Adrian Sutil says F1 is losing its thrill because the tracks are “too safe”

Sutil laps the Yas Island circuit in Abu Dhabi

Out of a chicane, into a hairpin... Sutil laps the Yas Island circuit in Abu Dhabi

Adrian Sutil has given a frank assessment of the newest track on the F1 calendar, telling the Times of India the circuit was safe but “boring”:

Abu Dhabi was one of the most perfect circuits I have driven on, and the most boring as well.It was just straight and really, really boring. But I probably cannot say anything bad about it for it’s safe, like what all modern circuits should be.
Adrian Sutil

He added that most drivers wanted more dangerous and challenging circuits:

The majority of the drivers feel this way. Of course there are a few who like the way it is, safe. There will always be different opinions about it but most of them would say there can be some changes in the circuits.

Everyone loves driving because there is thrill in it. If it was not dangerous, maybe so many drivers would not be doing it. Maybe there are certain risks in it but if you don’t take those risks, it would get boring. Circuits are getting too safe and driving is not so nice anymore.

Personally speaking, I’m just not getting that thrill. There is a wall in the corner and you have got to take it easy or you would ram into it. Formula One is dangerously fast and is all about speed. That’s why it’s interesting and we should keep it like that.
Adrian Sutil

Sutil urged the team working on the circuit for the 2011 Indian Grand Prix to listen to the drivers and put in more fast corners.

But F1 car designers, such as Sam Michael and Paddy Lowe, have been arguing for something different: more overtaking opportunities on circuits, which tends to mean long straights bookended by slow hairpins.

The Indian F1 track designed by Hermann Tilke and revealed last November looks consistent with most recent new F1 designs, with lots of slow corners.

I think F1 needs variety – slow, twisty tracks like Monaco and Hungary, high-speeds courses like Monza and Spa, and ‘overtaking optimised’ tracks like Bahrain.

A calendar of identikit tracks each with a prescribed combination of long straights, slow bends and the occasional token fast corner, would not be very exciting.

But I also wonder if some of Sutil’s rivals think F1 is quite dangerous enough with him around, particularly Kimi R??ikk??nen, Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld who all tangled with him last year.

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94 comments on Adrian Sutil says F1 is losing its thrill because the tracks are “too safe”

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  1. Spot on. I was just thinking this.

    I personally hate Istanbul Park. There’s no consequence if a driver makes a mistake on a corner, for example, Turn 8. They just lose a second and rejoin the track. We need grass, and dirt, and sand pits and gravel traps and armco.

    If you’ve seen the hillclimb footage in the forum, that is what F1 needs. None of this sanitised stuff. Get some real tracks in there, cut aero, and all of a sudden you’re golden. If they drivers can’t handle the danger they can drive taxis.

    • I love Istanbul but yeah it has too much run off.

    • Fer no.65 said on 10th January 2010, 12:01

      1000000% agree there!

      what did Grass and Gravel did to F1?

      tarmac runoffs just spoil the game. They push the cars beyond the limit because they know that if something wrong happens, there’s always the possibility of using the tarmac round the corner, hardly loosing time.

      nowadays tracks seems like tracks on a car park… all tarmac and a couple of white lines round it…

      • Prisoner Monkeys said on 10th January 2010, 12:10

        what did Grass and Gravel did to F1?

        There’s a risk that a car will flip if it is travelling at speed and the wheels dig in.

        The thing that gets me is that they ake no attempt to hide it. In Abu Dhabi, they’ve maanaged to paint the tarmac so that it’s blue. If that’s possible, why can’t they paint all the run-off areas green (or, in Bahrain’s case, sandy yellow) so that it at least looks like we’re having a race around a circuit.

        • sato113 said on 10th January 2010, 12:18

          yeah they do that quite well at Bahrain. it looks like a thin layer of desert sand but its just tarmac run off.

        • They’ve even gone overboard with the runoff at places like Spa, where Pouhon has been ruined because of replacing the grass on the outside with tarmac. Hamilton went off there in 2007 and it cost him virtually nothing, in the old days he would have been pitched into a spin and quite likely ended his race against the barrier. Mistakes should be punished – which is why I think that all runoff tarmac should be extremely abrasive, like they have at Paul Ricard. That way, if you go off, you don’t crash but you damage a tyre.

          But then personally, I think the more Runoff Area the better. ;)

          • Gold example here. Kimi made it twice in last races at Spa. If i remember “accurately,” Lewis was pushed off by Alonso…

          • Not at Pouhon he didn’t. You’re thinking of La Source, which has had some tarmac down for several years. Pouhon is the fast double-apex left-hander about halfway round the circuit. Hamilton went off there all on his own in 2007.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th January 2010, 17:11

            Didn’t Raikkonen go off at Pouhon in ’08 during his battle with Hamilton?

          • sato113 said on 10th January 2010, 21:47

            yeah kimi went off at Pouhon in 08 whilst following lewis, kimi gathered alot of momentum from doing so and caught up a tiny bit. didn’t matter anyway.

          • Martin said on 11th January 2010, 0:06

            Where was all these comments back when we where talking the circuits and safety and how the tracks dont seperate out the racers from the want a be’s and poser’s?

        • Ratboy said on 10th January 2010, 22:59

          As the “unique” Andrea de Cesaris demonstrated in Austira 1985.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td847sL4A2s

          • Accidental Mick said on 11th January 2010, 12:07

            For once James Hunt was being quit nice about de Cesaris. He usually refered to him at some point in the commentary as “the mobile chicane”

    • sato113 said on 10th January 2010, 12:03

      I think any run off should be no wider than the track itself.

      • I disagree about turn 8 in Istanbul – if a driver manages to take that corner really well he carries the speed into the back straight and his lap-time improves because of that.

        What they should really use in addition to tarmac run-offs is those abrasive lines like on Paul Ricard track which slow the car down – that way going off the track will result in slowing down the car and it will be even safer for drivers. Also, in that case we wouldn’t have debates about cheating because driver went on a run-off and gained advantage like Kimi in Spa last season.

        • Macca said on 10th January 2010, 13:19

          Kimi even admited to using the run off on purpos last year at spa to avoid the other cars and gain an advantage.

          • I’ve noticed it several times in wet races: a driver goes wide, onto the run-off, and actually gains grip and time because of it.

        • safe for the drivers? don’t even mention it. The hole articule is about the circuits being too safe. They are professionals, and should face the risks. Your way of thinking is what moesley wanted you to, and the goal is to erase it. We don’t want any pilot to die, but at least to feel that the possibility is there. And to tell you the truth, i don’t feel it now. And we can see that many people think like this. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

      • any run off inside track? you mean getting off the DRIVE LINE…

    • LewisC said on 10th January 2010, 21:25

      If they drivers can’t handle the danger they can drive taxis.

      That’s what they used to say in the 60s and 70s.

      Whilst I agree that tracks should be more challenging, making them dangerous in the event of a mistake (or, say, someone driving into you, as you’d think Sutil would be concerned about) is completely wrong. I’m not sure I could continure to follow a sport where every other weekend someone was seriously injured or killed…

    • i agree. i was last year there, and curve 8 being called on of the best on the calender was a disgrace to f1. Yes it was fast, but if a pilot made a mistake, he just took the corner wide and lost a second maybe two. No big deal, and we were so far away, that we didn’t get a sensation of speed.
      Many fans feel the same way as sutil, and i really hope there is a change in the mentality, and the fia, starts looking to come back to the f1 roots.

  2. I respect Sutil a lot for saying this. This can be a very sensitive issue; if you say relax safety rules slightly then some will take it to mean that you are accepting deaths and injuries in f1 but that isn’t the case. After Imola in 94 there was a massive increase in safety. The cars were too fast and the tracks were too dangerous. There was a big push for safety (and rightly so) but it was still knee jerk.
    The cars and tracks are much safer now so much so that I believe the track restrictions can be relaxed slightly. I don’t understand how we can have tracks with gradient changes and fast corners like Spa and Suzuka on the calendar and yet no design like that would be acceptable today I don’t think.
    At Suzuka this year there were plenty of accidents in qualifying (I think I can recall Kimi saying that if a driver goes off they should hit a wall and that’s how it should be) but every accident was dealt with wonderfully by the marshalls and despite it all I think the drivers were happy to race around a track like Suzuka.
    If all the tracks are the same then people will turn off anyway-look at how much we grumble about Mr Tilke. It isn’t all his fault, it is mostly the restrictions but it’s so dull when everything is so similar. There should be a mix of tracks and a mix of designers. Old and modern. F1 is meant to be the best, the ultimate so it should deliver that.
    F1 is about thril and noone is saying go back to how things were 15 years or so ago. But when the drivers are losing a bit of passion for the sport then something is wrong. When they are bored of tracks that will reflect in races. If the drivers want the rule changes then give it to them. We are just spectators they are the ones who have to go round the track a hundred times a weekend.

    On a positive note I’m very happy Montreal has returned and we do have tracks like Monza, Spa, Turkey (a modern track which is awesome), Suzuka, Interlagos, Hungary and Monaco. It’s not a bad calendar we have. The majority is great but personally I think every track should be just as insanely good not just the majority.

  3. Icthyes said on 10th January 2010, 11:58

    Exactly Keith, it’s about variety. China and Malaysia are similar, as are Turkey and Bahrain, although we’ll probably lose one or two of those next year (although, in my opinion, the superior ones of the pairings). But if they’re just getting replaced by clones, where does that leave us?

    Fact of the matter is, we have seen from crashes like Kubica’s in Canada that safety should primarily be about the car, because even with the safest circuit with acres of run-off (though Canada is not one of these), something can go horribly wrong and you will be going into the wall at 150+ mph no matter how long it ook you to get there.

    Of course, the justification comes from the idea that gravel traps are too dangerous because they make the cars roll. In some cases they do, but you have to ask yourself, would the car not just have slammed into the barriers anyway, had there been nothing but run-off? At least gravel traps can slow the cars down quickly (which is actually what causes the rolling), and in the vast majority of cases cars do not roll when they reach a gravel trap.

    In some cases, where there is little space, there should be run-off, like the saga of Degner 2 at Suzuka last year showed us. But when there’s a huge space, it should be gravel.

    I guess the bottom line is that if the tracks are becoming sterile clones in the name of safety, there’s actually little need for them to.

    PS: I wish they had used that extra curve in the top of the picture of Abu Dhabi to make a sweeping approach to the hairpin!

  4. Prisoner Monkeys said on 10th January 2010, 12:04

    The problem is the acres of run-off.

    The solution is the new TechPro barriers. They were debuted at Singapore, and were used exclusively at Abu Dhabi. They absorb the energy of an impact better than the old barriers, thus making it safer without the need for a Tesco’s car park between the circuit and the run-off.

    In terms of reducing aero, well, there’s way around that, too. I figure that all major aerodynamic devices should be controlled by very tight regulations, Front and rear wings should be reduced to single planes; none of these curvy bits and add-ons, thanks. Other parts, like diffusers and the floor of a car could even be spec parts. There needs to be design freedom for developers to produce individual cars, but at the same time, they need to be stopped from simply piling on as much aerodynamic grip as they can find. I’d also move to homologate parts, so that when one driver receives an upgrade, he cannot race unless his team-mate has it, too. And I’d limit the number of aerodynamic upgrades available over a season, with the teams nominating the events they want to introduce those upgrades for selected before the season begins. And the process would be done “blind” as well, so that teams wouldn’t know when their rivals are bringing new kit along.

    • Accidental Mick said on 10th January 2010, 12:16

      @PM

      Well argued as always and I agree with most of your points.

      However I can see a problem with the idea of the teams having to specify the upgrades they are going to make and, importanly, where they are going to make them before the season starts.

      Given the lack of testing, I would suggest that the designers don’t know what upgrades are required until after the first couple of races.

      • Prisoner Monkeys said on 10th January 2010, 12:29

        It’s not so much a case of specifying the details of what they want the upgrades to inclue, but when they intend to make them. In the past, for instance, teams have always taken a special aero package to Monaco, and then removed it in time for the next race. My idea would have them saying “Okay, we want to have an upgrade in place for the fifth race, and then another for the tenth”. They’d then do the first four races with the basic car, bring an upgrade for the fifth race and use it all the way through to the tenth, where they change it again. If they have a bad upgrade – like Brawn’s Silverstone package – then they’d be able to revert back to the previous spec package free of penalty, but they’d be obliged to run it until their next scheduled upgrade.

        Of course, it does artifically stack the races a little bit. It becomes a game of trying to work out what upgrades will help you out best and when; if there’s a block of races where one stands out as being compeltely the opposite in terms of rquirements to the other group of races, then you’re going to see teams throw a race from time to time. Actually, I’m liking the idea less for that.

        My point is that I’m trying to take the emphasis off aero grip. All the aerodynamicists say that it’s a problem with the circuits, but what is the problem, exactly? The way they’re built? I’ll tell you something: the Tilke Ethos – a fast section with a heavy braking zone at the end – is not an original idea. In fact, it’s been used almost since the daw of racing; the Nurburgring Nordschleife contains at least four examples of this (Aremburg, Adeneaur-Forst, Mutkurve and at the end of Dottinger-Hohe), while the Mulsanne and Indianapolis corners at Le Mans do the exact same thing.

        The problem is the aerodynamicists. They know that the more aerodynamic grip they can get, the faster they’ll be. So they load it onto the car wherever they can, and then they’ll do whatever they have to in order to protect it. I was never one for Max Mosley’s “two-tier” championship, but I honestly think the Powers That Be should make incentives for teams that move towards designing cars that shift the focus from aerodynamic to mechanical grip. A large cash bonus to the team that makes the most progress on this front could be one way of doing that. Of course, I don’t know much about aerodynamics – for all I know, moving to mechanical grip may sacrifice a lot of the speed you’d get from aerodynamic grip, and no team would want to run around at the back simply for the sake of a few million dollars from Mr. E’s pockets.

        • Accidental Mick said on 10th January 2010, 12:54

          Ok, I take your point, it is just I have an inate relutance to introduce more rules. In general, I think that the less rules there are the better.

          Having said that I am going to propose one:)

          Sailing boat hulls are designed to leave behind as little turbulance as possible because turbulance causes drag. Would it be possible to set a maximum amount of air turbulance a car leaves behind? I concede that you would get slower lap times but, as everyone would be affected in the same way, that doesn’t really matter. To the naked eye, the difference between 180 mph and 200 mph is not discernable.

          This way you could achieve close racing.

        • You could just ban wings that would be simple and it only takes a few words to express ;)

          But I think that’s all a bit backwards. Your saying make the cars worse like they were in the past to make racing like it was in the past.

          More open regulations would allow designers to innovate and find new modern solutions, allow circuit designers more freedom to design innovative tracks etc. I don’t want to return to the Formula one of the past, I want F1 to fulfil it’s evolutionary potential.

          Imagine what it would be like if we still had active suspension, ground effect, turbos, modern aerodynamics, unlimited KERS, traction control, intelligent braking systems, the cars would be immense and designers would still be coming up with new ways of making the cars even faster.

    • Bigbadderboom said on 10th January 2010, 17:40

      I agree with the need but not the solution of too much design regulation. For some F1′s attraction is the various design solutions to the many problems encountered by designers, the last thing we want to reduce it to is a single design formula. I think that some of the problem is the track designs, but as for the cars I think FOTA’s working groups have various solutions, they just need better introduction and tighter definitions, the last thing we want is another double diffuser row.

  5. Ned Flanders said on 10th January 2010, 12:16

    Why can’t we have a circuit which features both good corners and overtaking opportunities? Come one Tilke, it can’t be that hard!

    One of the problems with modern circuits like Bahrain, Istanbul and Abu Dhabi is that they are full of sections which are just long straight, slow corner, again and again. An F1 circuit should only need one great passing place rather than lots of good ones.

    • David said on 12th January 2010, 13:50

      Abu Dhabi doesn’t even have a good passing place… Tilke is clueless, imo. Like Sam Michael said, chicanes are stupid, spreading the cars out instead of bringing them closer together like one single slow corner like a hairpin does. Abu Dhabi puts a chicane just before a hairpin, spreading the cars out, so they can’t get that close to the car in front along the next gigantic straight. Then at the end of the straight is another very slow chicane. And then there’s another straight where the car tries to get into the slipstream again, but too bad, at the end of the straight is ANOTHER chicane. Makes it insanely hard to pass when you throw slow chicanes all over the place, rather than legitimate overtaking corners like hairpins.

      If Abu Dhabi was modified slightly – removing the first chicane (turn 5/6 is it?), and allowing the cars to go flat out from turn 1 up to the hairpin, they could get together much more easily because of the straight braking zone. Then they’ll be right on the leading car’s tail on the next straight.

  6. Oliver said on 10th January 2010, 12:27

    “Out of a chicane, into a hairpin…”

    That pretty much sums it up.

    • “Out of a chicane, into a hairpin…”

      That pretty much sums it up.

      Spot on mate.

      I trawl youtube watching videos from the ‘good old days’!

      F1 is so sterile these days, the V8′s are slow, sound terrible and the modern tracks are awful.

      Take China for example, probably the dullest circuit on the calender. But then compare that to an old classic like Suzuka where the drivers were actually challenged and F1 is a spectacle again.

      Agree re: the run offs as well. These are the worlds best drivers. They shouldn’t need a run off area the size of a football pitch. If you make a mistake you should expect to be punished and put out of the race/lose substantial time.

  7. Oliver said on 10th January 2010, 12:35

    The problem is not the run off areas, its the multitude of slow speed corners and chicanes.
    Having run off areas at the end of long straights or very fast turns is ok, but when there are so many run off areas at moderately fast corners and turns, it makes the track less of a challenge and into a procession.

  8. Hakka said on 10th January 2010, 12:58

    Courageous thing for a driver to say, given what the press does with statements like these. Now watch as every random fluctuation in Sutil’s performance and results is blamed on motivation problems, with these very statements brought up as “evidence.”

  9. nixon said on 10th January 2010, 13:02

    Your right Kieth, Bahrain is the best circuit for overtaking, thats why i think that it shouldn’t be the first race of 2010.

  10. Daffid said on 10th January 2010, 13:13

    Nice to see some ‘names’ slagging of Abu Dhabi. Far too many journalists were praising it to the heavens just for giving them nice seats and a goodie-bag. Sure it looks pretty, but for the most expensive circuit in the world, we should have been given something a lot more exciting

  11. While Sutil’s conclusion is correct, he is talking rubbish.

    Tracks being safe is a good thing. The problem is not the lack of danger, it’s the means used to make them safe that are wrong: abolishing any kind of driving challenge: gradient and fast corners.

    Get rid of Tilke and build mordern, safe circuits for Racing in general. It will be up to F1 teams to build cars that can get round those tracks.
    You don’t build tracks to fit the cars, you fit the cars to the tracks.

  12. all of the blue lines at abu dhabi make me sick. at least paint the runoff green. Modern race circuits are so ugly, would it kill hermann tilke to put some grass around these tracks or plant some damm trees. The tracks dont have to be dangerous they just need some scenery behind them.

  13. ciaran said on 10th January 2010, 14:01

    I was reading F1 Racing a few months ago and Niki Lauda said that when you’ve been sitting in a burning Ferrari,you would have no time for people saying the tracks are to safe.

    • Saying that, Lauda’s injuries didn’t really have that much to do with the design of the circuit, did it? It was more to do with the fact that the fuel cell exploded and as the Nordschlieffe was so long it took a while for fire marshalls to arrive.

  14. Thats why f1 needs to go back to imola which produced the best racing in f1 in 05,06. Its got history good and bad. fast corners, not as fast as they once where but its still,its one of the best in the world.

    f1 tracks have no identity anymore. They need to stop building racing venues and start making courses.

  15. Sutil is idiot. Does he want to return to a time where a season without someone dying is the exception just so he can have “that thrill”? He never even raced in F1 when it was really dangerous so how can he have lost that feeling? His drive should be given to someone more appreciative.

    • John H said on 10th January 2010, 14:20

      “His drive should be given to someone more appreciative.”

      LOL!

      • It’s true, I wouldn’t be moaning if I was in his position and nor I should imagine would say Nick Heidfeld.

        • John H said on 10th January 2010, 15:15

          I don’t think he’s so much moaning as just saying how he feels about F1. It’s a personal feeling, he can’t really change it.

          I like the drivers speaking their mind – sometimes I don’t agree with what they have to say but I’d rather they have a voice other than just going along with the game.

          • Drivers do have a voice and generally what that voice says is “we’re sick of Adrian Sutil crashing into us just so he can get his ‘thrill’” ;)

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