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”

  1. Zazeems said on 10th January 2010, 14:13

    Totally 100% agree with adrian, as it looks do many others, Why do they never listen?!?!?!

    Discussed many of these issues here:

  2. John H said on 10th January 2010, 14:18

    Nice one Sutil. Keep speaking up!

    Now if only some more people in the sport would speak too, we could get rid of Tilke and start getting back to the good old days.

    • People shouldn’t confuse the issue of safety with the ineptitude of Herman Tilke.

      • John H said on 10th January 2010, 15:12

        Yes. I agree with you actually – I think I got a bit out of order there, thanks for putting me straight.

        I’m pleased that Sutil has spoken up however. Part of F1’s appeal is danger. I’m not saying I want to see people getting hurt, but there used to be a certain skill in assessing the risks associated to the speed applied and that seems to have gone away.

        It’s part of the reason we hope for rain most of the time I think.

        • I like rain because it’s a good leveller of technology and allows talented drivers with inferior machinery to surpass less skilled drivers with cars that would be superior in the dry.

          Personally I’ve never found the danger involved in F1 that enticing. I saw Senna and Ratzenberger die and it didn’t make the sport any more appealing to me. In 2008 we saw Coulthard’s car nearly decapitate Heidfeld (I think) in Australia and that was not cool in my book. As much as I like a gory film, and I really do, I don’t want to watch someone who’s dedicated their life to the sport they love being decapitated on live TV.

          • John H said on 10th January 2010, 16:21

            The Coulthard – Heidfeld shunt has little to do with what Sutil is saying.

            I think the comparison you make is far too extreme. Why race at all? That will keep the chance of injury to 0%.

          • Sutil makes two points, one about danger in general and the other about circuit “sanitation”.

            It sounds like Sutil takes it for granted that he can have a crash like this and get out and walk away as opposed to break his legs or die.

            I doubt that after his crashes at Indianapolis Ralf Schumacher would agree with Sutil. Sutil is effectively saying F1 should be made less safe and the chances of a serious or fatal accident should be increased just so he can satisfy his own sense of psychopathic excitement.

            Humans fundamentally like to race not because it is dangerous but because they have an innate competitiveness that compels them to do so. Give two humans something, anything, and you can bet they’ll be racing each other with it before the day is out either that or they’ll be fighting each other with it.

          • John H said on 11th January 2010, 0:50

            Part of F1’s appeal is that it is dangerous.

            If you don’t agree with me on this point then we’ll just have to leave it there and understand that we both have different viewpoints of what F1 ‘is.’

        • i agree with you. And i am very happy to see that we are not alone.

  3. Bartholomew said on 10th January 2010, 14:44

    Absolutely agree !!!!!!

  4. I for one thinks that safety should be paramount. I prefer building safer tracks than ones that allows serious injuries and perhaps death. Senna and even the recent Surtees deaths are not easy to swallow. Reading Autosports top 50 drivers of all time, it is sad to read how many of them were taken from the sport prematurely. So, I refuse to be the man outside the arena saying the tracks are “too” safe blah blah blah. Racing is exciting for me every race weekend.

    That being said, I think the racing can be improved greatly. Design more sensible tracks, and as someone above suggest, put more consequence on the run off (slowing the car down). All this and more should be done, but not at the expense of safety.

    • i bet you were not a fan during the seventies, and eighties. You can’t compare. So for you this is exciting. The problem is when you have seen better.

      • Mike "the bike" Schumacher said on 12th January 2010, 18:23

        So you want a return to the 70s and 80s when drivers were dying almost every year.

  5. The basic problem is that the people who run F1 is not interested in the sport. All the new tracks serve one purpose only. making as much money as possible for FOM which is done in 2 ways. First build a track where the goverment pays for both track and license fee and with corporate suits from which FOM takes the revenue. The rest including the spectators is irrelevant which Turkey is very good example of.

    • John H said on 10th January 2010, 15:19

      Well put.

      Basically the new tracks (street circuits aside) have no relation to their context. They could be lifted up and plonked anywhere else in the world… usually where all the oil & gas is these days.

    • Which is why 12 people went to spectate in Turkey last year!

  6. zomtec said on 10th January 2010, 15:10

    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.

    • 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.

  7. Zazeems said on 10th January 2010, 15:23

    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.

  8. zomtec said on 10th January 2010, 15:36

    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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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…

  11. zomtec said on 10th January 2010, 19:19

    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.

  12. Harvs said on 10th January 2010, 19:43

    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

  13. Paperwings said on 10th January 2010, 20:45

    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

  14. Mike "the bike" Schumacher said on 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.

    • 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.

    • 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…

  15. Robert McKay said on 10th January 2010, 22:17

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th January 2010, 23:05

      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.

      • 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…

        • HounslowBusGarage said on 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.

          • 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 :(

      • Robert McKay said on 11th January 2010, 18:55

        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.

    • 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.

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