With all the talk of Abu Dhabi’s expanses of tarmac runoff, and the possibility of Circuit Paul Ricard returning to the calendar, this one thing piqued my interest.
We know that Paul Ricard has these color-coded run-off areas, consisting of a progressively abrasive asphalt-tungsten mixtures, designed to slow the cars down in the same manner a gravel trap would. The difference is that cars can return to the track, but at the cost of extreme tyre wear.
My question is, why isn’t this abrasive runoff being used at other tracks?
Is it too expensive to manufacture and install? I’m not entirely sure, but given that construction of the circuit was privately financed, it seems unlikely that the runoff would be so uneconomical. Factor in the already astronomical costs of the modern circuits like Yas Marina, and it seems that investing in abrasive runoff wouldn’t break the bank by that much. Is it somehow unsafe? Nope. F1 cars have raced at Paul Ricard before without problem, and the circuit is meets FIA standards.
Hermann Tilke was quoted as saying (from an F1F round-up):
Nobody wants (gravel traps), it will result in less overtaking and less risk taking from drivers because once you’re punished for your mistake it’s race over. Drivers will be too careful.
It would seem that abrasive runoff combines the best of both worlds (asphalt and gravel traps). Have these tungsten-asphalt runoff areas vary in abrasiveness, just as they are at Paul Ricard. Hit a less abrasive area and you can continue racing, but you are still penalized for your mistake as you lose time travelling over the runoff. Make a serious mistake, and you’ll be suitably punished by having your tyres worn to oblivion, forcing you to pit. Have an accident, and the runoff is there to serve its safety purpose – to slow or stop the car before it hits the barriers.
What do you think?