Are F1’s new combination kerbs safe?

The combination kerbs in use at Monza last year

The combination kerbs in use at Monza last year

I’ve mentioned here before my concern that the new combination kerbs being used on several F1 tracks could cause an out-of-control car to fly into the air.

The kerbs were installed at Monza ahead of last year’s F1 race. Yesterday at the circuit a Formula Two driver hit one of them and flew across the track at head height.

Nicola de Marco struck the combination kerb on the first lap of the F2 race. It pitched his car into the air as it crossed the track and, had there been another car on the track at that point, de Marco’s car would have hit it at head height.

It’s not hard to see how a similar accident could happen in F1 – we’ve already had two similar crashes year: Kamui Kobayashi’s at Melbourne and Vitantonio Liuzzi’s at Shanghai.

An out-of-control car is always going to be dangerous but if it strikes a kerb which springs it into the air its driver is powerless to slow it down and it had the potential to strike another car in the place its driver is most exposed.

The combination kerbs are effective at stopping drivers from cutting corners because of the raised section which discourages drivers from running across them. They kerbs are also being used at some corners in Melbourne, Singapore and the new section at Silverstone.

Do you think the kerbs are safe enough? How could they be improved? Have your say in the comments.

This low shot gives an impression of how high the kerbs are

This low shot gives an impression of how high the kerbs are (click to enlarge)

Combination kerbs

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93 comments on Are F1’s new combination kerbs safe?

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  1. Looked potentially nasty. I do wonder about those F2 cars – if anything bad is going on, it seems to happen to them worst.

    *Pedantry alert* It wasn’t Marinescu, he’s in a white and green car and is still there at the end of lap one. Think it might have been Nicola de Marco.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd May 2010, 10:11

      You’re right, I was looking at the grid for the second race! Changed it.

      • MigueLP said on 23rd May 2010, 12:45

        and superbikes?the kerbs are the same f2 drivers are just too many and not very experienced

    • Hare said on 23rd May 2010, 11:36

      I agree about the FP2 cars. The footage a few weeks ago, where a car flew over the in car cam from behind was spectacular, and frightening.

      Now argument about the curbs, it’s simply a matter of time, that’s not a place we want to be.

  2. I think the kerbs should be removed or drastically lowered,far too dangerous.

  3. Jack Payne said on 23rd May 2010, 9:36

    I’m not sure it this would have a similar effect [any physics experts in?], but why not do the total opposite and dip the kerbs into the ground?

    To clarify, keep the major element of the kerb on the same level with the race surface, but where these giant lumps are, create dips. It would certainly discourage kerb over-usage as running a tyre into one would probably obliterate the underside of a car/suspension, but wouldn’t have quite a ‘ramp’ effect’ if a car hit it in the same way as we’ve seen so far this year.

    I dunno, playing with ideas. Whatever the way, they are certainly looking more dangerous. Whatever happened to those tyre stacks at the apexes of the old Monza chicanes? Were they seen as being too dangerous?

    • Scribe said on 23rd May 2010, 10:15

      It’s a good idea, but would probably cause suspension faliure. Which isn’t much safer really, more bits.

    • If two cars are racing close to each other and the one in front goes into it by mistake, it would probably slow the car down so much that it would destroy the suspension and the car following it for no fault of its own.

      • Jack Payne said on 23rd May 2010, 10:53

        But surely, isn’t that what could/would happen with the current type of kerbs?

        • No. The moment the car goes into that bump, the suspension will be destroyed, slowing the car down massively. The guy behind won’t even have a clue of what happened to him.

    • MuzzleFlash said on 23rd May 2010, 11:13

      I had a similar idea to this one, though it’s more like a trench with it’s vertical walls painted yellow to make them visible.

      Or what about good old fashioned barriers, starting at the apex of the first corner leading around the exit of the second. Any car which goes out of control in the fashion we’ve seen will just hit it while the pack goes by unmolested on the other side.

    • spanky the wonder monkey said on 25th May 2010, 15:08

      it would depend on the speed of the car as to what happens. if the car is going fast enough, they will simply float straight over as there is sufficient rise in the first part of the kerb to give the necessary trajectory. if they are slower, then the wheels will dip in and ramp back out the other side, giving a similar effect to the raised kerbs, albeit with the car getting airborne a meter or so later than with the current kerbs. add in the effect of slip and you can potentially rip wheels off in the process.

      knock flat apex markers may be sufficient to do the job. hit one with the front wing then it will probably damage the elements sufficiently that the car will need a replacement, but not so catastrophic that you get out of control cars flying around. won’t help with non-winged formula though.

      police stinger mats would also do the job nicely, but a bit extreme perhaps ;-)

  4. Jack Payne said on 23rd May 2010, 9:39

    Saying that I didn’t realise those tyre stacks just fell apart if struck hard enough:

    I can see why we don’t have them anymore.

  5. UneedAFinn2Win said on 23rd May 2010, 9:47

    Make the second bit out of an absorbent material that gives way under the weight of the tire, slowing it down. Some type of foamy rubber with high ridges.It would deter cutting corners just as much as the current system but sudden oversteer is safer than going airborne.

  6. It seems completely paradoxical to me to go paving the insides and outsides of corners to allow drivers to cut across in emergency situations and then put high curbs or sleeping policemen to stop them doing it.

    If you don’t want drivers cutting corners, stop this paved runoff rubbish. Off track should be off the road. Just use minimal width curbs and have grass all the way up to the track. A driver going off will most likely damage his front wing in the grass and drag a whole load of dirt onto the track and mess everyone’s race up. Hey presto, no more cutting corners.

    • Jack Payne said on 23rd May 2010, 10:02

      That’s very true, actually. I was wondering the other day why on earth we have these random extensions to the race track.

      T7/8 of Catalunya are prime examples of this excessive use of what I don’t think is the track.

    • Karan said on 23rd May 2010, 14:52

      Not to mention sliding into the wall going 200km/h. You have no control over you car on grass.

      • Tarmac has the advantage of giving the driver a chance of regaining control or at least slowing the car down before hitting any walls.

        However, the immediate vicinity of the track needs to be unpaved, low grip and unpredictable or else it just becomes and extention of the race track.

  7. Ian said on 23rd May 2010, 10:04

    They obviously do it to stop cars cutting corners. How about using a system that deflates or damages the tyre (but not spikes/knives/etc for obvious reasons!) and then leave it up to the driver to decide if he wants to take a shortcut or not.

    • At Paul Ricard the runoff zone has been a particularly abrasive kind of tarmac for years. If you go too far off the track your tyre will be damaged. I’ve never understood why this system hasn’t been implemented at other F1 tracks.

  8. This is only really an issue at chicanes, so for me the answer is to re-profile the chicane so its not possible to straight line it.

    I hate chicanes!

    I like the idea said previously of lowering the inner kerb below the track height, or using drag inducing materials.

  9. ajokay said on 23rd May 2010, 10:11

    Why do they needs kerbs at all? Just have the track, then when the track ends, have grass or gravel. That’ll stop drivers cutting corners and no-one will be pitched into the air. The worst that will happen is that the tyre will lose traction on the grass, and the driver will spin, which is punishment enough for corner cutting.

    I’ve always seen kerbs as a track extension, but if you want more area on the apex of a corner for cars to use, why don’t they just extend the track slightly and lay more Tarmac down? They should just simplify it all. The area is either racing surface (Tarmac) or a punishment-for-being-off-the-track surface (grass, gravel, whatever). Super safe Tarmac run-offs only entise the drivers to essentially cheat by using it (see the GT1 cars at the new Club corner a few weekends back, or Kimi Raikkonen at any Belgian Grand Prix ever), and kerbs can end up either ripping the underside of a car apart, or throwing it up into the path of another driver’s jugular. Grass never hurt nobody, apart from some pride and ego due to spins on its slippy surface.

      • Jack Payne said on 23rd May 2010, 10:56

        Not sure what exactly you’re getting at there, Hey. I think that crash would have been equally as violent, grass, tarmac or gravel.

        • David said on 23rd May 2010, 12:32

          “Why do they needs kerbs at all? Just have the track, then when the track ends, have grass or gravel. That’ll stop drivers cutting corners and no-one will be pitched into the air.”

          That’s what he’s getting at.

          You can not stop cars being pitched into the air regardless of what you do.

          • Hey said on 23rd May 2010, 14:33

            Sorry for being too flippant, but it was just the comment about “Grass never hurt nobody” that I had to respond to. Ajokay’s general point that grass might be a good inside-/outside-corner surface strip is OK, but not in general for a F1 circuit surface.

            Grass is soft enough to be dug into, but hard and heavy enough to really grip a car and tear chunks off it. It can make rolls or run-offs much much worse, which is especially not OK in open top racing. Tarmac is too hard to dig into in the first place. Gravel traps are loose, so they don’t violently grab the car while slowing it down as much as grass does.

            I immediately thought of Villeneuve because his car landed on grass and got ripped to shreds. Who knows? Maybe if he’d have landed on tarmac his car would have lost a wheel or two on landing and just skidded on its lid until it stopped. Maybe not. Maybe Kubica’s Montreal crash might not have been so bad if he hadn’t lost all control bouncing over grass to begin with and then been ripped up rolling over it before having a relately calm slide across the track.

            Now obviously I started with a passing response to one part of a reasonable general point, which is now more massive than it was ever meant to be, but to say that grass never hurt anyone was an outstanding comment for me.

            Of course, the surface properties of grass are very useful. It’s just the earth underneath that’s the problem. So only logical conclusion from my musings is that all grass on F1 circuits be immediately replaced with Astroturf.

            Wait, that can’t be right…

          • Tim said on 23rd May 2010, 14:55

            I think the point is that grass can be dangerous when cars get airbourne – gravel too.

            In Villeneuve’s fatal shunt, the Ferrari landed nose down on the grass and dug in, with the result being the driver subjected to massive deceleration. That played a big part in the damage caused to both car and driver. Had the Ferrari landed on tarmac it might not have stopped so suddenly, giving the driver a better chance of surviving.

            Grass and gravel are both relatively uneven surfaces, which means that even cars in a flat spin can dig in and roll.

          • “You can not stop cars being pitched into the air regardless of what you do.”



            If you put a ramp on the inside of a corner (aka… these new kerbs) and a single seater car with a whisker of ground clearance runs over it, what’s going to happen? Yes, well done, it’s going to launch.

            If you have a nice, well kept grassy surface on the inside of a corner, and a car puts a wheel or two over it, or runs across it completely, what is likely to happen? The car will slow, it’ll lose traction. It might skid or spin, it might get away with it. Either way, it’s highly unlikely that that car will launch into the air like said F2 crash above.

            That’s what I was getting at. Sure it’s not perfect for the run-off area on the outside of a fast corner, but neither do I think tarmac or gravel is. What would you suggest? Cotten wool? bouncy castles? acres of candy floss?

            And don’t go replying to my thoughts of ‘grass never hurt nobody’ with a video of Gilles’ fatal crash, because that is, quite frankly, a stupid thing to do. As Jack Payne said, his landing would still been as equally bad on gravel of tarmac, and the grass had nothing to do with him having the accident at all. He was pitched over another car, and then the poor design of early 80’s cars, with the driver essentially sitting in the nosecone, along with the seat being ripped loose, and chicken wire for guard rails is what killed the poor guy.

          • Hey said on 24th May 2010, 0:43

            The rest of your points are decent. And maybe Villeneuve isn’t the cleanest example I could have picked. But just for the record, I totally disagree about thinking grass didn’t make his crash much worse.

            I mean it’s fine for us to disagree about how much grass contributed. But to think that suggesting that grass was a contributing factor was “stupid”? Honestly?? I would have just let it go, but seriously, you’re going to have to do some gardening or something.

            I propose an experiment. Run down a hill with you hands tied to a pitchfork. While running, drop the end of the pitchfork onto the ground. Do this once on tarmac and once on grass. Note which one a) decelerates you faster and b) breaks your wrists. Then come back and tell me its stupid to suggest that grass might have had something to do with Gilles being ripped out of his car.

  10. Limmat-F1 said on 23rd May 2010, 10:14

    How about replacing the kerbs with gravel trap ? This would slow down the cars without the flight launch.

    • Tiomkin said on 23rd May 2010, 11:05

      Wouldn’t that just throw gravel onto the track, causing more problems for all the drivers.

      • mateuss said on 23rd May 2010, 14:58

        Why dont they put illuminated ice instead of those high cerbs and astroturfs. No seriously! It would be much more affective to have a 1 meter wide strip of ice at the side of the track rather than just about anything else, also it can be completely flat and illuminated by coloured lights under the ice it would look amazing. And the refrigeration couldn’t leave a huge dent in the multi-million budget.

        • LewisC said on 23rd May 2010, 18:02

          Bernie? Is that you?

          • mateuss said on 23rd May 2010, 22:27

            Yes, and I want it completed ready for 2012. In Abu Dhabi, Silverstone, Nurburgring, Sepang and Monza in particular. And there should not be any technical problem for whom a salution could not be found!

  11. Marc Connell said on 23rd May 2010, 10:18

    I thought kerbs where designed so you can skip them, and if you go to far you hit “the wall” some people call it which tell you your being stupid by cutting to much of the corner.
    I prefer this, you have a chance to go over the kerb but you dont have the chance to cut the corner completely. But i do agree there stupidly high. At the first chicane at monza, i think they should remove the first one or lower it alot and leave the 2nd one where it is. Same for the spanish GP at the new chicane there. Remove the first but keep the 2nd, infact redesign the 2nd kerb so its smoother.

  12. James said on 23rd May 2010, 10:20

    The idea of the kerb is to prevent drivers from using them at all. F1 drivers are now pretty safe in the cockpit of an F1 car, even more so in recent years thanks to lobbying from David Coulthard.

    I think the above accident was an example of inexperience. I cant see an F1 driver doing the same. Those kerbs would wreck the suspension and probably cause a puncture too. They seem to work as a deterrent…

    • Mike said on 23rd May 2010, 11:19

      I know F1 drivers are meant to be the best, but mistakes happen, How many times have you seen a driver lose it for seemingly no reason? Or cut across a corner, or go wide.

      You have to allow for errors when you design things.

      • James said on 23rd May 2010, 11:49

        Now that Piquet has gone, not too often really. Almost all of the incidents this year have been mechanically related rather than driver error.

      • SpaFan said on 24th May 2010, 8:05

        Hamilton Monza 2009 last lap :)

  13. Calum said on 23rd May 2010, 10:23

    Why not just put spikes there instead, completely shred the tyres – that will soon put a stop to corner skipping!

  14. Hey said on 23rd May 2010, 10:26

    Have a really long backing ramp on the non-track side of the chicane hump. That way it’s less like hitting a sleeping policeman and bouncing into the air, and more like dropping straight off a 6 inch cliff. Scraping against the edge of said cliff would probably do no good to your floor or diffuser so drivers still won’t want to cut the corner.

    I just hope that we don’t look back at raised kerbs as one of those things that was obviously an unnecessary hazard but only got changed once someone got seriously injured. With open cockpit racing there’s always a chance of a driver being hit: just look at the bump that Trulli’s floor gave Chandok’s helmet last week. But we really shouldn’t have custom devices that have the delightful side effect of flicking fast cars at the helmets of other drivers for fun.

  15. Sean Newman said on 23rd May 2010, 10:40

    I think doing away with kerbs completely is a good option with a low grip surface on the inside of the corner, be it grass or some other material. The only problem with this is the corners will still be cut to varying degrees and in some cases this would seen as unacceptable.
    Maybe the best answer is to radically elongate the profile of the kerb. Imagine ‘filling in’ the inside of the corner to the height of the kerb. About 40-50m from the corner, a gradual increase in height at a rate low enough to not launch the car into the air, leveling off about 20m before the corner. Then the sudden drop onto the track with the same cross section radius as a current kerb.
    This would mean out of control cars would drop as they came back onto the track instead of rise.
    Obviously this would not work for every corner but even if it was used in areas where there are large speed differentials it would be a cheap and effective solution.

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