most places (i.e. the most overtaking moves) would be at the front, the least at the back.

    It might overshadow the actual GP, but it sounds bloody brilliant.

    ————–

    Also, whilst this guy comes out with sensible respectable comments, hearing about ‘compound radii’ and ‘mistake generators’ when it comes to circuit design sounds so artificial – once again, if you look at all the best/most memorable dry races from this decade, they are all on the classic circuits built by natural design or old-school thinking that the driver must be challenged with medium-high speed corners, and not with Tilke’s computers generating perfect radius 2nd gear turns.

    The soulless asphalt runoffs mean that there is rarely incident or drama that sticks in the mind- does anybody remember any classic moments from Bahrain, Shanghai or Istanbul? Even the new street circuits have their potential best corners chicaned to match the FIA’s target run-off standards. Also the silly FIA rules stating the maximum gradient on a new circuit would have meant Spa wouldn’t even be considered nowadays… if cars work on such a track, why are we not allowed to add them to the calendar?

    The calendar needs more dramatic tracks – sure, even Spa and Suzuka produce boring races, but its still a joy to watch them as the drivers and cars fly round them, with that feeling of challenge and speed, whereas a borefest in a modern autodrome and cars gyrating round countless hairpins leaves absolutely no satisfaction with even the most committed F1 fan.

    The cars can still be improved too, and I think it would be prudent to bring back mandatory steel brakes for next season- it would solve the problem of wear under heavy fuel loads that the teams are worried about, and would vary braking distances more than the carbon which should help with moves.

  25. “although Hermann Tilke continues to get much of the F1 work, for reasons that are not entirely clear.”

    Even if he’s hamstrung by a narrow rulebook, some competition for Tilke might keep him and his company on their toes. I’m sure Tilke can’t have every idea for a new track design.

    Ideally, I’d like to see some sort of tender process for new circuits. But even just a second company on rotation to do new designs would be helpful.

  26. I love the suggestion that you should “build in confidence” for the drivers. This for drivers that are paid up to £3m a race just for turning up!

  27. A few months back I remember reading a post on…f1fanatic (?) where the passing at various tracks over the years was analyzed with stats, and there was some very telling information when all the data was plugged in comparing year to year passing.

    I’d have to go back and re-read for the gist of the conclusions, but I think it pointed to track design as being the biggest factor anymore as we’ve narrowed our tire selections, aero tweeks, and other stuff through the regs. Since the cars/teams are all now so close together in terms of outright performance I honestly believe the answer to more passing does lie in the track design. Watching a NASCAR race (if you can stomach the nauseating boredom) outlines how the design of the corner can in fact generate several lines, continually, for the duration of the race. The banking is obviously a big factor – even when there are marbles the size of…well, marbles, the sheer forces exerted on the car will help keep them planted, and aero factors are nullified as its mechanical grip.

    …throw me under the bus, but I still think the underlying ideas behind the KERS inclusion were sound; the problem was that through regulation they were brought into a situation where there was no gain between two cars with different systems, so they were pointless before the season even began. They still held some benefits, as we saw, but it never was a game-changer.

    Open the regs up a bit, bring F1 some of that innovative flavor it once had, and we won’t be looking at 1sec/less between the front half of the field and the backmarkers…sadly, we’re going the wrong way for that to happen (cost caps, regs, etc).

  28. The belief that putting the fastest cars at the front will always lead to no overtaking is wrong. Many classes other than F1 use that qualifying format and produce great racing as F1 did in the past. Jackie Stewart has mentioned many times how he and Jochen Rindt swapped the lead about 30 times in one race at Silverstone for example.

    The technical regulations are the root of many of the problems facing F1 including the lack of overtaking. There was a time when there was a lot of overtaking and gradually that has been reduced. The causes of the reduction in overtaking are quite clear and there should be no dispute about them. First the cars became too fast for the tracks they were racing on and secondly the aerodynamics became so advanced that following another car through a corner close enough to pass it on the following straight became impossible.

    The FIA constantly talk about the latter point being something that happened in the last 5 years and have done so for many years. In fact the problem started 30 years ago and was something Gilles Villeneuve used to complain about.

    The OWG did a pathetic job of resolving the issue but that was guaranteed from the second it was set up. People within teams are not going to come up with the necessary radical changes to the regulations because they have competing pressures. They have to consider how any change will affect their own team. Their own team has a database of historic information on existing cars so there is no way they are going to give that up by making huge changes.

    Gilles Villeneuve’s answer was to rip the wings off and throw them away. Not to reduce them or modify them but to bin them. Imagine if Paddy Lowe had gone to Ron Dennis or Martin Whitmarsh and said the OWG are going to recommend banning wings which are prime sponsor areas on the cars. Never going to happen. If the FIA are not competent to come up with radical rules on their own they need to hire someone like Gary Anderson who can.

    In addition to the cars the current generation of circuits are a big problem. Tilke knew the kind of F1 cars that were going to race on this track and that regardless how good the racing was in any other category was the people paying him were only interested in putting on an F1 race that showed them off to the best effect and he did a lousy job as he has often done.

    Producing a long straight with a tight bend at the end is all well and good but from the end of the second straight to the start of the first are a series of single line corners that generate field spread. There is no point in having the longest straight in F1 if the corners that lead up to it are building the gaps between cars.

    Building a great circuit on flat land is always going to be difficult and Silverstone and Monza are probably the best flat circuits. One thing they have in common is that they have comparatively few corners although Silverstone has added a few over the years. You sometimes get the impression that Tilke is being paid a rate per corner with the number he squeezes in to some tracks. How anyone expects to have good racing with 20 corners in 3 miles in anything bigger and faster than a kart is beyond me.

    The classic Silverstone layout had 6 genuine corners in 3 miles. There were other bends which were flat out but 6 corners in 3 miles produced great racing. Monza before the chicane epidemic had only Curva Granda, 2 Lesmos, Ascari and Parabolica. This is the track that produced the closest finishes in F1 with 5 cars covered by less than a second in 1971.

    People talk about the length of circuits in miles or kilometres but they should really be considered in seconds. The longest straight in F1 is also the longest in GP2 or Porsche supercup but it is not the same length in all 3. F1 cars take a lot less time to travel that distance tha GP2 cars and they take less than Porsches. That is one of the reasons it produces more overtaking in other categories.

    Clive Bowen’s points are well thought out and well made and I hope he gets an F1 circuit contract soon. It is just a shame that Jon Hugenholz was around at a time when realtively few circuits were being built and Tilke at a time when many were designed. Imagine if there lifetimes could be swapped.

  29. Robert McKay

    Presumably the reason why Tilke gets all of the work is because Ecclestone signs contracts on spec to hold a race where no track exists. Consequently, he probably ‘advises’ the promoter to use Tilke because he is a known quantity and will help ensure that the promoter delivers a circuit on time and with the right facilities. Those are apparently the only things that BE is interested in, other than the money of course.

    F1 Grands Prix ought to be held at the best tracks, but the way BE runs things, the quality of the track design appears to not even be a factor, let alone the most important one. If quality was anything to do with it, a new organiser would have to hold a junior formula race to prove the value of the track before being even considered for a Grand Prix.

  30. It must surely be time for Clive Bowen to be given a chance with an F1 track, he seems to have thought it all through properly.

  31. Everyone is in agreement that it is too hard to overtake in F1. What complicates this is that the drivers are now of a very high standard (with one or two exceptions: Grosjean and Badoer, in particular), and simply do not make the mistakes that GP2 and other lower formulae drivers make. The cars are also incredibly reliable, meaning that drivers rarely have to nurse a car home.

    So, which aspects of the circuits, cars, and ‘show’ do we need to look at in order to increase overtaking?

    Well, all three factors have to be taken into account: better circuit design; changes to the cars; and factors to ensure that the fastest car in racing trim is not always starting on pole.

    The modern circuits (and some of the oldies — Monaco and Budapest, you know who you are) have not lived up to the Tilke hype. The cars are still too reliant on aero, and the 2009 regs meant that the fastest car in qualifying was generally the fastest race car. Things only really got mixed up during the pit stops.

    I don’t think there’s anything I can add to Clive’s excellent analysis. I also agree with other posters in that the cars do not look spectacular on the modern circuits (I do not care that your hotel looks spectacular). Cars should look like they’re on the edge of adhesion, and being kept away from the scenery by the mere skill of the pilot. Corners like Maggots/Beckets, Eau Rouge, and 130R do this. Turn something-or-other on the latest Tilke blandfest does not (Turkey excepted).

    In terms of the cars, well, most overtaking (probably all overtaking now that KERS is not being used in 2010, and most engines are equalised) is done in the braking zone. So let us first increase the size of the baking zone. I suggest ditching the expensive (and irrelevant for road cars) sintered carbon brakes, and move towards carbon ceramic or metal matrix brakes — as used in most supercars.

    Now that we’ve increased the braking zone, let’s worry about getting the cars closer together. Firstly, the double-deck diffusers must be banned for 2010. Secondly, while the cars are very efficient in clean air, they are too affected by dirty air (especially the Red Bulls — probably the most aerodynamically efficient car of 2009). Despite the best efforts of the rule makers, there are still too many flaps, gurneys, and other aero devices. I’d start by getting rid of the wheel spinners (pointless and ugly). I’d then mandate flat endplates — instantly ensuring that the air over the rest of the car is ‘dirtier’, even when not following another car. Finally, I’d shape the rules to ensure that the rest of the car isn’t afflicted by the same aero bits. Something along the lines of defining a minimum radius (easily testable by the FIA) for all edges on the body. I’d also mandate standard mirrors to stop the current mirror supports being aero devices.

    Harder tyres will reduce the number and affect of marbles (and will probably happen for next season with the lack of re-fueling, anyway).

    I also think that KERS should be retained (or the teams agree to use it). But, take away the idiotic restrictions put in place by the FIA. If a team think they can great a better KERS device, let them try. If they think it’s worth doubling the size of the battery pack, let them. As it is, we have a sort of ‘mutually assured destruction’ when two KERS cars come across one another.

    To ensure that the fastest car in race trim is not always on pole, we only have to look back a few years. When qualifying was an all out low fuel blast, often the fastest car on Saturday was not the fastest car on Sunday. This was particularly so very recently with McLaren (great single lap pace) and Ferrari (great in race trim). This lead to some genuine racing before the first stops.

    I am probably one of the few who is looking forward to no re-fueling. Back before refueling was re-introduced (last use in ’84, I believe), you had to have real race craft to bring the car home, with the cars getting ever quicker as the race went on (in stark contrast to the usual ‘backing off’ after the final stops). With re-fueling, the race is effectively 3 or 4 sprints. With the dramatically shorter stops, and with the car no heavier after the stop (in fact, with fresh rubber, it’ll be running faster) there is much more emphasis on overtaking on the track before the stops. Of course, the cars are very different these days, so I may be proved very very wrong. But I hope not.

    So, in conclusion, there is no ‘silver bullet’ for overtaking. A number of things need to be done; some of which are already in place or planned, some of which needs a bit of bravery from the FIA and the teams. But, all in all, the changes are achievable.

  32. Overtaking is overrated… Furthermore, no matter how much you love it, you’ll never have more overtaking until you put faster cars behind slower ones.

    If everyone’s so fond of a good pass, why on Earth does the sport clear the way for leaders by use of the blue flag? I’ve never understood that. It’s like a whorehouse where women are forced to remain fully dressed…..

  33. On all the Tillke tracks with the dependence on chicanes, there’s one easy way to spice it up…

    A Canada-style wall of champions. Slide wide on the exit, hit the wall, end the race.

    That said, at a fundamental level, Tillke tracks are single-file exercises. There are very few sequences of road where cars can run side-by-side. If you can’t have side-by-side racing, you can’t have passing.

  34. Was just watching Montoya in Nascar race on the weekend with cars 3 wide and I was thinking that banking and compression seem to be the answer as well.. and I am curious as to what are the reason that Tilke continues to get the contracts LOL… I am sure the facilities are magnificent but for the part that counts the most, the actual track itself, not sure if he’s the man for the job..

  35. All interesting comments, but I say if you want overtaking, watch NASCAR. They have it in spades, but I wouldn’t call it the pinnacle of motor racing. Racing, to me, is much more than passing. What about the ability to just drive an F1 car? A “Top Gear” episode comes to mind where Richard Hammond gets an opportunity to drive the R25 with which Fernando Alonso won the WDC and Renault won the WCC. Hammond has had the opportunity to drive a lot of fast cars, including a shot at the speed record, but he couldn’t drive the F1 car fast enough to make the brakes work. He said his reaction times just didn’t come quick enough to move his foot from the gas to the brake. The corners were coming up to quickly. If you limit technology, then you have what has become the Indy Car Series in the US; a sad shadow of it’s former self. What I like about formula one as a fan is this equation: Take the latest cutting edge technology and engineering, add the best driving talent in the world, and top it off by adding the most money (as long as it isn’t mine), and see what you get. That is F1. Take one of those away, and you could compare F1 with all kinds of examples of failed or failing series (see Indy Car) in the history of auto racing. Tough words in a slumping economy, but sports always prosper during such times.

  36. “He said his reaction times just didn’t come quick enough to move his foot from the gas to the brake.”

    Perhaps he should have used his left foot to brake instead then… like F1 drivers usually do!

  37. Modern tracks are flat, they don’t have banking and it’s just so important and gives great pleasure in driving. But the main problem is the car design. They tend to rely too much on upper body generated downforce and the tyres have too small slip angles. If you have cars with big diffusers and skinny wings + hard wide slip angle tyres, we will see a lot more overtaking. Btw, this is GP2 actually 😉

  38. …bring back turns like the old last turn at Monza and see what happens.

    Heck, lets take some older F1 cars out around Talladega or Daytona (oh, please, I live in Florida!) and see how that works out, as a test. I’d bet on some pretty exciting action on those banks…

  39. It is interesting that both Hugenholz and Hungary have cropped up in recent posts. The combination of these two names, I believe, epitomises where Formula One went off the rails. Whenever serious criticism of Bernard Charles Ecclestone rises to deafening levels there will always be some F1 lunkhead (made rich by Bernie) who snaps back “oh, but he’s all right, he’s a racer at heart”. Cobblers.

    Actions speak louder than words, they say, and BCE’s actions have always been a smug two-fingered salute to racing fans. Almost the first thing he did when he obtained control of the F1 calendar was to ditch Zandvoort, one of the finest, possibly the finest, racing track ever to have seen Grand Prix competition. Ok, so its facilities were a shambles, but so were many in that era, and surely a “racer at heart” would have allowed the track time to improve. Now the original track is lost forever, and although the newly remodeled version is better than most there appears very little chance of seeing Tarzan swallow a pack of Formula One cars again in the near future.

    Almost simultaneous with the ditching of the Dutch GP came the imposition of the Hungaroring. With this as a beacon we should have seen Herman Tilke’s swathe of new tracks coming. Sure Budapest opened up the Eastern Bloc and took F1 behind the Iron Curtain, but the Hungaroring has always been a miserable, pathetic excuse for a racing circuit. One or two memorable races have taken place there, but very few considering its more than two decade history, and most of them were in the wet.

    Ecclestone is only interested in money. He found out back in the ’50s that he was a hopeless racer. His actions have taken F1 into markets that actively dislike motorsport and alienated the fans who keep him and his divorce settlement in pink champagne and new white shirts. He has probably the world’s second largest collection of racing cars yet, unlike the largest (at Donington), his cars are hermetically sealed, away from public eyes, away from the track. A racing car that does not race is a carcass, dead, lifeless. That silent hoard says more about his true character than words ever could.

  40. – John Chapman

    Very true, great post.
    Obviously some sacrifices have to be made to satisfy the money men (Zandvoort being a good example) but if Ecclestone really was a ‘racer at heart’ and not purely a businessman would he really be satisfied by what F1 has become?
    Say what you will about NASCAR but they always seemed to be able to juggle both the business and the showbusiness (not any more alas). I suppose it’s why they all hate Jackie Stewart, because he’s got the same knack for both kinds of dealings where Ecclestone just doesn’t get showbiz. He knows how to count money, but how to put on a show? Nope. Unless you count some LEDs on a hotel a ‘show’.

  41. I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt a surge of excitement when the circus returned to Monza. At last, a proper track again where the cars actually looked like they were really motoring, you could immediately tell the difference in the noise and dynamics. And I was only watching the first practice session on TV!

    I think modern circuit design has a lot to answer for, and we should all go on strike if any more of the old circuits are lost. Hockenheim, Zandvoort, Ostereichring, Mexico City etc always gave great spectacles.

    But I do also think that aerodynamics and brakes play an even greater part today. They both need to be restricted and we will see closer racing.

  42. Also, pertinent with the Bridgestone announcement, I think we need one tyre supplier supplying one dry, one intermediate, and one full wet tyre only. That way all drivers have the same challenge and I believe it will improve the racing.

    Having two dry tyres is pointless, more expensive, more wasteful and does nothing to improve the spectacle. Who watching a GP cares about the ‘option’ tyre? It’s artificial and bogus, and seems to me to spoil more good battles than it creates.

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