With the CotA being now the “permanent” home for F1 in the US, I wonder why I still see a lot of people asking why F1 won’t hold a race on an oval. Living in the US, Florida to be exact, I am exposed to a lot of oval racing, and honestly, its pretty entertaining. High speeds, close racing, contact and constant lead changes make ovals awesome to watch, and the constant view of the track makes being at the track even better. Not to mention the fact that tickets to watch these races are incredibly cheap ($45 for Indycar Finale seats two years ago, $65 for the NASCAR finale this year), and the atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve seen at an F1 race (I’ve been to Valencia to watch the race two years ago).
So with all of this, it seems that ovals would be a great addition to F1, however there are many important problems. First of all, Ovals DO NOT have standing starts, as they do not have a starting grid. The starts happen on the “front-stretch”, which, depending on the track, is either greater or less banked, but still at an angle. This means that F1 would have to do a rolling start, which would surely bring some issues. Also, restarts would be awful, because Indycar used single file restarts some time ago, and they were absolutely awful. F1 wouldn’t allow double file restarts, which would be too “dangerous”.
Another problem is the speed difference between the fastest and the slowest teams. There could be dangerously slow cars, which could lead to close calls at 200+ mph. Indycar pitted the Lotus cars at this years Indy 500 because they were too slow, and this means that F1 would have to take out slower cars as well, which would leave the already comparatively little car count even lower.
A lot of people think that you can just run a modern F1 car on an oval with no problem, but the truth is that an F1 car in even Monza-spec would have huge amounts of understeer because oval cars are specifically built for Ovals. Most Indycar teams have a road chassis and an oval chassis, because they are completely different set ups. You would need to have completely different suspension, completely different engine mapping and hugely different aero.
A less technical problem would be ticket prices. As I mentioned earlier, $45 dollar tickets for the Indycar finale are nothing compared to the 200+ Euro tickets for most F1 races. There aren’t many people that watch oval races that can pay that much, and those that can are probably not interested in sitting in the sun for two hours on hot metal benches. I know the oval crowd, I’ve been to Daytona and Homestead countless times, and they wouldn’t NEVER pay over $300 for a race with people who they’ve never heard of.
So while it seems like a great idea, it would be a total failure for many reasons. Its dangerous, hard on the teams in many ways, and would have a low turnout because most oval race fans don’t have that kind of money to spend, or they don’t want to spend it. If F1 wants to increase it’s popularity in the US, it’s doing the right thing by staying on a road course.
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