Why F1 should race on ovals

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

IndyCar's final race of 2008 at Chicago

IndyCar’s final race of 2008 at Chicago

The F1 calendar features some of the greatest racing circuits in the world. To become Formula 1 world champion you must prove yourself on the 350kph straights of Monza, the tight confines of Monte-Carlo, and everything in between.

But there’s one type of track missing from F1 racing, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in the sport for decades. Here’s why I think it’s time for F1 drivers to race on ovals.

Ex-F1 driver meets oval

Robert Doornbos last raced in F1 in 2006. He’s experienced the fearsome performance of a Formula 1 car – in fact he did so during the V10 era when the cars were even more powerful than today. And he’s raced at some of the calendar’s most spectacular tracks including Spa-Francorchamps, Suzuka and Interlagos.

After that you might think there isn’t much new left for him to experience in the world of top-line single seater motor sport. But you’d be wrong. He had his first encounter with an oval speedway testing for IndyCar team Newman-Haas-Lanigan this week. Here’s what he had to say:

It felt like going to a new school on the first day. I didn’t really know what to expect but I got a lot of information from the team but you have to do it for yourself.

The first five laps I thought ‘Oh my god, where did I end up?’ But that’s because you have to run at a certain pace and once you reach that pace its actually quite fun so we ended the day on a good note and I can go to bed with a smile.

I already got the bug and want to go faster and faster so that’s a good thing. Today was definitely the fastest I have gone in a race car and I am quite proud.

I have no idea what to expect with traffic. It must be something like driving in the middle of the night in China, the traffic is quite bad there. I will just take it as it comes. It’s a steep learning curve but I enjoy it like this.

Doornbos had just sampled the Miami Homestead oval for the first time. Last year the fastest lap in the IndyCar race at homestead was set by Ryan Briscoe at an average of 343.303kph. The fastest average lap speed typical seen during an F1 season is at Monza – around 250kph.

Oval racing is poorly understood in F1’s European heartland and viewed with some hostility and derision. But those who trot out tired cliches like ‘it’s easy because you only have to turn left’ should listen carefully to Doornbos’s words.

One comment posted here earlier this week when we discussed what F1’s biggest rival is was that ‘F1 is the pinnacle of motor sport‘. I think if F1 is to be the pinnacle of motor sport – and it should be – its calendar should present the ultimate motor racing challenge. Therefore, it has to include at least one oval.

Oval racing in single seaters is every bit as demanding as racing on a street circuit or road course – something Doornbos now has a whole new respect for. But the nature of the challenge is, obviously, very different. The courage required to race at such high average speeds is taken for granted. The skill lies in reading how the grip of the oval changes, working out which groove (racing line) to use, and getting through the inevitable traffic cleanly and quickly.

Reality check

F1 going oval racing would not be the work of a moment. For example, the cars’ safety structures would probably have to be re-designed to take into account the increased likelihood of striking a wall. Race distances at oval events would have to be doubled at least to ensure a running time comparable to what we get at an average Grand Prix.

But I’m convinced it is a more realistic idea than one might think at first glance. In the early 1990s the possibility of F1 racing on ovals was given serious consideration as the CART-run IndyCar series boomed in popularity. Silverstone looked at constructing an oval circuit using the southern portion of its track including the Stowe and Club corners.

There’s an obvious marketing incentive too: there is no better way F1 could increase its profile in America than by going there and putting on an oval race – in all likelihood at considerably higher speeds than IndyCar or NASCAR can manage.

I wouldn’t want to see too much of the calendar given over to oval racing – perhaps just one or two events in America. Say, Indianapolis plus one other track, perhaps near the putative USF1 team’s base in North Carolina.

I think the positives vastly outweight the negatives and it is in F1’s best interests to take this idea seriously. If not, one day it could find itself facing a rejuvenated IndyCar series with the mix of road, street and oval tracks that F1 lacks.

Do you think F1 should race on ovals? Ever been to an oval race? Have your say in the comments.

Update: this video is the best argument in favour of oval racing I can think of, and one of the greatest races I’ve ever seen. Juan Pablo Montoya vs Michael Andretti, CART, Michigan 500 in 2000.

Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick racing at Chicago

Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick racing at Chicago

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162 comments on “Why F1 should race on ovals”

  1. I asked the same question last year after Indy :-) The responses from people were mixed. Myself I would like to see F1 racing on oval perhaps once during the season. But I can’t really imagine how would that work. The regular F1 cars are not built for racing on banked ovals. I am not sure how much work and money would it take to make the current F1 cars oval worthy but it may be quite a waste of resources doing all that work for 1 race only. But who knows, perhaps the commercial benefits from an oval F1 race would outweigh the extra expenses… So, one oval race – why not, if it can be done, would be fun, but no more than that no matter how much money that could potentially generate …

  2. An F1 race at an oval track would be a very welcome sight. I would love to see the front runners constantly challenged by having to work their way through the pack. I’ve been to two Indy races at Texas Motor Speedway and they were great. My only gripe is that the F1 cars would have to be modified significantly. I remember Cart trying to hold a race at TMS back in 2001 and they had to cancel because drivers were beginning to black out due to the high speeds and g-forces. Yes the F1 cars would be faster than the Indy cars, but anything beyond 230 or 240mph isn’t physically sustainable. A compromise would be to do a Roval, like the course the 24 Hours of Daytona uses, part of the oval, the rest on the infield. Could you image how great that would be? F1 cars storming around Daytona?!

    1. for those who wish to watch cars racing round oval tracks should croos the pond and watch indy/cart,there is no place in f1 for such a bore

      1. Then what is Monaco ? if thats not boring as bat s#1t I don’t know what is,

        I can imagine 6 Merc powered cars going toe to toe at a decent medium-low banked oval .

    2. there is no place in f1 for such a bore

      Averaging 343kph for a lap is not boring.

      1. And it’s not that easy either. I done a driving experience in a Nascar car on a oval and not reaching anywhere near those speeds the lateral loads as increadible. I’m in good physical condition but after 8 laps I was bit tired. After 3 x 8 laps the day after I was sore. It would be really fun to see what a F1 car could do and judging from Indy nobody would complain about overtaking because of the banked corners no worries not be able to follow with a F1 car.

      2. It sure is, watching cars going fast in a straight line and around banked turns is definitely boring. Watching cars go round corners at speed – that’s what’s interesting.

        1. I don’t know how you’re making the distinction between between a “boring” banked turn on an oval and an “interesting” corner on some other circuit.

      3. Sounds dangerous…. *smiles*

    3. Oval racing is fine, the biggest problem with NASCAR and IRL is that they have far too many oval races. Once you’ve seen one race, you’ve seen all of them.

    4. The Texas track has a very high degree of banking. Generally the higher the banking the faster the track. The key would be to use tracks with a lower banking like Indy or the Milwaukee Mile.

  3. No, no, no!!

    F1 is real racing, the Nascar and Indycar series is a spectacle. I really don’t like safety cars, but the oval races depend on them for getting as close a finish as possible. So work for a couple of hours trying to be on the lead lap, then a caution and the lottery begins. No thank you!

    1. Whewbacca the Cookie
      25th February 2009, 8:10

      Agreed. No need to make F1 look like NASCAR. As many of you already mentioned, even if there was a single oval track in an F1 season it’d require a major redesign of the current F1 cars. Besides any collision would result in a total massacre.

    2. Don’t mistake all kinds of ‘oval racing’ with ‘NASCAR oval racing’. The sort of pack racing you see in NASCAR that produces the ‘lottery’ effect you accurately describe would not necessarily happen in F1 because the design of the cars is entirely different.

    3. Jesper, that actually sounds like some F1 races. You could also argue that F1 is the biggest spectacle of all them all!

      But I also fail to see the appeal of F1 cars on ovals. The deficit between cars is too great for it to be close, and it takes away the fun from watching F1 cars actually take corners at silly speeds. The braking for the corner is also a test of the drivers skill and wit for overtaking/defense, we see mistakes even at this level. Obviously some ovals require some slowing for the corners, but it’s not the same demand on the machine and driver.

      Also, can anyone offer an explanation as to why, if you’re in 2nd, you’d want to swipe the lead as soon as possible knowing fine well the guy behind will just slipstream you by the next ‘corner’? Why not wait until the last couple of ‘corners’ on the last lap to swipe the lead and pressure cook your opponent for hundreds of laps?

    4. NASCAR and IRL races are closer on oval more than ever and there are many races that can go quite long without a caution.

    5. Sounds like Singapore 2014 Jesper

  4. Great idea. one big floor in this plan. Refueling is being banned… No way can they run for 2 hours at 250mph on one tank of fuel. Should have suggested it a few years ago!

    1. 250mph for 2 hours is what F1 cars do now. I guess you mean 343+mph?

    2. Check your units patrickl

  5. I think it would be cool to see, but I’m not sure it will ever happen. F1 cars would need serious changes to work on ovals: crash structures, and engine reliability (it would be harder on engines than Monza, and would have to be a significantly longer distance race).
    Also, would the drivers all have spotters talking to them constantly on the radio?

    I would personally be disappointed if, on their annual trip to America, F1 just raced around an oval. If I wanted to see open-wheel oval racing, I’d go to a (probably much cheaper) IndyCar race.

  6. Historically there have been Grand Prix (not necessarily F1) races on ovals – Brooklands in Surrey was the first ever oval, and the original Monza circuit was an oval too.
    And I think that it would be a great challenge to the drivers and the teams to have even just one oval race in the season, purely because of the difficulties outlined by those others above, and it would be an easy way to re-introduce F1 into North America without spending huge amounts on new circuits.

  7. The drivers necks would get way sore. What about a figure of 8 circuit?

    1. We’ve already got one, Suzuka.

    2. How about they go train in the gym?

    3. There’s an oval track in the US where they have something called chain racing. Groups of three cars are chained together. The front acceleraes, the back brakes and the middle on just tries to stay in the line. Try that at 250mph!

      1. What like actually chained?!?
        A bit dangerous…. pretty cool but very dangerous surely.

  8. Not so sure I’d want to see an F1 race on an oval…but I get where you’re coming from when you say that if they are to truly represent the whole world of racing then they should have to compete on an oval track.

    I just think the costs would be too high to make the cars safe for that race (you’d effectively end up with teams building cars specifically for that one race – in the same way Honda built a special RA106 to try and set a land speed record at the end of 2006)…just wouldn’t gel with the current efforts to cut costs.

    Now then, what if they were to hold a special “Race Of Champions” style event where drivers from the 3 categories each took part in 3 races, 1 in F1 spec machinary, 1 in Indycar machinary and 1 in NASCAR machinary… You could hold the event at either Daytona or Indianapolis (or any other Oval with an in-field circuit)… Couldn’t count towards the WDC, but would raise the profile of F1 in the States…

  9. i like oval racing, so i’m pro turning left, it does sort the men from the boys.

    Its a completly different discipline, one corner favours one line while another favours a different apex but at those speeds it nigh on impossible to chain together a perfect lap everytime… for a period of 40 minutes even.

  10. I don’t think F1 needs an oval. I guess it would be fun to see, but it’s a pretty dangerous form of racing. It’s also too much dependend on cautions and luck.

  11. i respect the oval racing, i understand the complexity and skill from a drivers position, but as a spectator, its a boring as watching football.

  12. I would be just curious about F1 on an oval, and of course I wouldn’t dislike the chance…
    But I think what I really miss now from Formula 1 is racing on very fast tracks, or very fast track parts: I miss long straights of Hockenheim, fast first parts of Buenos Aires and Interlagos in the 70’s configuration, Dottinger Hohe of old Nuerburgring, Mistral of Paul Ricard, rushes in the forest of old Zeltweg.
    There’s only Monza left. Too few. I would like to see those flat rear wings more often.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Despite the 1994 tragedies I miss Imola, too, with Tamburello in its unaltered, chicane-less state. Sometimes fast drivers die while racing. We try to prevent it with reasonable safety precautions. But low-speed processions through narrow, twisty courses with one racing line, no high speed corners, and too few opportunities to pass are BORING. I want to see more flat out racing, at least two racing lines at every circuit, fewer restrictions on engine power and mechanical grip, and more restrictions on aerodynamics. Get rid of the DDDs and elaborate front wings, keep the slicks, make the rear wheels bigger, bring back 3 liter engines, remove the restrictions on engine block design (I want to see V12s and V10s back on the grid) and take the rev limits off! 1000+ bhp or bust! This is Formula ONE, for Pete’s sake!

  13. i was watching ovals and 1/4 mile drag strips since i could walk. then, one sunday, i saw the john player specials and those beautiful red cars tearing up the streets of detroit. only 6 or 7, my eyes were open to a whole new world: monaco, le mans, nordschlife, scandinavians blasting through forests with people willingly standing in the road. don’t make me go back! i won’t go back!!!

    in addition to brooklands and monza, the indy 500 paid f1 driver’s championship points from 1950 to 1960. fuji speedway was intended to be an oval, but the money ran out halfway through construction.

    i would be very interested in a massive figure eight superspeedway, but i doubt it will happen within 20 years.

  14. I’ve been to the Indy 500 many times. I like oval racing in Indianapolis, but really at no other place.

    I wonder if this idea didn’t come up when Tony George and Bernie were originally discussing a USGP? I would be very, very surprised if they hadn’t discussed it. Perhaps the FIA nixed it, but I understand their rule on banking was written so as they could race on the relatively-mild banks of Indianapolis.

    I get the feeling that most F1 drivers don’t like ovals. The American press always asked the drivers at the USGP about the 500 and almost always they said no.

  15. I’ve been arguing in favour of this for a while and personally I’m very happy to see one of the most respected F1 sites on the net in favour of it too.

    I think two oval races sounds about right (one would certainly have to be at Indianapolis, naturally). As Keith says, the ultimate in open-wheel racing should represent all diciplines and the champion should be somebody who can thrive on any type of circuit.

    Even if we just had Indy on the calendar, it would be an instant ‘must-win’ event for the drivers and teams. Having an F1 win at the Brickyard to your name would be akin to having a Monaco GP victory under your belt.

    As unlikely as it all looks at this point, I hope it happens some day.

    1. As an added incentive, a driver’s first race win of the season in a given track type should carry bonus points. That way, two drivers might be otherwise tied on points at the end of a season, but the one that has won on more types of track would edge ahead due to these bonuses.

  16. Mouse_Nightshirt
    25th February 2009, 10:02

    After watching that clip, I still don’t necessarily see the attraction. Trading places for 8 or so laps just because they keep swapping each others slipstream doesn’t quite do it for me. The final lap was fun to watch, but I don’t think the rest of race is particularly relevant.

    You can’t argue with the speed, but speed is relative. Going through Eau Rouge with your foot planted is breathless, whereas the much higher top speed is lost to me on a simple oval.

  17. “The final lap was fun to watch, but I don’t think the rest of race is particularly relevant.”

    My thoughts exactly!

    Make the F1 tracks of today faster instead! I really miss the old Hockenheim for instance.

    And for those who like oval racing: what’s wrong with the existing Nascar and Indycar?

    /J

    1. Like I said, I think the ultimate single seater series should include examples of all types of tracks those cars can race on – including an oval or two.

      On the Michigan race, what made that so exciting (for me, anyway) was that the two drivers were jostling to be in the best position at the start of the final lap to lead at the finishing line. This is exactly the sort of thing we used to see in F1 – Jackie Stewart once won a classic Monza slipstreamer by running a long fourth gear so he wouldn’t have to shift up between Parabolica and the finish line as he and the inevitable pack of cars hurtled towards the flag.

      Here we have two drivers side-by-side at 240mph-plus, one hemmed in by a wall and coming up fast on another car, yet he kept his foot in to win the race. You can’t tell me that’s boring!

      I don’t buy “oval racing is boring” any more than when people (often NASCAR fans) say “F1 is boring” – this is just a cultural difference. Both disciplines can produce extremely exciting racing.

  18. Isn’t oval racing designed, like most American sports, around ad breaks, so that spectators can go get another burger and supersize Coke without missing anything? I really can’t see the appeal of F1 racing on ovals. A bit like watching racehorses doing dressage. Brooklands did start as an oval, but in the 1930’s infield sections were built to give the spectators what they wanted to see- European style cicuit racing. They knew back then that oval racing simply did not offer enough entertainment.

    1. Indy was built so the fans could see the whole track instead of a couple of corners. I like the idea of oval racing in F1 as it’s another challange for the drivers. I never used to respect oval racing as being British i thought is was too easy, that was until i watched the homestead highlights in 2006 just to see what it was like. As 2011 is the 100th anniversary since the first indy 500 (i think) it would be nice to have an f1 race then but i can’t see that happaning sadly. Also seing ovals being added will make a nice change to these mega bland Tilke tracks.

  19. Sorry Keith, I can’t think of anything i’d LESS like to see than F1 racing on ovals. To be perfectly frank, I am posting this without even reading the article – I’m sure there are some valid points noted above, but to be honest, I’m just not interested in the slightest. I’m sure that others must agree.
    Oval racing belongs in America, and should stay in the history books for Europe.
    End of rant.

    1. Aha, and there is one of the fault lines in this debate–should F1 remain a purely European sport, or should it diversify and back up its claim to crowning the “world” drivers champion by hosting a globalised variety of races? Personally, I quite like the variety of having the glamourised vision of night races in Asian metropolises, the idea of an oval race in America, etc.

  20. Really interesting article Keith, Ive never really thought about Oval racing for F1 before, but after reading this I quite like the idea of an oval race on the F1 calendar, but like I think Singapore should remain the only night race, I think, if they were to ever do it, there should only be one, to keep the novelty of it so to speak.

    Watching the cars go round the banked Turn 13 at Indy the other year really was amazing, one of my favourite parts of the weekend. I know the cars would have to be completely different to cope with that for an entire race, given that they could barely cope with that small section at Indy, but I would quite like to see a whole race like that. Only one mind – its why Singapore and Monaco are successful despite there being little chance to overtake – the uniqueness. It really would test a drivers all round ability like no other Formula would, as it would include an even wider variety of challenges. As long as it didnt replace a ‘classic’ venue then I would be ok with it!

  21. Sorry, I have to respectfully disagree – what’s exciting about two drivers leapfrogging eachother repeatedly by getting into the others slipstream? That just makes it chance who ends up winning. I was bored after a minute or two.

  22. Really don’t like the idea. From what I’ve seen, it’s so boring. I really like seeing the F1 cars around beautiful, winding, intricate circuits and all the rules and problems around them.

    1. Shame the new circuits are all boring Tilke-a-dromes then isn’t it..!!

    2. I agree Adrian. They’ve lost their touch re. designing great new circuits. I wasn’t even that impressed with Singapore.

  23. I’d love to see it, once or twice a year. Maybe even more – oval tracks have more variety to them than you’d imagine so knocking out some Tilke clones for (say) Indianapolis, Motegi and either Rockingham or the Lausitzring in Europe would be a net gain.

    Safety and car design make it next-to impossible, and I’m glad Adam mentioned CART’s Texas debacle, where the drivers were blacking out, because it might be the final stopper on F1-standard cars on ovals.

    But you only have to listen to drivers who experience both to see that ovals aren’t the poor relations. Doornbos is just the latest – we spoke to ex-Honda tester Darren Manning when he was still with Foyt Racing last year and he raved about how exciting they were.

    The final race of the last IRL season was just edge-of-the seat stuff, with Helio Castroneves having to work his way up from the back row to win the race AND get the bonus points for leading the most laps to stand any chance of winning the title. Scott Dixon only needed to come 8th to be confirmed as champion but he raced Helio side-by-side all the way to the line, mile after mile, with Ryan Briscoe inches behind. Amazing stuff.

  24. The whole going round & round and swapping positions on every 1/2 lap was tiresome, but the final was great and this was because of the backmarker infront of them.
    The traffic makes it interesting, which means F1 should field a few more cars at the ovals, maybe, and make sure they do not crash at the start :-)

    I’m not entirely convinced about the prospective of 1-1.5h oval racing … :-)

  25. Hmm, I tend to disagree that F1 needs to race on Ovals to prove it is the pinnacle of Motor sport. I mean Rally Driving or Ice racing provides a challenge that needs a unique skill set, but I would not expect F1 to adopt the format of those races just to prove it is the best of the best.

    I think Doornbos’s comments can be taken with a pinch of salt, he is bound to big up Indycar as all the doors in F1 have been closed to him, and he can say whatever he wants to makes him feel better when he goes to sleep at night!

    There are a couple of practicle & Financial reason’s why this concept falls over. It has been mentioned by Adrian earlier, the costs to convert the F1 cars to be aerodynamically efficient on an oval would mean almost a second car being created, and in a time that F1 needs to cut costs that poses a bit of a conflict.

    Secondly, I think it would do nothing to enhance F1’s reputation in North America. If what you are looking for is global acceptance of F1 as being the best and most challenging form of racing then we are pretty much there, the only people that tend not to buy in to this is the American’s who has been brought up with Oval racing all their lives. Now if F1 were to attempt to copy Oval racing by just dipping it’s toe in the water with one or two races, it would be dilutting it’s unique brand strength, because F1 on Ovals would just not be American oval racing to the North American Public, therefore giving the American’s another reason to critise F1. I believe if you cannot do anything extremely well then don’t do it, as someone else will, and the American’s have Oval racing nailed, right the way down to the way they broadcast the race to the public to the mass amount of access to the sport they open up to everyone.

    I enjoy Oval racing occasionally, some races are exciting at the end, mainly due to the long caution periods that bunch the cars up. But I feel it is very dangerous and would not want to see any more crashes that we currently already have in F1.

  26. Some people are stating that the cars swap positions too much, making the outcome almost random. I’ll be honest, a few years back I used to view oval racing in much the same way. But after following it for a while I came to really appreciate its virtues.

    One of the joys of oval racing is the strategy, knowing when to push and move forward and when to hold back, save fuel and the car by running in other car’s slipstreams. Its a bit like a Tour de France rider knowing when to make a break from the peleton and go for a stage win, I suppose. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would be absolutely [i]fascinated[/i] to see how the current crop of F1 talent coped with this challenge.

    I’m sure the race would churn up some unusual results, playing to different strengths of cars and drivers, which is always a bonus for motorsport spectators.

  27. Keith – Here is an interesting argument about overtaking from SpeedTV – Interestingly Peter Windsor here argues for F1 and not Indycar

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvUYz9f1XDc

    1. i wish that discussion went on for another 10 minutes. both windsor and waltrip make strong arguments. obviously, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

  28. Back in the 60s they used to do a 1000km Monza sportscar race using the FULL circuit – i.e., one lap of the ‘normal’ Monza circuit, then one lap of the oval & so on. I’d pay good money to see modern F1 cars attempt that!

  29. I think F1 should race on 1 oval and that’s Indy. We go back to when the Indy 500 was part of F1. However, given the IRL use the Indy 500 I’d settle for a 2nd 500 for F1. You can’t expect a miracle and have a giant mixed field of cars for the Indy 500 as much as some of us would like to see it.

    The problems with F1 on an oval:
    Car strength:
    Now as Keith points out the F1 cars would need to be built to withstand a crash test on an oval, but given the strength of a F1 car this should not be a problem.

    Re-passing slipstream racing:
    The main point most of you have raised is to do with the endless passing and re-passing. Nascar didn’t used to be like this until they had to introduce restrictor plates for the super speedways, as the cars were getting too fast. Pre restrictor plate racing was IMHO much better as the really quick drivers could break away from the pack. If F1 can run on an oval without restrictor plates, then you would not get a bunched field.

    Re-fuelling and race distance:
    The main problem would be designing a car that could run on an oval without having to refuel as refuelling will be banned soon. If that’s the case, you’d probably find that the race would be too short and this is the only drawback to the plan.

  30. AmericanTifosi
    25th February 2009, 13:00

    No no no no no no no no no no no please no. I would rather have F1 cars race underwater than on an oval.

  31. F1 fans moaning about the possibility of too much overtaking?! I thought I’d never see the day.

    I’d like to see one race a year on an oval circuit, probably Indy, just to see what would happen.

  32. Terrible idea. I used to watch the Champ Cars back in the day, and would happily watch a full race from a road course, but only the highlights from an oval (and even then I’d make sure I had something else to do at the same time).

    F1 can race on an oval as soon as they’ve raced around Road America.

    1. Here, Here! Awesome track!

  33. About a race being ‘too short’ if it wasn’t possible to refuel the F1 cars – how far is the current milage possible on a single tank of fuel?
    Couldn’t the oval race deliberatly be a short ‘Sprint’ race to make use of this? After all, Monaco isn’t the official race length, for no aparent reason.

    1. Monaco is shorter because of the nature of the track – the low average speed would mean a full 300km race distance would take well over two hours.

      That’d be fine by me, but probably not for most!

  34. I watched the Daytona 500 for the first time this year and was very impressed. I prefer single seaters to tin-tops as a rule and oval passes generally are not very exciting but it stuck me how great it was to go into the closing stages of a motor race and not know who was going to win it. In F1, by and large, it is a foregone conclusion from the final stops, if not earlier. Oval racing adds that dimension, especially on Superspeedways like Michigan.

    People have already commented that f1 cars are not designed for such racetracks but I would also say that care has to be taken over the choice of oval. For an F1 car to hit 230-240 mph on the straight is fine but to do it in the corner is ludicrous. One poster mentioned the Texas Motor Speedway CART race in 2001 that was cancelled due to the high speeds. As a counter argument: TMS has 24 degree banking as does Daytona making them unsuitable venues for modern single seaters. An oval such as Indy with shallower banking will require breaking in the corners and create overtaking opportunities, as well as limiting G-Forces.

    I would like to see a Grand Prix run on an oval however I don’t think it will ever happen. It would upset too many people. The drivers and teams would be concerned at having to learn a new discipline and would disguise these concerns by moaning about safety as usual. The F1 purists would see it as beneath them to watch a race with only left turns – a look over some of the responses to this excellent article should prove that.

    F1 has so much ‘historical inertia’ Everything new Bernie and Max propose is met with a wall of intolerance and a general wish to go back to days past. See moaning about racing in the far east, or at night, or regulation changes, standardisation, or medals instead of points. I fear oval racing may go the same way.

    I remember watching an interview with Schumacher on YouTube (which, typically I cannot find – will try after work) from about 2002 where, when asked about a possible switch to the US he said that, for him the risks of oval racing outweighed the possible gains. Boo hoo.

  35. Oval racing requires an asymmetrical weight distribution and tyres. Even at that, it would be very inefficient to run an F1 engine currently at an 18,000rpm rev limit at full throttle for a good portion of the circuit.

  36. I went to a bunch of oval races back in CART’s golden age of around ’93-’96. It is a spectator sport in a way that normal road courses are not – you can see the whole track, or most of it and there is more happening at one time than you could actually follow, so there is no down time except for yellows. But I don’t think it will travel well over TV to audiences not accustomed to it. You have to be there to really appreciate it and understand the speeds – TV slows it down and road races rarely sustain such speeds, especially since Hockenheim was emascualted.

    I also agree with an earlier commenter’s point that F1 is about dominance rather than parity, ovals would be kind of weird with only 2 cars on the lead lap.

    But to Keith’s point, as much as I love F1, I have to agree with Nigel Roebuck that CART in the mid 90’s was the greatest racing series on earth and that part of it was down to the drama of ovals mixed into the road and street circuits. The Cleveland airport didn’t hurt either :). But only part of it was down to the ovals, the rest was parity and a great driver stable for that period. That’s more of what F1 needs – competition, not necessarily passing. Passing is the symptom. The disease is that it really is not competitive.

    1. Absolutely agree about F1 (at least, in its current state) being about dominance rather than parity. An oval race needs some level of parity in order to be relevant (in modern times, at least; Nascar events in the 50s and 60s were sometimes won by upwards of a dozen laps). Nascar and IndyCar achieve that by being effectively spec series, and the reason that we still saw parity even when CART was an open series (the good old days with Reynard, Lola, and Swift duking it out) is because essentially, every team is racing a customer car, built by competing manufacturers that have essentially even resources. If every team in IndyCar, from the big three of Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti-Green down to the smallest shoestring budget teams, built their own car like in F1, you’d have a totally different story.

  37. If you guys get a chance, google Pocono Raceway. It’s a triangle like race track that features turns from 3 different race tracks. Turn 1 is from a now defunct Trenton New Jersey Raceway, the second turn is based off of Indy, and the third turn is based off of the Milwaukee Mile.

    CART would race there, but then left and Nascar took over the track. Each turn is very different from one another so the pit crews really compromise some turns to suit the driver. The leaders in Nascar often get very spread out, but there’s lots of mid pack action.

    I’m sure F1 cars wouldn’t have a problem using the brakes too much, but the Nascar teams often set-up the cars with road course style set-ups. If F1 unlikely comes to an oval, or all a left turn track for that matter, Pocono or Indy would be the right place in my opionion.

    1. Pocono was my first thought on a good venue as well for the reasons stated. The added bonus for Formula One is that Pocono is only one hour away from New York City, which I’m sure the powers that be would relish being so close to.

    2. I live less than 50 miles away from Pocono and have seen one Sprint Cup race there. Honestly, there’s a better chance of Bernie selling off FOM and becoming a monk than there ever is of seeing F1 at Pocono. Here are a few reasons:

      – Pocono is one of only 3 tracks in NASCAR not owned by one of the two big speedway companies- ISC or SMI. There’s no way the owners, the Mattioli family, would ever put up the funds to host F1.

      – Honestly, everyone on the NASCAR circuit probably lists Pocono as their least favorite venue. The facilites are way outdated by F1 standards, and it’s a narrow track that often produces processional racing. It is easy to get to from NYC, but it’s out in the middle of open woodlands and while there are some casino resorts around, it’s nothing like what the F1 circus wants- people will be comparing it to Magny-Cours in no time.

      Nice concept, but it woulden’t happen in a million years……

  38. Only americans get oval tracks. to everyone else they are boring, me included.

    1. I disagree with you. I’m not an American, and I like to watch oval racing.

      so it is totally not true of what you said.
      I agree that not everyone wants to see ovalracing. but what you said is crap

  39. Nope… I disagree with you for once I’m afraid.

    Watching cars just go fast in circles at constant velocity is indeed boring.

    Well, to me it is – but I guess it’s subjective.

  40. I’m not sold at all.

    I turned over to Sky Sports one Sunday to watch Nascar and the spectacle of the cars going round in ovals made me turn over straight away.

    Seeing an F1 car pull out another’s slipstream to overtake it is nothing compared to seeing it outbrake it.

  41. Keith, what about a pool? ;-)

    1. … I meant poll :-)

    2. Yay!

      Wait – I can’t swim. :(

    3. well, get some lessons then

  42. Alastair: “The drivers necks would get way sore.”
    – That’s the lamest attempt at an excuse ever.

    Keith: “F1 could increase its profile in America – (…) at considerably higher speeds than IndyCar or NASCAR can manage.”

    – No, they wouldn’t go faster than IndyCars. Around the year 2000 ChampCars were supposed to have a race at a super-fast oval in Texas. During tests the cars were reaching speeds beyond 400kph. But it occured that some drivers were fainting because of the forces straining their bodies. The race was stripped from the calendar.
    __________________________
    Anyway, I’d love to see F1 race on an oval. Oval tracks have the potential of producing the most entertaining races.
    It’s hard to understand it by the clip Keith gave, because it’s taken out of context. And also – it’s more fun when the track is a 4 turn oval, just like Indy.
    Apart from that, it’d be easier for an F1 fan who doesn’t now IndyCars appreciate it if he saw e.g. Hamilton against Massa on that clip ;)

  43. “The final lap was fun to watch, but I don’t think the rest of race is particularly relevant.”

    Isn’t that how a lot of people would describe F1?

    An oval is a brilliant idea; what a spectacle! For all those people who are complaining that it would be boring or would detract from F1; it’s one race out of 20! As much as Europeans don’t like to admit it, the United States is the biggest market in the world and having and oval race in the United States makes plain business sense. It would draw American viewers to watch the other races as well, increasing total viewership, attracting more sponsors and therefor more money and better racing.

  44. Boston F1 Fan: That is such a closed statement. yes the US has a large market, but an oval is dull, there is little skill you just have to have big balls! surely haveing nascar and indy driving round in ovals is enough, it would be better market sense to go to a US Track and influence the US in that way.

    Do something different rather than going with the norm!

  45. Well after F1, Indycars is probably my favourite motorsport and like Keith I think F1 needs to cover all types of tracks so I’m sold on the idea. Also, I don’t understand how anyone can say side-by-side racing for multiple laps at 220mph with inches deciding the postions and the cars with wheels almost interlocked isn’t extremely difficult and exciting (as the Chicagoland race has proven in the last few years).

    The main problem is that F1 cars would need completely different packages for high banked courses – the IRL use a separate package for the ovals and the road courses.

    Maybe Keith could manage a mini-interview with someone from Dallara about the changes that are required for a single-seater to race on an oval and perhaps ask someone from Bridgestone about what changes they would need for their tyre compounds after what happened to Michelin in 2005!

  46. Well probably with the new rules in aerodynamics. They can now do an oval race. In the passed 5 year or so, Formula 1 cars produces tremendous amount of down force that when they do it on oval circuits the tires then to shatter. If we go back to what happened during the 2005 US GP. Most teams who had issues with the tires shattering had to ban the cars from running with just 1/4 of the oval part of the whole oval circuit. That was the Michellin’s part … nwo for Bridgestone tires I think it would also not last that much if they would run it on a full oval.

    The track itself had something to do with it. Some Oval tracks like Indiana was altered. They used diamond cutters to create deep grooves on the track which also lead to creating sharp edges that when an F1 car runs on it coupled with huge amount of downforce the tires will really not last.

    The purpose of this grooves was clearly to aid other series’ get more mechanical grip out of those left handed ovals. making the race safer. I think we all know that no other open wheel series can match the down force level that an F1 car creates. So this is I think one of the reasons why F1 doesn’t do oval racing before.

    Now though, with the new rules in aerodynamics. About 50% of the downforce was lost with the new design so I think FIA and Bernie can look at it. It would be nice to get F1 back to the US.

  47. Sam: “That is such a closed statement. yes the US has a large market, but an oval is dull, there is little skill you just have to have big balls”

    Did you read the article at the beginning of this page, or just make a post mindlessly? Stating “____ activity takes no skill” is the most closed statement you could possibly make.

    Quoth Keith: “But those who trot out tired clichés like “it’s easy because you only have to turn left” should listen carefully to Doornbos’s words.”

    Go to youtube, search for “Fifth Gear Nascar” where they discuss the challenges of driving on an Oval from a BRITISH perspective. I’m not speaking as a hick American; I follow F1 and find NASCAR and Indy pretty boring. However, I feel that seeing how F1 tackles driving around and oval or a four-corner Indy-style would be incredible.

    If nothing else and you end up correct that driving around an oval for F1 drivers requires no skill and just “big balls”, we would find for sure which pilots have the biggest balls. That alone would make it worth it. Speaking as a Hamilton fan, I think it would be Kimi.

  48. Or Kubica.

  49. Boston F1: dont you think though that the fact that there is already Indy and Nascar available that F1 could explore something a little different in the US?
    As a spectacle F1 primarily is about going fast, agreed but it is also about negociating difficult tracks and different demands, i just dont see how an oval track is going to offer that.

    1. I can’t think of anything more different to a road course than an oval.

    2. Agreed, ajokay. While Nascar and IndyCar’s oval races may be the most visible American motorsports, road racing is certainly more than available here as well–IndyCar’s road and street circuits, American Le Mans, Grand-Am, numerous national touring car series–even Nascar’s three road courses are great races. Doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a F1 road race in America (the big crowds at Indy showed there is), but an F1 oval race would be something else entirely.

  50. The problem with f1 on ovals is that f1 races unfortunately only rarely ‘go down to the wire.’ That video of Montoya and Andretti is indeed great, but what are the real probabilities that f1 oval races would give us anything resembling that? One idea, though probably not very workable, would be a solution like that at the Indianapolis track, but using much more of the length of the oval – actually, it would possible to use almost all of an oval with the exit and entrance to an enclosed course being very close together.

    One more thing: did anyone else catch the American commentator referring to the slipstream as the ‘wind-shadow’? I kinda like that.

  51. I would love to see an oval race in f1, preferably Indianapolis. Thinking though the drivers would need a spotter like in NASCAR and Indy car to watch out for there driver.

    1. I remember that. The ‘you can see him’ stuff seemed a bit pointless…

  52. I’m not sure I’d like to see F1 on an oval because then I may as well watch Indy cars. Having said that I don’t mind if a part of the race is on the oval like they have done previously…

  53. Personally, I can see the attraction for 1 race a year on an oval race. but then it would be hard for the teams to have to virtually recreate their cars just for 1 race because of ultra safety regulations. would be interesting, but hard.

  54. Imagine how many of the 18 or 20 cars would survive 2 hours without being turned into bags of carbon shards. Yes, that’s real exciting. I have enjoyed an oval CART race or two, e.g., Nazareth, Phoenix, tracks with actual and varied corners, but at the end of the day its too dangerous. And if people gripe about safety cars determining the race, and “fuel-economy-racing,” then this is not for you.

  55. If we are to have it all you need
    Road
    Street
    Ovals Pavement
    Ovals Dirt

    Now that would be a great series to watch if they could find that kind of balance.

    In truth I just can picture F1 on an oval. If they did they would need a big one like Indy or Daytona but I just cant see it working.

    1. I think the dirt oval is a bit far fetched, at least ovals and road/street courses have one thing in common – a hard surface. F1 on dirt, now that would be silly.

    2. I think you can’t drive with a F1 car on dirt. they don’t have any traction control, and a huge of power. I think the car will spin around just before you know

  56. That Montoya vs Andretti finale is the first thing I remembered when reading this post, and that’s what you get when on a series that’s built to give advantage to the car running behind. False overtaking. Countless overtaking moves every lap. It just gets as boring as no overtaking at all.

    I know a sim can’t really be used to compare, but we have no other way of doing it, and seriously, any street or race circuit is waaay difficult than any oval.

  57. Guiferrarissimo
    25th February 2009, 17:09

    Much better than ovals are the wonderful circuits USA have: I would love to see F1 races in circuits like Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca, Road Atlanta and Road America (even Sebring!). Wait, can you guys just imagine F1’s accelerating through the Corkscrew?
    These are real challenging tracks, unlike the boring Tilke’s experiments. With so many great “old-school european-style” tracks in USA why the – rather expensive – idea of going oval ?

    1. They are great tracks and I’d love to see F1 race on them. But unless they spend vast amounts on extending run-offs, building enormous paddock facilities, and probably getting rid of awesome corners like The Corkscrew and The Kink for safety reasons, it isn’t going to happen.

  58. And yes, I agree with Scott Joslin above, F1 on ovals will just be F1 diluting itself.

  59. I’m not for ovals in F1 there are plenty of series running ovals already. As a matter of fact the United States needs more road racing! I would not mind 1 oval event, I think that would make it special and sort of a novelty in the calendar.

    Most people here don’t even know what formula 1 is, maybe running the F1 cars at indy might be a way to promote the sport in america.

  60. F1 should definitely have an oval, Indy I’d say. Yes they would have to take it into account in the design but if it made the cars safer on normal circuits then it wouldn’t be a bad thing. It would add more variation to a season blighted by Tilke tracks, it would make F1 more popular in the States, and we would see the cars reach close to their potential top speed. It would add to the challenges drivers face over the season and surely cement F1 as the worlds leading series. It’s a winner all round.

  61. I’ve started watching the odd NASCAR race last year and although I’m no expert I’ve found the ones I watched to be interesting.

    I’d love to see F1 cars on the Oval at Indy and maybe one or two others (maybe Rockingham so Britain could have two GP’s too).

    The F1 tracks are starting to get a bit generic since they’ve built all of the new ones & ripped up most of the old ones. A few Ovals would add in some much needed variety & could help attract a few more fans in America.

  62. @ Christian
    “I’m not for ovals in F1 there are plenty of series running ovals already.”
    – In the US, but in Europe there are none.

    “As a matter of fact the United Stated needs more road racing!”
    – And Europe (and the rest of the world) needs more oval racing, and that’s what the topic is about. ;)

    There are oval tracks in Germany (Lausitzring) and in Britain (Rockingham), but both of those countries have a Grand Prix already, so we’d need to have the venue elsewhere. The US just happens to be the perfect candidate.

    1. I think the problem with those venues as well is how hard it is to predict the climate. You can’s race on an oval in the wet.

      Rockingham’s a spectacular place. I went there for the first time a couple of years ago, and it’s as if someone tore a chunk out of America and dropped it in the middle of Northamptonshire. It’s a terrible shame it never gets used for what it was built for any more.

  63. Sure!! After they add ovals to the calendar, then we can add gravel too. Then F1 will truly be the pinacle of motorsport!

  64. I’m sorry, I can’t even watch a full irl race on ovals…so boring. In F1 the cars aren’t equal speed, therefore there wouldn’t even be close racing…..

  65. Stephen Higgins
    25th February 2009, 20:40

    IndyCars and NASCAR racers are desinged for ovals.

    F1 cars are not.

    End of story.

  66. I’ve tried to get into open wheeled oval racing over the years. Occasionally enjoyed the Indy 500 and the like. There’s always something missing though, as much as I respect the speed, intensity and definite skill of the pilots (come on, they ain’t exactly driving). Watching some of last years reunified series it was always the circuit based races that were the most interesting and indeed exciting, especially in the wet.
    Watching the Michigan 2000 Mon/And battle again, just now kind of summed it up nicely. It was terrifyingly fast, it was extreme and the pilots showed considerable skill but it left me kind of cold.
    Your turn, my turn, now you, now me etc. a bit like basketball, until some random event is thrown into the equation (back marker).
    For me the lack of overtaking in F1 although not great for the masses is precisely what makes it interesting. In F1, an overtake is an exception rather than a rule and although it seems to contradict the idea behind a race it’s what makes it for me.
    Motorbike races suffer similar to oval’s – all the right ingredients, thrilling skilful riding but ultimately does nothing for me…

    1. I have some sympathy for this point of view – I’ve watched a bit of Moto GP and it’s good, but I just don’t ‘get’ it the way I get four-wheeled motor sport.

    2. Should have watched the Brazilian GP mate.

  67. whoever has the less drag would win, ovals are for spec series. Also I think the cars would be too quick for a flat-out track, it would have to be a short track. eg:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firestone_Firehawk_600

  68. Terry Fabulous
    25th February 2009, 21:28

    Absolutely Yes.
    It is a legitimate form of racing and one that is uniquely challenging.
    As for adapting the cars, we always here the techo’s rabbit on about hwo the cars have to be engineered to get around Monaco with steering lock and that sort of thing..

    Well Tech your cars for oval racing boys we are going stateside. YEEE HAAWWWWW!!!!!

    I reckon it would be great to watch.

  69. Rockingham’s oval is too short.
    I watched 2 CART races there. They should have extended the straights between 2 & 3 and 3 & 4.

    I’ve also driven it too. It’s a shame as F1 would be too quick for it and I doubt they’ll extend it ever.

  70. Never thought of it but i think it’s a fantastic idea, i loved that video you posted, and not because of the multiovertaking as i agree that too much of anything isn’t good, in fact i don’t have a problem with F1 2008 overtaking possibilities, they are fine to me. What i did like about that video was the strategic depth of the racing, really like a game of chess were the best one is he who can anticipate a greater amount of his opponents future moves, except it’s happening at 200+ mph, plus your brain starts to think about what those guys have to do in terms of weight shifting, grip, line (make that the right line for the next 4 curves), backmarkers, slipstreaming/overtaking frequency. It’s a lot of fun it seems and in fact i’ve made it a resolution to watch Indy this year as i very much doubt F1 will ever do this.

    So it seems there are two downsides so far: the technical aspect of safety/feasibility, and i’d be surprised if F1 can’t figure this out. The second one being the close mindedness of a lot of people that simply say it can’t be done, americavseurope, oval takes no skills, etc. which either indicates a lot of prejudice or little knowledge of what goes behind oval racing.
    And this is coming from someone who can’t watch nascar as it bores me to tears, but i’m very clear and have a lot of respect on what goes on behind the sport as such. Personally i don’t like spec series much, so F1 doing it sounds great to me. Once per season would work great.
    The possible third objection being that a non spec series would result in some cars disappearing into the distance. I don’t think it would be that different from circuit racing, but if it does and turns out to be a failed experiment, can it seriously be any worse than Valencia 08? all i remember about it was fernando’s early crash, massa’s funky pitstop and kimi’s engine, that’s it. And yes i know the gp2 one was ok.

  71. That video was AMAZING!

    1. I love it. Whenever I see it I have to watch it through to the end, just like Villeneuve vs Arnoux.

  72. I wouldn’t watch it

  73. it would be interesting to see f1 cars on the oval but it would be just contradicting cutting costs in f1. Crash tests, engine, aerodynamics etc. and also this is my opinion to be the pinnacle of motorsport u dont need to copy another sport but come up with a fresh creative innovation to make it great, however sadly there is no colin chapman or ken tyrell anymore. and also will the oval race track safety comply with fia rules. the video was amazing by the way however f1 has had its fair share of great finishes ie senna vs mansell 86 estoril or jerez.

  74. Did you see the last race of the IRL 2007 season? Side by side to decide the championship. That is awesome

  75. The biggest problem I have with the current mainly Oval series (NASCAR and IRL) is that all the full course cautions, due to the extreme high speed of the tracks, makes the races artificially close.

  76. Before the advent of F1, many European GPs were held on ovals like Avus in Germany and the old Monza. They were phased out for safety reasons – and this at a time when death was one of the accepted risks of motor racing. The fact that there was a long history of road circuits in Europe also contributed to the loss of interest in ovals.

    Why Americans went the other way and concentrated on oval racing I am not sure, unless it has something to do with the fact that America’s cities tend to be laid out in grid patterns and country roads are straight (except in New England), thereby providing no suitably interesting ready-made circuits.

    But if the mountain will not come to Mohamed, Mohamed must go to the mountain, and American series have included more and more road and purpose-built circuits over the last couple of decades. Even NASCAR includes a few road circuits in its calendar these days.

    That is an unspoken admission that mere speed is not interesting enough in itself – that route leads to the crazy situation of restrictor plates on the cars for the faster ovals. NASCAR has reached the limit of human endurance in the quest for speed alone and must devise other ways of entertaining the public. And that means corners, unbanked, in both directions and of various configurations. Cue the road courses.

    Oval racing in the States will continue but its importance will fade as time goes on and the public discovers that road racing is much more relevant to their own driving experience. It is possible that the oval will survive only in such places as it has in Europe – and that means dirt track racing, great entertainment and fun but hardly suited to be a premier motor sport.

    I think your wish comes too late, Keith. The last refuge of oval racing, the US of A, is already beginning the painful transfer to road circuits and there will be no going back. Ovals have had their moment in the history of motor sport but they have become too dangerous given the potential speed of modern race cars. The classics like the Indy 500 may survive but the era of the dominance of road courses has arrived at last.

    1. Interesting comment! I definitely agree that the number of options for a road racing fan in America has increased compared to 30 years ago, with IndyCar, ALMS, Grand-Am, and numerous touring car series all eking out a sustainable existence. But I have to say, I don’t see any evidence for a cultural shift to road racing, or any signs that ovals are an endangered species. If it ever comes to America, I doubt it would be for another 30 years, at least. Nascar has so completely taken over the public’s image of motor racing in America and has become so politically charged that the young, international-looking, tech-oriented, college-educated demographic where F1 might seem most able to breed a new generation of fans (and where soccer and the English Premiere League is succeeding in making inroads) is totally repulsed by the mention of motor racing in any form as a political principle. (Which is a shame for all forms of racing.)

      “Oval racing in the States will continue but its importance will fade as time goes on and the public discovers that road racing is much more relevant to their own driving experience.”

      Frankly, I think that a country in which 90% of its drivers drive an automatic transmission suggests that its general public is not too concerned about their own driving experience in the way that a road racing fan might be.

      “Even NASCAR includes a few road circuits in its calendar these days.”

      Actually, Nascar has had road courses on the schedule since 1958 at Riverside. The importance of road racing in Nascar has neither declined nor risen since then–the appeal has always been for road racing fans to see their heroes come in and have a chance at winning, and for the Nascar fans to see their heroes attempt to adapt in an environment where many of them are clearly out of their element.

      “That is an unspoken admission that mere speed is not interesting enough in itself – that route leads to the crazy situation of restrictor plates on the cars for the faster ovals. NASCAR has reached the limit of human endurance in the quest for speed alone and must devise other ways of entertaining the public.”

      Nascar has never been on a quest for speed–it’s always been looking for competition. I would note that the hardest ticket to get in Nascar for the past few decades isn’t the flat-out, 200 mph superspeedways of Daytona or Talladega–it’s Bristol Motor Speedway, the 0.533 mile, 30-degree-banked stadium oval where average speeds are on the order of 120 mph or less. This is a track where, when the field takes the green flag, the driver in 43rd place is already over half a lap down on the leader, where the traffic is constant, and a well-executed bump-and-run is considered a mark of skill. To fans, it’s Nascar at its best and closest to its roots. Because in truth, Nascar has never been about pure speed (in contrast to Indy cars, where “And it’s a new track record!” is the most famous call at Indy). It’s about the strategy and tactics of racing cars that have far more power than appropriate for its grip levels, and the various tactics that ovals in their many forms (from the dynamic draft packs of the superspeedways to the jostling for position at short tracks) present to the drivers. So, despite the increasing availability of road racing to American fans I’m not at all convinced that ovals are on their way out in America. Not to mention that at a grass-roots level, Nascar and oval-style racing has a leg up because the cost of entering a $500 junker in an enduro at your local dirt track off the highway is much easier than getting a road racing license and taking a well-performing car to a road course.

    2. Oval racing (at Brooklands) started because the British government wouldn’t sanction racing on public roads, which was the usual practice in Europe, especially France. The ‘British’ Grand Prix was actually held on a road circuit in Ireland….
      I think the American wooden ovals started for more or less the same reason – the cars were not allowed to race on the streets, and of course the spectators could see all the action too. There was also the development of dirt circuits too, but I am not sure how much they influenced the ovals. As I understand it, road racing in America did not really take off until after the end of prohibition, when there were a lot of powerful cars with nothing to do – but they also got used on the ovals too….

    3. It’s my understanding that oval racing in America first caught on as dirt track racing at county fairs round the turn of the century (which continues to this day), and the paved ovals were a direct descendant of the dirt tracks. (Take the Milwaukee Mile, whose use as a motor circuit predates Indianapolis and was originally a horse track.) It wasn’t all that many decades ago that the USAC Indy car championship included rounds on dirt on their schedule. Road racing on public highways was also astrong tradition–in fact, I recall Jules Verne including a race across southern Wisconsin in one of his novels–and wasn’t banned until the 50s after the accident at the Watkins Glen street course. It was in the aftermath that the road courses that are classics today like the Glen, Road America, and Laguna Seca were built.

  77. NASCAR might run 34 races on Ovals (some twice a year) but they are all very different in length, smoothness and banking. A short Track in Bristol, .533mi, is banked to high hell while Indy is flat and square and 2.5mi. Some ovals are smooth and some are rough (depending on the last time it was paved). NASCAR actually has a large variety of tracks.

    This weekend ill be in Vegas rooting on the before mentioned Juan Pablo Montoya on a 1.5 mi progressively banked Tri-Oval drinking a cold one. It’s a ton of fun if you give it a chance.

  78. F1 drivers should just race the Indy 500 that would be awesome!

    1. Would need more than 33 starting spots if that were the case. How about the top F1 drivers attempt to qualify?

    2. Great idea, but sometimes the race is the same weekend as the Monaco GP, so that prevents most from entering. Also, with nearly a month of qualifying and practice leading up to the 500, it would almost totally exclude anyone in F1 from entering as a one-off participant.

  79. I don’t see much thought given to sustainable F1 & costs. The US series are finding it hard to merge due to the excess oval car engineering costs and the US domestic dollars are even failing the team owners in NASCAR.

    The oval owners actually expect bucket loads of money rather than losses. With F1/CVC dialing in track losses they expect subsidised from the public purse it is all heading down the gurgler with public deficits everywhere let alone thinking about getting back into the US where you have to pay the piper.

    But wasn’t it terrific revisiting Mr Instinctive Montoya, to spite the purists he could still turn the drafting lottery into something else.

  80. srilnakanf1fan
    26th February 2009, 3:56

    i think F1 needs to race in ovals. no matter how much i hate Ovals, if people can race in the tough Monza, spa, Monaco circuits, they should be also tested on ovals. to be a champion on the pinnacle of motorsports, you should be tested to your limit. so, atleast one race couldnt hurt, hopefully, Miami, Motegi, or even bring back the Indy500!

  81. well for me racing in an oval circuit is not a big deal cause i like watching racers battles in tight corners it would be nice to see a track has one oval corner like Indianapolis (which i used to like it a lot) but an oval track this is really like watching kids learning how to drive in a park cause tight corners or slow corners make u think n do ur best to make it to the optimum of braking points n defending ur place this is somthing i enjoy to see besides every driver in F1 pinnacle has his own way of driving & a different talent i dont see that in oval circuits n a lot of things else to say but as i said an oval corner in a track would be nice not an oval track thats my opinion

  82. I agree with this post. If Formula 1 wants to claim that it has the most sophisticated cars, it needs to be able to demonstrate that on a variety of circuits. Until then, these cars are only good for a very narrow range of circuits—wide, flat, smooth circuits only. How can you claim to be at the “pinnacle” of engineering when your car can barely handle a slightly banked turn at Indianapolis? Pathetic. If it were up to me, I’d turn Formula 1 cars into supercars that can do ovals, streets, road courses and even dirt roads with relative ease. That would earn massive respect. Such a series would provide an even more interesting challenge for the engineers, because they would have to compromise their designs to be reasonably effective over the whole season. That could also lead to more variety of winners throughout the season, for example, if some cars are better suited for ovals than road courses. And finally, in response to the idea that F1 cars are too fragile to race on ovals, they should consider that there is plenty of potential for oval circuits to utilize safety features like softer walls or stickier run-off or whatever to accommodate ever escalating speeds.

    1. I agree completely, F1 circuits are getting too easy and too similar, and if its going to turn into a spec series, it should be as challenging as possible for the drivers and the engineers – otherwise they might as well be in GP2 or Superleague Formula….
      At the moment, if you want to see cars tackling different circuits and street races, some long, some short, some very fast, you should watch Touring Cars and GT Racing….

  83. theRoswellite
    26th February 2009, 6:15

    Wow. Sounds like a fair number of folks are just as dismissive of oval racing as oval-heads are of all the geeky furiners driving them little formulabugs round ‘n round the streets.

    Make no mistake about the skills required to finish at the front of any kind of serious professional motor race.

    Also, I’m not sure I get the problems with F1 cars running on ovals…..other than the obvious physiological problems related to high sustained G’s, and that isn’t a car problem. The cars should be capable of any crash test requirements (Kubica/Canada), and you can’t tell me the teams can’t make the necessary adjustments without designing an entirely new car.

    Additionally, if you’re going to do an oval, do one. Don’t mix and match the Dayton combine, ditto Indy; gives us one good example of the best drivers in the world, in the best cars, on a very high speed oval. (The refueling can be worked out if the FIA wants to see it happen)

    Make the World Champion a champion of all the world.

  84. Of course ! would the tyres hold up ?
    Just dont let Tilke get anywhere near any cool US track

  85. When I first went to live in America, I was deeply sceptical of oval racing. I fitted perfectly into that bracket of people who believe that oval racing is easy, a simple job of just turning left for four hours.
    I had been raised on road courses, the famous F1 circuits of Spa and Monza, and knew very little about ovals. In America, NASCAR is totally dominant and overwhelming. The first series that grabbed my attention was the IRL, with cars that looked far more like my beloved F1 cars than NASCAR did.
    The first IRL race I saw was the 2006 St Petersburg race in Florida. It was the first street race I had ever seen and I loved it, and have been back there every year since.
    My lifelong ambition had always been to witness all three series of F1, IRL, and NASCAR. Up until that point, I had crossed two off my list. At the end of last year, I took the time to visit Daytona and the
    legendary banked corners and was blown away by my
    experience. By pure chance, I decided to buy tickets for the Daytona 500, and I can safely say it was the best racing experience I have yet witnessed.
    Some may scoff at $300 for a seat, plus pit and fanzone axcess, but not me. It was worth every penny to see the cars in their garages, being worked on feverishly by the mechanics. The crowd around Earnhardt Jnr’s car must have been ten deep, everyone of them wearing their favourite drivers shirts and hats.
    I suddenly thought of this scenario being played out around Raikkonen’s garage or Hamilton’s. ITV aren’t even allowed that kind of view, nevermind the fans.
    The racing itself was highly enjoyable, despite the early finish due to the rain. After watching that, I now realise how wrong I had been about oval racing, and how much I would have loved to have seen F1 run a race like that.
    The sound, the excitement, and sheer speed was awesome and awe inspiring. The biggest mistake F1 has ever made was turning its back on the North American scene and never venturing into oval racing seriously. Keith is
    absolutely right. F1 needs to dabble in every track
    configuration, and not just the traditional circuits.
    Its a bit like saying you are the worlds best mountain climber without every attempting to scale Mount Everest. Just try it, and see!

  86. yeah,would the tires hold up? it did not in 2005 on one banked curve let alone two . f1 would be faster there, they have shown on a straight can go over 350 kph, but it might not be safer because we see crashes and fatalities in cart/indy, how much more f1. im sure ralf became half the man or half the racer he is after the crash.2 years after the crash he’s in a DTM car.

  87. Conceptually racing F1 on ovals is a great idea. Financially it’s ruinous. They would have two build a car designed specifically for an oval including different tires and rims. And additional testing at ovals. And at high speed ovals there is limited braking, so how does KERS figure into that? Doesn’t compute in my mind.

    In these economic times I can’t see anyone backing this concept until we’re well out of the depression.

  88. Keith,

    Nice article but I’ve two things to mention.

    The 2000 Michigan 500 had an exciting finish, but that was because of the ‘Hanford Device’. The standard rear wing design was introduced to greatly increase drag and reduce downforce, making it very easy to slipstream. The Hanford device was introduced for safety reasons but had an artificial effect on the race too.

    In the past, you strongly opposed refuelling. I agree, races should be won and lost on the track. But a oval races always need to be relatively long a refuelling ban isn’t a good idea from a safety point of view.

  89. HOLY CRAP thats a lot of comments, but this one is directed at Loki back up at the top. From watching the video of Montoya/Andretti I learned that the constant passing was them trying to work out a strategy and see where they needed to be on the last lap to get the right timing of the pass. While I do agree that oval racing and F1 don’t necessarily mesh, there does seem to be a particular bit of strategy involved rather than just following the leader for 100 laps and making the pass at the last second. Don’t the oval leagues give points out based on the position of the car throughout the entire race as well? i.e. more points for leading laps, having led the most laps, etc… (I don’t watch any of those leagues, but I seem to remember something about this) If that is the case, then leading the race takes more importance and there is more incentive to pass the leader and be in P1 than there is to sit back and relax until the end.

  90. Jason, In Nascar I know that that for leading a lap, 5 bonus points are given. An additional 5 bonus points is given to the leader of the most laps.

    I’m unsure if there’s any bonus points awarded in the IRL.

  91. Well, we already have a night race, street circuits, historic tracks and Tilke-dromes – so why not an oval race? I really don’t see the problem with one a season for a bit of variety. And surely even a left turn that goes for 2 hours would be more interesting than Valencia….

    But it’s useless us all espousing what we’d like to see. If Bernie thinks he can make a buck out of it, then it’ll happen. If not, back to dreaming for us lot.

    1. The funny thing is that he would probably make a very good dollar on the deal, but he dose whatever he wants to do, even when it flies in the face of logic.

  92. Bernification
    27th February 2009, 1:37

    If F1 races on ovals, could they just do it behind closed doors and just tell us afterwards who won?

    I personally think the performance differences between the cars would just mean that there would be cars finishing laps apart. Hardly anyone would be on the same lap as another car. So overtaking would just be the faster cars lapping slower cars continually.

    Aren’t indy and cart spec series, using customer parts and engines, ie. less differences between cars, just down to set-up. If that’s so, there is very little likelyhood that F1 will perform the same or produce the same ‘exciting and tense finishes’.

    And surely, the whole point of giving points for leading laps was to engineer a reason to lead, and encorage taking the lead earlier, rather than slipstreaming until the end, and passing on the last corner?

    Should we change the points system just to encourage coverage and following in a different country? Maybe the drivers could be rewarded with medals here? And Frankfurters in Germany?

    Oh, and if we are going to have different types of circuits to test the pinnacle of motorsport, can we have a rally and a hill climb too!

    I think you catch my drift.

    I’m not in favour ;)

  93. I believe that the point to this debate is the fact that Formula One is labelled the ‘pinnacle of motorsport’ yet totally ignores one aspect of modern motorsport which is oval racing.
    How fascinating it would have been to have seen Schumacher or Alonso do a hot lap around the full
    Indianapolis course, as opposed to the horrible infield section. Believe me, I felt embarrassed when F1 raced there and only used half the original circuit, unlike the NASCAR and IRL series.
    And to top that, we expected the Americans to buy into F1 enmasse in the process. We are then, telling everybody that we have the best and safest racing cars in the world yet are unable or unwilling to race them on the same circuit as a stock car or Indy variant.
    This just does not make sense, and is why in many ways our sport has suffered in recent years. Indianapolis 2005 was the perfect example of F1 being exposed in the worst possible way, and all through lack of planning and poor judgement.
    F1 should, without question, consist of atleast two ovals and two street circuits. These circuits should be in this order. Daytona, Indianapolis, Monaco, Singapore, with the rest being traditional road courses. I would drop Bahrain, Sepang, and Valencia and bring back Imola and Hockenheim but in its original layout.
    Daytona I would be tempted to run before the 500, and say set it for 4.00pm so as not to be too late for the European audiences, yet enabling the fans to see the cars race under the lights.
    F1 is just, circuit wise, too predictable and bland with its latest venues. This would also raise the status of the sport in the new world, without interrupting too much of America’s traditional racing schedules.
    And don’t tell me it would be too expensive. For the 2009 spec cars the teams have already spent tens of millions on designing, development, and testing, on a concept still not proven to be successfull. F1 happily spends its fortune on this enterprise, yet cannot take a chance on changing its circuit concept.
    Safety is always paramount, but I have witnessed enough oval races Stateside to see that the safety
    precautions taken are superb, with nearly all super
    speedways now sporting safer barriers instead of concrete only walls, with plenty of runoff areas.
    Only then, can this sport be judged to be truly a world championship where only the VERY BEST prevails.
    Then, maybe, with a challenge infront of him, we can awake Raikkonen from his coma like state and getting him racing again.

  94. Really, F1 has technically raced on ovals before. From 1950-1960, points earned in the Indianapolis 500 counted toward the championship.

    Personally, I would like to see F1 return to this. If F1 is to race on an oval, it should be the biggest open-wheel oval race in the world, which the Indianapolis 500 is. It would be mutually beneficial to both Formula One and the Indy 500. It would provide F1 a major portal to the U.S. market, and it would strongly raise the pedigree of the Indy 500, which has declined quite a bit with the rise of NASCAR.

    Furthermore, with 26 full-time IndyCar drivers, the field is filled with 7 drivers and teams who are basically there to fill the 33-driver field and run wholly uncompetitive races. Instead of having this situation, IndyCar should let F1 teams come and race, making the field more competitive.

    Lots of things would have to happen. IndyCar would have to be willing to relax their technical regulations for that race and let F1 teams build their own cars, chassis, etc. and not have to rely on chassis supplied by IndyCar’s providers or be forced to use Honda engines. Tony George and Terror Dwarf would have to heal the right they obviously have, and neither men do particularly well at that sort of thing. And, of course, F1 teams would have to make lots of changes to provide for safety.

  95. One heck of a discussion here….

    Whoever mentioned Bristol up there, you’re exactly right. I have a good friend who has tickets- he needed to enter a lottery to get them and hit it after 5 years or so..lucky him, as some people spend 30+ years on the list and don’t get tickets. Bristol and Watkins Glen are his favorite tracks, and he attends the NASCAR races at both each season. Just gose to show that road racing is more popular with the NASCAR crowd than some may believe…

    I wuld like to see an oval race in F1, but if it were held in the U.S., there perhaps should be one other GP in this country that is on a good road course. Many Americans (such as myself) are attracted to F1 precisley because it is different than oval racing. If there is a cost-effective way to do it, the race would be a hit.

    1. F1 at Bristol would be… hilarious, wonderful and utterly wrong. Can you imagine Ecclestone trying to squeeze the Paddock Club in there?

  96. Yes Yes and Again Yes, definetly positevely they should do it. i remember when F1 first went back to indianpolis a lot of fuss was made about the banking and how the engine fluids would deal with it. And that was only one banked turn, i wonder what would be needed to adapt engines as well.

    but keep in mind, when there is a crash in Indy it takes out about half the field, so much for F1 with 20/22 cars no one would be left. but it would be cool nonetheless…

    i’ll vote for it

  97. I don’t like it. I’ve fallen asleep everytime I’ve tried to watch an oval race. Not worth it. Even if it’s not as easy as it looks, it’s even more boring than watching the Spanish GP….

  98. If F1 is to be the pinnacle of motor sport it should include a few events which are massively different and represent a different challenge. I think one endurance race(not 24 hours, maybe 3 or 4) and one oval at least should be on the calendar. allowing refuelling only at those events.

    Also as far as ovals, what about the smalle mile ovals/speedways, be amazing to see the cars go 140-200-140-200 like 300 times. less taxing than a superspeedway at 225+ for 95% of the time. and less dangerous…

    I’d love to see a 400+ mile oval event and a 3-4 hour endurance race at Le mans (full circuit) or another awesome track that currently doesn’t get much love but would work over a longer distance, Fuji or china, which over time would be killer, but at least have long enough straights for a rest

  99. that would be incredibly dull, just round and round and round far to repetitive!

  100. Ovals are a better fan experience because you can usually see the whole track from any seat in any grandstand. That helps sell tickets. But having said that, I find F1 races to be more interesting, because with the varying strategies it’s more like chess, whereas oval racing consists mostly nothing more than drafting and “giddy up go” and little more. Also, while IndyCars protect the driver unbelievably well, the concrete walls that surround them are a nasty hazard best avoided, and because of that oval races cannot be run in rain. I prefer F1’s road courses.

  101. Mauricio Ganz
    26th March 2010, 22:40

    Ovals? Please, no no no ….
    F1 need more tracks like Spa, Suzuka, Interlagos and Monza! We need back the old Hockenheim, not this one. For sure this what F1 really need!

  102. Revisiting this in light of the mainpage article today – wouldn’t the car disparities and characteristics work against this. If it was on anything needing a bit of lift off it would massively favour the McLaren! On a superspeed way one engine type would walk away with it because of power and fuel economy.

  103. I’d love to see an F1 race on an oval, even if they decided to do a non-championship event (remember those?) as a tester one year to see how it goes I’m sure they could fit it in where Valencia is right now given it would come straight after Canada.

    Watching the video, though, it seems there is one point where F1 would really need to tread carefully. Those Indycars are capable of slip-streaming each other quite efficiently, a feature F1 cars have obviously been lacking in recent years and I’m quite sure an oval is one track where DRS would not act as an aid given that you’d be in the wall faster than you could blink if you opened it I reckon.

    I think it would be a really exciting event overall for F1 but as you say, the cars would definitely need changes for it to happen, both in terms of safety and the ability to draft with the car in front without the rear wing gimmicks. Is KERS something which could be adapted into a push to pass type button on an oval through the ECU?

    1. I agree 110% with you first paragraph Alan

      Regarding slip streaming, Indy cars barely use any wings when in ovals, so if F1 cars did the same it sounds to me they wouldn’t have much trouble slip streaming. In fact looking at oval track wings’ angle of attack, i wonder if there’s any room left for drs.
      As said before, I think the major issue would be tyres, but i’m sure Pirelli would be able to produce an oval specific product. That being said, racing in ovals is very complex if you’ve never done it, i’m sure the teams would benefit from hiring external consultors before the fact, otherwise we may see a lot of basic mistakes at the track (fun or dangerous?).
      Anyways yeah, at least one oval would be wonderful

  104. the only time I could see F1 racing on ovals is if they did an Indy1 championship after both the IndyCar and f1 Seasons have ended.

    But I must say that the Daytona Roval, Indianapolis and Texas Motor Speedway would be a nice addition. High speed oval then tricky infield.

  105. Where would the DRS zones be ?

    bhahahahahaaa

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