Abrasive run-off areas
2nd November 2012, 10:09 at 10:09 am #132304
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?2nd November 2012, 10:27 at 10:27 am #214179
Tungsten currently costs around 44 USD/kg, so there’s at least several millions of dollars lying around in run-off areas at Paul Ricard. I’d call that a bank breaker.2nd November 2012, 10:34 at 10:34 am #214180
There are many, much cheaper substitutes for tungsten in this application, like ceramic aluminium oxide (used in industrial abrasives). And besides that, why is abrasive runoff, in any of its forms, not being considered by circuit designers?2nd November 2012, 10:48 at 10:48 am #214181
Alumina is used to prevent hardening of asphalt, so if they were to add enough alumina to make it abrasive, the asphalt would likely be too soft. Tungsten is probably the only additive that gives the right results, which is why they used it despite being so expensive.2nd November 2012, 11:00 at 11:00 am #214182
The fact that Paul Ricard chose to use it in the first place in spite of its cost, rather than sticking to tried and tested gravel traps, seems to prove its feasibility. Or was it conceived as an experimental measure?2nd November 2012, 11:07 at 11:07 am #214183
Since Paul Ricard is used as a test track, they couldn’t use kitty litter, because the teams would lose too much time if the driver would get stuck and they also couldn’t use plain asphalt, because you don’t want your fancy prototype to get smashed. So in this case the benefit of tungsten outweighed the cost, but at other tracks it probably doesn’t. At Yas Marina it’s probably used for showing off though, unless they’re planning to attract winter testing with it’s permanent good weather and outstanding hotel facilities. Other tracks that are frequently used for testing, like Jerez, probably don’t have enough cash to make the investment.2nd November 2012, 11:35 at 11:35 am #214184
What a shame. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’m no engineer, but I’m confident that with enough thought and effort, a cheaper substitue to tungsten would be available for the construction of such runoff.2nd November 2012, 18:51 at 6:51 pm #214185
Isnt it to do with Motorbike races? Riders prefere the gravel traps as it slows the bikes quicker should they fall during a corner and therefore is somewhat safer then a bike skidding over tarmac and into the barrier. “Other” tracks are usually older sorts, before this horrid tarmac was in fashion and use gravel traps, which is popular with racers outside the F1 circus.
On a personal preference, I prefere the gravel. It looks better then yards of black stuff outside the track and it punishes drivers for mistakes.2nd November 2012, 19:44 at 7:44 pm #214186
I strongly prefer gravel traps as well. The fact that your race can be over with one tiny mistake makes matters a lot more interesting and when Tilke says it counteracts overtaking, I’d say that’s purely speculation on his part, just like his whole hairpin-before-a-straight idea.
If you look at the practice sessions at Abu Dhabi today, you see many drivers running onto the “abrasive” surfaces without any noticeable damage to their tyres. It is (slightly) more effective at getting cars stopped (if their tyres are still whole), but it does not combine the benefits of tarmac and gravel run-off, because it doesn’t punish mistakes.2nd November 2012, 22:19 at 10:19 pm #214187
I like gravel traps for the same reason I liked engines w/o rev limiters. Engine used to blow up, drivers got stuck, the race was over, chances for backmarkers to gain some points.3rd November 2012, 0:57 at 12:57 am #214188
@sjm I believe riders prefer gravel, certainly Casey Stoner has expressed that opinion. Though the FIA aren’t alone in the push for asphalt run-off, with moves to change gravel to asphalt for MotoGP at Philip Island
@necrodethmortem gravel traps are preferable from a racing point of view, but there’s little chance they’ll come back. Just as gravel traps replaced catch fencing asphalt has now replaced gravel traps as a safer alternative.
I think they should be exploring options that enforce drivers to use the confines of the track, but have the safety benefits of the asphalt run-off. The Paul Ricard abrasive areas seem to be a decent compromise between punishing errors and safety, I’d love to see these at more tracks.
@zomtec Valencia this year showed what fun a race of attrition can be, that being said if you’re a Vettel or Grojean fan then it was probably pretty painful.
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