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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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. I agree whit the people saying that FIA needs to be more consistent in rule definition and application.
    Then let’s swith to kerbs: sometimes I watch some movies about old races, and I see tracks with no kerbs at all, I mean just exit and…you’ll get what’s there: slippery grass, gravel or a guard rail or a wall. Well, I know it wasn’t safe enough but I think it should make us stop and reflect: if the scope of the kerbs are to let the drivers make a slight mistake with no danger well, for that you just need a little kerb with no run off area. In my opinion the kerbs should be more narrow, and beside the kerbs you should put a 1 meter stripe o gravel. So the drivers could have a little space for mistaking but no chances of take advantages from going wide. After the gravel area you should put there the best safest material you know, to slowing out of control cars in the most effective way.
    Let’s limit kerbs and too fast run off areas (like La Source Spa exit).

  2. Could it be kerbs are now a past problem for Ferrari?

    I’m thinking this because Massa constantly cut the chicanes at Monaco, especially the one near the pool, but the FIA only issued a warning. Other times this year too, we have seen Ferrari drivers making the most out of a chicane, something which wasn’t so common last year and before. For example at Spa, I noticed that Raikkonen took the straightest line at Eau Rouge by going over the kerbs most. It was mostly apparent from the cameras installed just over the kerb at the corner, were one could clearly see the different driving lines drivers took, and how much over the kerb Raikkonen went. So I don’t really think Monza did it on purpose.

  3. Last year they lowered the kerbs in Singapore, here they are raising them.

    By the way, I thought it was amusing that a change to an Italian track “could lead to suspicion” that it was done to help Ferrari but if anyone brings up equally abusurd conspiracy theories about Glockgate they are in the tinfoil hat brigade.

  4. I found a link of what I mentioned before – a ”blue line” tarmac area which is more abrasive then the track – cars would still be able to rejoin the race but they aren’t able to benefit from going off the track. I’m not sure does it slow down cars significantly but this concept could be a solution to this problem.

    1. gabal, the “blue line” tarmac areas provide ADDED grip for drivers who are out of control and are trying to stop. A driver who has his foot on the throttle will benefit from this grip as well and will be able to take even greater advantage of off-course excursions – it doesn’t slow them down.

  5. Due to health and safety much has been done to ensure that if a car goes off the circuit that the safety of the driver and fans is paramount. The problem with gravel on some high speed corners is that it’s not effective in slowing cars down and can result in flipping cars over. With slow speed corners and chicanes, however, I think that gravel is a viable option. But in saying that, gravel traps might not be possible – street circuits.

    In light of what happened in Valencia this year between Webber and Button, as soon as an effective, positive working link between stewards and teams is in place during the race the better; something they’re looking into next year.

    As a race fan I want decisions to be consistent and made, where possible, during the race, NOT after. We can hopefully then try and avoid the nonsense of Spa last year and the arguments over Kimi this year. This isn’t rocket science but as usual, with the FIA, everything has to be overly complicated, leading to controversy and petty bickering between race fans.

  6. For those that know a lot about the history of race tracks, how have kerbs evolved over the years?
    Kerbs obviously allow a driver to pick the apex and get good traction. But what would happen without them? Just the tarmac and grass? No one is going to want to put a tyre on the grass!? LOL.

  7. Guess that slows down Hamilton’s cutting corner tricks that he is well known for doing more then the other drivers. He thinks he is in some kind of Go-Kart the way he goes on some corners.

    1. Why are you on a F1 fan site when you clearly know nothing about the sport?

    2. What are you talking about, please explain Marcus? What do you mean “He thinks he’s in some kind of Go Kart”?

  8. The difference is that the cutting across the inside of the Bus Stop chicane is cheap, obvious and gains an instant advantage – whereas going round the outside at La Source is subtle, clever and gains a “long run” advantage along the following straight.

    As we saw with the diffuser situation at the start of the year, flexible rules allow for clever innovations – and Raikkonen’s trick at Spa is an example.

  9. Good article Keith, points well made again about consitency but…
    Those 2 vids you posted, neither has anything to do with kerbs. Sato was avoidance breaking on the dirty part of the track before the corner and took of on the due to the large “grassy knoll”. In Ortellis case he took off due to the inherent instability of his car when “rallying” across the grass at very high speed. Neither incident had anything to do with kerbs.
    A more pertinent (if less dramatic) point would have been made with the radio comments from Red Bull to Weber at Spa about avoiding the kerbs. Or you could always get the FIA to muck about with everyone’s aero so all cars are basically arcade racers like this :)

    1. Sorry, the link didn’t appear to attach itself so here it is:


  10. It’s interesting to note how this same discussion has been carried out since that Senna and Prost accident in Japan, ’89. Senna was disqualified for cutting the corner, besides other ‘infractions’ (six or eight, as long as I remember), while he argued he had not taken advantage. Actually, the very same rule was used in the case…

    1. They must have changed something to the rules though. Senna was disqualified and today a driver would not get disqualified for the same situation. The same thing happens quite often in Monza.

  11. I agree with more consistency from the stewards but I think physical changes to the tracks are more likely to happen.
    How about “speed humps” like inside the corner at Valencia at 0:57 in this vid. If you overrun then you can keep slowing down into the run off area but have to go “the long way” to get back onto the track, thereby instantly negating any advantage. And if they dont go around the speed humps then *bang* front wing damage

  12. I’m not sure what the first video demonstrates. No matter what the kerbs were like, he still would have ploughed into someone. The second one is of course horrifying.

    Gravel traps (or grass) are the easiest solution for chicanes. If the FIA don’t want people to cut kerbs, don’t give them any incentive to. If you want a run-off area, put it way before the apex, since the car will more than likely already be in trouble at the entry.

    1. It demonstrates how high, car-launching kerbs are going to kill someone. Nick was lucky Sato was still at ground level at impact.

  13. The best solution is to get rid of chicanes.;-)

  14. mattB,
    I’m not sure the argument that the images how how high a car could be launched is right. Both of the flying car vids from Keith had nothing to do with kerbs and my link is to a game.
    I have seen some really good pics of the changed kerbs and all they do is extend the depth of the kerb. There are circuits with awful kerbs, bumps and camber changes that drivers avoid for reasons such as damaging the cars or being unsettled for the next corner. This whole business of flying F1 cars ‘flys’ in the face of both experience of these kerbs already in use and aero on the cars.
    I could be wrong and cars will fly from those very corners this weekend with the results shown above. But I doubt it.

    1. PaulF1, I was just pointing out the relevance of the first video although it’s clear in this case that kerb is flat. At around 9 seconds Sato goes backwards over the kerb and remains on the ground so the impact is square on. If that was a modern raised kerb he’d have been a lot higher. Enough speed had scrubbed off to counter any aero affects but if the rear wing provides downforce when travelling forwards, then surely it follows that it will provide lift when travelling backwards? I’m no aerodynamicist :)
      Either way, cars coming off the ground is a bad idea whichever way they’re travelling – look up Rubens Imola ’94 crash, and there’s been plenty of other examples.

      1. mattB,
        I can see where you are coming from with the raised kerbs but I don’t see that the chicane in Q will cause drivers to be airborne if they hit it from the inside. See Beckens post above for pics. I shall explain like the pedant I am.
        The kerbs look to me to be too shallow & too long to be a launcher. I can see cars getting rattled but then they get rattled over most sawtooth kerbs any way. Looking at the rear approach I would say that as the cars are not striking the almost bluff face of the sawtooths, due to the now smoother approach of the added kerbs,the energies involved will be less as the tyre will have more time to deform & climb the smoother kerb. This extra time for tyre deformation will also allow more time for what little suspension there is to absorb some of the forces too. On top of that as it is an approach to a corner, speed will naturally be reduced. I can definitely see bouncing cars & damaged undertrays & nose wings as a result but not full flight.
        As for your aerodynamic suggestions, sorry. Wings only work when the air flows over the front of the lifting surface. They are rubbish when the air goes the wrong way. 10 years with Her Majesties Flying Circus taught me that at least. :)
        I’d forgotten about Rubens crash. Horrible. But yes, cars are not meant to fly. it’s the landing that really does ’em in.

  15. “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.”

    Huh? If they are not good over the kerbs how would making the kerbs more severe be advantageous to Ferrari? A car that handles kerbs better than the Ferrari will be less affected by it.

    Keith, better check the warranty on your “Tin-foil hat” it seems to be in need of some repair work.

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