Monza’s new kerbs are not likely to stop corner-cutting controversies

The new kerbs have been installed at the Nurburgring as well as Monza

The new kerbs have been installed at the Nurburgring as well as Monza

The Monza circuit operators have installed new kerbs in four places on the track. Significantly, the kerbs feature high raised parts to discourage drivers from using anything more than the flattest part of the corners.

Ferrari themselves have acknowledged their car is not so good over kerbs, which could lead to suspicion that the Italian Grand Prix organisers made the change to help the home team. However the same kerbs have been installed at Catalunya’s new chicane and the Veedol chicane at the Nurburgring, so perhaps not.

But these new kerbs are not likely to prevent more controversies about corner-cutting.

The layout of Monza’s first two corners – the Variante Rettifilio and Variante della Roggia – invite corner-cutting. This has become even more of a problem since tarmac run-offs were installed at the corners for safety reasons a few years ago.

New ‘combination’ kerbs have been installed at turns one, two, four and five – i.e. both major parts of the Rettifilio and della Roggia – which are designed to prevent drivers running across the kerbs completely with all four wheels off the track.

The benefit of the new kerbs is that drivers will not want to run over the raised parts, which could slow them down or damage their cars. If a drivers cannot ‘make’ the corner, they will opt to cut it entirely, making it easier for the stewards to spot what they’ve done and force them to yield any advantage gained.

Monza has tried several solutions to its chicane-cutting problem. In 1996 tyre stacks were installed on the inside of some chicanes, which several drivers hit during the race. They were removed the following year and three years later the new and much slower first chicane was built.

The potential drawback of the new-style kerbs, which are partly flat but with a raised, rounded section further inside, is what could happen if an out-of-control car runs over one of them. Say, one that had lost control under braking as happened with Nick Heidfeld in his collision with Takuma Sato at Austria in 2002:

A similar thing happened to sports car racer Stephane Ortelli at the Rettifilio last year, though on that occasion the car took off of its own accord.

Inside and outside

If the first problem with drivers cutting corners is knowing when they’ve done it, the second problem is consistently punishing them when they do.

At the moment, the stewards seem to only punish drivers for gaining an advantage by going over the inside of a corner rather than around the outside. There is no indication in the rules why this should be so.

For example, when Lewis Hamilton was stripped of his Belgian Grand Prix win last year after going across the inside of the chicane on one lap, the stewards punished him for breaking a rule that says simply: “the race track alone shall be used by the drivers during the race”.

There is no stated reason that explains why this rule is not applied when drivers go off the track on the outside and gain an advantage. This happened at least twice at Spa: Kimi Raikkonen passed Jarno Trulli and Heidfeld (and gained sufficient momentum to carry him past Robert Kubica) by going off the track on the outside of turn one. And Adrian Sutil passed Luca Badoer also by going off the track around the outside of him.

This whole area was thoroughly explored in the comments after the Belgian Grand Prix, a discussion that’s well worth a look.

I make no apologies for being a broken record about this sort of thing because we come up against the same problem time and again when trying to understand steward’s decisions in F1: a dire lack of clarity and consistency. Whether a driver gains an advantage by going across the inside or around the outside off the circuit makes no difference: they’ve gained an advantage and they should have to relinquish it.

Monza’s new kerbs may prove to be an improvement but what the FIA really needs to change is not the track but its entire approach to stewarding. It should make a start by publishing clear and unambiguous rules and sticking to them.

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56 comments on Monza’s new kerbs are not likely to stop corner-cutting controversies

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  1. Bigbadderboom said on 8th September 2009, 23:51

    Well said Keith. How difficult can it really be? It makes you wonder if they like to build into the sporting regs this kind of ambiguity which can be manipulated to the percieved benefit of the season.
    It’s often wondered how Bernie manages to orchestrate this show to end the way it does often, with so much critisism of F1 being a parade it gives an opportunity to perhaps “create” some excitment.
    As for the new kerbs, well i’m no fan, mostly due to safety reasons, it would be easier to define “cutting the corner” and then steward this through penalties, rather than risk a driver getting some air across the corner and striking a car at cockpit height. But as you say, “a dire lack of clarity and consistency” for such a prestigious sport to be so lacking in professionalism is trully remarkable, but that brings me back round to my first point, and i also make no apologies for going on about it.

    • With the way the rules are and given decisions in recent years I could easily believe that the rules have been made deliberately unclear to give the FIA and stewards plenty of space for manoeuvre to get the outcome they want.

  2. Grace Lovvorn said on 9th September 2009, 0:06

    One word for all of this mess: NONSENSE. Total, unadulterated nonsense. *Sigh*

  3. The new KERBS [click]

  4. sato113 said on 9th September 2009, 0:16

    nice article Keith, but wouldn’t the most simple answer be just to replace the tarmac on the inside of some corners and chicanes with gravel? then no one will cut it with such ease, and this still allows them to skim across it to avoid danger (whilst not giving them an advantage, as we all know F1 cars don’t like gravel). enough of these ‘mothercare’ circuits!- as Martin Brundle put it once.

    • Joaqo (Max should resign now!!!) said on 9th September 2009, 1:41

      Thanks! I was just about to write the same thing, gravel traps rule, plus it makes it more exciting to watch, I mean that way you know if a driver is going at the limit or not.

      • Journeyer said on 9th September 2009, 6:36

        The reason gravel traps fell out of style is because of safety – if a driver goes off into a gravel trap, the speed retardation is much less than a tarmac runoff because of the lack of consistency of the gravel surface (vs. tarmac).

        In a tarmac run-off, it’s easier to rub off more speed much more quickly.

      • SIrGeoffrey said on 9th September 2009, 21:21

        Absolutely. I hated when they got rid of gravel in the first place. Make the walls safer if the gravel won’t scrub off enough speed. Drivers don’t need to be punished for cutting kerbs. It has to make no sense to do it in the first place.

    • The_Pope said on 9th September 2009, 12:59

      Having gravel on the INSIDE of corners would be crazy. The first driver to brush it with an inside tyre will drag said gravel across the racing line, and all following cars will get screwed.

      Not to mention drivers being subjected to a barrage of bullet-like rocks flying at their cars / heads!

  5. Terry Fabulous said on 9th September 2009, 0:32

    This is a very pleasing start…

    The easiest way to stop the drivers cutting chicanes is to ensure any off track excursion is likely to damage their front wing or undertray.

    The raised curves at Monza should be suitable motivation to stay on the race track!

    Having said that, consistent rulings would be nice.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 9th September 2009, 1:04

      The easiest way to stop the drivers cutting chicanes is to ensure any off track excursion is likely to damage their front wing or undertray.

      Better yet, it also assists the marshalls if there’s an incident like Hamilton and Raikkonen at Spa last year. Drivers will be forced to run wide to avoid the kerbs, thus making it clear if they’ve cut the corner.

  6. Cutting a corner should result in a drive-through or stop-and-go. I think that more than 2 wheels outside the white-line boundaries of the track should be penalized.

    There is enough GPS technology out there to make in incontrovertible, if simple video evidence is not enough. Yeah, that is you I am looking at Kimi at Spa! Yeah, that is you I am looking at Kimi at Spa in 2008. Yeah, that is you I am looking at, Massa a Fuji 2007.

    I do realize that stopping in some of the run off areas and restarting may cause a dangerous speed delta when regaining the track, some sort of artificial off-piste chicane could be designed for the drivers to drive through, something like the Mulsane chicanes at Le Mans (did I need to specify that?) or the back straight chicane at the Daytona road course layout, used for the 24H.

    As for the curbs, sure, I am all for them. If you want to risk it by trying to, figuratively cut corners, you should be ready to accept the consequences.

  7. Things are getting better I think!
    At Valencia Charlie Whiting put steward at the chicanes to help judge… A good step.
    But still they need to be more clear and faster ‘for sure’ :)

    The next lap they should have seen if an advantage is gained and action has to be taken, without ruining the racing!

  8. Harv's said on 9th September 2009, 1:22

    I think this will make racing less interesting, passing is now discouraged as it will be easier to block someone, it esentially gives the track a sort of street circuit characteristic, with no room up the inside of a corner, if you want to prevent someone cutting a chichane put gravel in the run off or grass or astro-turf, preferable something that wont be pushed onto the circuit.

  9. Monza’s new kerbs may prove to be an improvement but what the FIA really needs to change is not the track but its entire approach to stewarding. It should make a start by publishing clear and unambiguous rules and sticking to them.

    You´re right Keith,

    For example: in Monaco the stewards warned Massa and Ferrari to avoid cut a chicane — something that they have done for several laps. But in Spa Kimi have done that twice in the same lap and nothing happened. This proves how the Stewards’ system is a mess…

    Those inconsistencies turn all the discussion about “who gained what (advantage)” almost pointless!!

    With Todt or Vatanen in FIA Presidency, I hope to see an evolution in the stewards’ system!

    • patrickl said on 9th September 2009, 15:22

      Kimi took a wider line because he was being blocked by Heidfeld and Trulli getting in each others way. He actually lost time when he lost in Les Combes.

      Hardly the same as Massa who was cutting the chicane on purpose and repeated.

      Sure, the rules are interpreted loosely, but when you compare situations that are utterly different you can expect different interpretations.

  10. Gusto said on 9th September 2009, 1:35

    Cant wait for them big fat noses to go over them big fat curbs.Chatter in the Pit Lane ` Oh the extra Lorry, No it`s not full of nose cones`

  11. David@Geelong said on 9th September 2009, 2:27

    I was watching another racing format (I think it was Indy) and if the driver was to cut a corner then they had to stop before coming back onto the circuit. This would ensure that they didn’t get an advantage.

  12. Harv's said on 9th September 2009, 4:45

    Really nice article Keith! send a copy to the FIA! perhaps the kurbs could be bigger on the exit rather than the apex, so if someone cut the corner they would have to go over a sort of speed bump, that way drivers could still skim the kurbs while going through the apex

  13. Harv's said on 9th September 2009, 4:55

    O and i wonder how the feild will react at the beinning of the race on sunday, possiblitiy of a big crash into the first chichane if no cars will be able to use the run offs.

  14. Hakka said on 9th September 2009, 6:22

    The FIA needs to clear up what they mean by an “advantage.” There are two interpretations:

    1. Going off-track and appearing in front of a rival (ending up in front being the advantage).
    2. Going off-track and getting a shorter line (cutting corner) or cleaner entry into the next corner (the advantage is in real lap time).

    In one sense, it’s difficult to argue that Sutil went off-track and gained an advantage – it looks more like he was able to pass Badoer in spite of going off-track (not because of). He was actually at a “disadvantage,” which he overcame to get ahead.

    So, according to the FIA, is “advantage”:
    1. Getting ahead of someone
    2. Getting a theoretical lap-time improvement

    ?

  15. gabal said on 9th September 2009, 6:32

    How about using ”slow-down” strips of tarmac at run-off areas? That way tarmac run-offs are more secure in the case of the accident and going wide to gain momentum isn’t possible. I’m talking about the devices that are used at run-off ares at Paul Ricard track, I’m not sure how effective they are though…

    As for corner cutting – they really need more consistent rules – an automated system would be good which alerts stewards about more then 2 wheels outside white lines. I think that first time drivers do it they get a warning and only if they repeat it they get penalized. Of course, there are special cases and overtaking is especially tricky…

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