For a while now a lot of us have criticised the increasing large amounts of tar macadam covered run-off areas, which give no penalty to those that run off-line. In some cases (i.e. La Source) it can actually be advantageous. Apparently gravel traps are too dangerous.
Well in this latest race in Germany several drivers were slowed down and some even had a spin or two because of the artificial grass that was soaked due to overnight rain.
So my Wacky Idea, is that a two metre wide strip should be laid alongside all tracks, where safe and practical, and be thoroughly soaked just before the race.
Many others have thought the same thing for quite a while now, unfortunately it would put the track owners/FIA in a very difficult position should a driver put a wheel onto the wet artificial grass and then end up spinning off and suffering a serious accident.
It would also make the tracks far too dangerous for motorbikes; most of the run off areas you see at tracks today are not there for the benefit of F1 cars, they’re there to help motorbike racers recover when they run wide and to help keep them out of the barriers/walls that so often used to kill them just a few years ago.
F1 cars have become very safe in recent years, the same can not be said for motorbikes for quite obvious reasons.
I don’t buy into the argument that “modern” run-off areas don’t penalise mistakes enough. I don’t want to see a tiny mistake totally ruining a driver’s race (even if that driver IS Fernando Alonso).
Gravel traps should exist for safety purposes only- to stop a car ploughing head-long into a tyre wall at 200mph. Where possible they should be set back as far as practically possible from the track to allow drivers to correct mistakes.
The next question is obviously what to put between the track and the gravel. I like the artificial grass because even when it’s dry, drivers still have to slow- they don’t get off scott-free. But unless it’s soaking wet, the chances of the grass causing a driver to crash and retire is slim. Even if he spins, he can usually continue the race.
I agree that gravel traps should only exist for safety purposes, however its great to watch the race at Suzuka every year and see the gravel traps add that extra challenge to the drivers. A classic example of the championship needing to go to every type of venue with every type of conditions and challenges.
Gravel traps don’t exist on more modern tracks precisely because tar-mac is safer. If a driver goes sideways into a gravel trap and the wheels dig in, the car could flip and injure the driver. tar-mac run-off areas negate this risk.
I thought motorcycles actually demanded gravel traps, because they don’t cause the same problem with cars and the riders actually come off the vehicle?
Do what Paul Ricard does, have a highly abrasive and grippy surface stuck down in the runoff areas. If a car goes off the track, their ability to stop the car will increase the tyres will bite in. The penalty is that it pretty much rips the tyres to shreds.
Of course, I say stick down, because it would have to be temporary (removable for bike riders). If a bike rider slides along it, they will get torn to shreds, so removing it would be safer. If it’s stuck down, there’s possibility for advertising space to be incorporated.
It’s good to think outside the box, but this really wouldn’t work, it’d be way too dangerous!
My first thought was what DavidS has proposed above, an abrasive tarmac strip surrounding corners where drivers often deliberately go off. Not something which would immeadiately destroy their tyres, that’d be OTT, but something which would increase tyre wear, and eventually cost them more time than they might have gained by running wide
Just put bigger kerbs in on the exits of corners, so that if a car puts wheels over them it is more or less beached, the momentum carried if running a little wide should get them off and it should stop the drivers taking liberties, after that it doesn’t matter what is on the other side as long as it slows the cars enough before reaching a barrier.
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© Keith Collantine 2014 • Disclaimer
© 2014 Keith Collantine