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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.

Read more

Image (C) Force India F1 Team

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

Jump to comment page: 1 2 3
  1. Sounds like famous last words. I hope they don´t have to pull Adrian out of the smoking wreck of what used to be his Force India.

    1. it wouldn’t be the first time. And his words show he is not scared by it.
      I like him more because of his comments.
      He is my kind of driver.

  2. I think Adrian is quite qualified to talk about this issue. He’s had his own fair share of accidents, Silverstone quali last year to name but one.

  3. As you mention Silverstone I´d like to remind you of Trulli´s accident in 2004. Imaging what would have happend if had rolled over one of his own tyres or rims.

  4. First of all, I appreciate the fact that a current driver is making statements to the press about this. Honestly, I wouldn’t have expected that to happen.

    However, I think that the point of view that circuits are just boring because of how safe they are misses the actual problem. I do think it’s a valid point to argue that tarmac runoff areas could be made of more abrasive kinds of surfaces, so that the leniency of being able to rejoin the race after having made a mistake is more balanced against some meaningful disadvantages once again.

    The challenge and diversity of track layouts, however, is an entirely independent point. As I’ve argued here before: Especially with these impressive safety standards these days, there is ample opportunity to create new circuits with more faster corners, for example, built in terrain that would allow for some significant gradient to be incorporated in the layout. In my opinion, the fact that driver safety would not need to be compromised in any unacceptably significant amounts for this makes it so hard to understand that many of the circuits created in recent times have offered so much of the same.

    The only factor I could see that would at least be an attempt to excuse this is the insignificant success that has been made in getting the cars to perform better in the wake of trailing each other. Thus, fast corners in the track layout generally meant – and at least to some extent, still mean – the car following just loses downforce and is further behind before the next corner comes. This is something the OWG has, obviously, begun to address, but the work needs to continue.

  5. Sutil is right, if only the rest of the drivers weren’t scared to say it for fear of upsetting their sponsors / FOM / FIA.

    New circuits (last 10 years) should form only a quarter of all races in a season, most of the new countries F1 visits can’t even be bothered to go and watch…

  6. Matt, ten years ago we had 11 european, 3 amerian and 3 asian/australian races. The UN consists of 192 member states. I wouldn´t say that Afghanistan and Iraq desperately need a GP, but it´s obvious, that a world championchip can´t only take place in Europe. And if we are moving to places like South Korea and India we need circuits capable of hosting a F1 race.
    The only thing I don´t understand is that they built Stop-n-go tracks in the arabian desert.

  7. i have noticed a trend thats occuring, whenever a country wants a gp, bernie always comes along and makes them build a purpose built track that has “alot of overtaking oportunities” and is desiged by tilke.

    now most of these countries already have racing tracks up to standard, but none of them are considered, and as we have seen tracks like gilles villenuve circuit and albert park, produce better racing, but are not constructed and designed with the “alot of overtaking oportunities” in mind. spa included.

    tracks should be built for racing not overtaking, the driver who does the overtaking, will find a way past if he knows how to.

    you cannot design a track and then tell a driver he must overtake because the track alows him to, at the end of the day the driver is the one who has to do the overtaking, and if he aint happy with the tracks i.e. sutil and alot of the drivers are, then we have a problem.

    i keep saying this, the FIA needs to hire another achitect to design tracks, so he can compete with tilke, then we will end up with some very challenging tracks, and less of tilke’s “all the same” tracks

  8. Surely its time that some of the tracks were built “organically”. I understand the importance of facilities and the pressure of the FIA and FOM but can tracks not be built to take advantage of their surroundings, such as undulation and the surrounding landscape. Tracks should have fast and slow corners, that allow for maximum overtaking and provide a challenge to the drivers and a spectacle for the tv viewers. But should these tracks be mass produced and heavily designed by one man? And should they try to emulate the popular existing tracks? That is for the fans to decide

  9. Mike "the bike" Schumacher
    10th January 2010, 21:37

    I’m shocked that adrian thinks F1 should be more dangerous. He must suffer from short term memory loss if he has forgotten about Massa’s and Surtees accidents.

    I think it’s an insult to Surtees, every other driver who has died and those like Stewart and Moseley who have saved so many lives.

    1. Those accidents had nothing to do with the circuit, they were freak accidents. If you are going to blame anybody, blame the cars for that.

    2. it is not an insult. It is just a way of thinking, wich many of us agree.
      If you can’t say something constructive, please…

  10. I think increasingly the design of the circuits is coming under question. A lot of the drivers are starting to mumble about it, some of the people involved in the overtaking working group, some of the team principals too.

    The thing is there really should be very little link between building an interesting race track and a safe one. not when you have a blank piece of paper. Converting older circuits to modern safety standards, like at Spa – yeah that’s tricky.

    But look at, say, the Algarve track. It’s got acres of run off, but it manages to provide a tremendous blend of gradient, speed, challenge and fantastic corners. It’s so unlike every new F1 track that it actually makes perfect sense that it’s not on the F1 calendar.

    It can be done. Why it’s not, I don’t know. I worry that we are to have slow corners only now because then the sponsors logos are easier to see.

    Maybe it would help if a sheikh said “I want to build a modern-day Spa-Francorchamps, not a brilliant light-show set at dusk to showcase our country”.

    But I do think that the issue of track design is going to increasingly be brought to the attention of the whole sport.

    1. I agree. What I don’t get about Abu Dhabi is that it’s been designed at this vast expense and obviously with a thought to creating overtaking opportunities – so what’s with all the chicanes? It just lines them all up single-file.

      1. If the Tecpro barriers are so good, why is that stupid chicane placed just before the hairpin? When watching the race, the cars *were* getting close to each other before the chicane and had it not been there, they would have had a nice opportunity to overtake into the hairpin…

        1. HounslowBusGarage
          11th January 2010, 19:32

          I asked exactly the same question on this forum just after the race in Abu Dhabi, and someone replied that it had been added as an emergency measure because the approach speed of an F1 car to the hairpin was much higher than originally estimated. Apparently, the chicane is not to necessary for any other class of racing.
          Don’t know how true that is, but it’s the kind of cock-up I can imagine happening.

          1. Thanks for the info mate.

            It really does beggar belief… are F1 cars not allowed to get up to top speed now? There’s no excuse given that it’s a new circuit. If that’s teh case, couldn’t the grandstand have been situated further back from the track???

            It’s all so depressing/predictable :(

      2. Nail on the head there.

        The daft thing is that chicanes were only really supposed to be for modifying old circuits that had gotten too fast and unsafe, break up dangerously quick bits – e.g. Imola.

        So if you are starting from scratch there really should not be any need for a chicane at all.

        I do really think part of it is so that the cars are slowed down and the sponsors logos are visible. I also think that there’s a strange need/desire by those in charge to have a large number of corners on a track, even if they are fiddly and clumsy.

        I guess maybe there are a couple of chicanes that are either quite technically challenging or do contribute to overtaking – thinking of Monza and Montreal – but modern tracks can’t even get chicanes right.

        And I would much rather see a track with 8 great or good corners and 90 laps than these new street tracks with about 20 corners, 10 of them chicanes, and 60 laps.

    2. Great response. I too would like to see new tracks be treated like less of an advert, and more of a racing circuit.

      As for Sutil’s comments, I agree. I don’t think he is necessarily saying he wants F1 to be less safe, rather that too much neutering F1 removes a critical element of it. Why do people do all sorts of reckless things that can and are dangerous? Because it makes you feel alive. For that brief moment when you are skating on the precipice, you feel alive like you never have before.

      That ‘adrenalin junkie’ mindset, I would suggest, is a huge part of what drives people to become F1 drivers. It’s also what attracts those of us too chicken to take the risks ourselves – to watch someone else tempt fate. If we lose too much of that, then yes, F1 will suffer as a result.

      Now I am not saying we should throw caution to the wind & do away with all of the safety improvements. More so, I think there needs to be a balance struck with safety, and sterility.

  11. I agree with Sutil, he basically says the drivers should pay for their mistakes and recklessness. He doesnt say remove all the safety measures, these tarmac runoffs should go. I absolutely loved it when boy band of Torro Rosso blew it in Suzuka qualifying, I think everyone else here did as well. Thats how it should be.
    It would be politically incorrect to say, but a big part of motor racing’s charm was the element of danger.
    If Kubica can survive Canada 07 crash, I would say F1 is very safe.

    Comparison of Massa’s accident are pointless. He was hit on the head by spring, it could have happened in Bahrain or Abu Dhabi as well. If someone wants to improve safety, make the cars stronger, not make the tracks dull.

  12. I agree with Sutil,we need more tracks like Spa & Monza which provides thrill & also awesome racing.

  13. strerling moss said the same thing last month.

    Motorsport without danger is like cooking without salt

  14. I completely agree with Sutil,I don’t think he is saying he wants F1 to be less safe he only means, We need tracks with more fast corners like spa and suzuka and this doesn’t mean we are putting drivers safety aside.How many drivers have seriously been injured at spa or Suzuka in last 15 years? This will just make F1 more thrilling and demanding for drivers. I mean come on men we need more races like that and not boring like Abu dhabi.I hope the team working on the circuit for the 2011 Indian Grand Prix takes Sutil’s comment more seriously.

  15. I agree that the most important thing is variety in the circuits on the F1 calendar.

    I think what would be better would be if mistakes were punished more without any increase in danger to the driver and everyone, but I don’t know what would be the best way to achieve this though.

    I seem to remember that Jacques Villeneuve was often vocal about how F1 had become too safe as well.

  16. Needless to say that A. Sutil drives for Force India, and the Force India was quite strong at SPA… I hope they get the message…

  17. In fairness to Sutil, he is doing his level best to introduce an element of danger and uncertainty to F1 with a lot of his driving. Think how much more excited the other drivers were as he attempted to 180 his car on the apex of a blind corner in Singapore, right into a line of 4 cars that had been in his mirrors for 10 laps.

    He’s one man, on a mission, to make F1 more dangerous -for other drivers.

  18. Accidental Mick
    11th January 2010, 12:20

    We have had controversy over a driver seeming to get an advantage by using the run off areas. We have certainly seen crashes caused by drivers leaving the run off area to rejoin the main track.

    Both to avoid theses points and to “punish” the driver for his mistake, introduce a rule that forbids a driver who has entered the run off from re-joining until all other drivers have passed.

    Has the side benefit that we might get some obvertaking as drivers try to regain their lost position.

  19. As Sutil’s said… on coming forth days in F1 would it lose its pride? since F1 is an outstanding for its technology and DARE TO DRIVE in unsafe tracks… If it goes…

  20. In my opinion the issue is less safety and more punishment for a mistake.

    I agree the current runoffs are huge, the issue is that the runoff starts immediately after the track ends, meaning, if the driver screws up, he’s got nice fresh grippy tarmac to drive onto.

    Now if there was to be lets say a 25′ wide band of slippery surface (thinking either painted asphalt or polished concrete) you will eliminate the issue of gaining time by using the run-off because there is no benefit to it. You still have a safe paved runoff area beyond that allows a car to stop without digging in and flipping over.

    Overtaking is a different issue entirely.

    That’s my thoughts anyway.

Jump to comment page: 1 2 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.