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Todt says new tracks must provide overtaking to get licence
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Todt says new tracks must provide overtaking to get licence
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Nov 2010   |  5:02 pm GMT  |  111 comments

FIA president Jean Todt has hit the media trail in a limited way over the past couple of weeks – particularly in Italy – and has put some interesting ideas out there. Among other things he stated that any new circuit hoping to get an FIA licence will be assessed as much for spectacle as safety. He has even suggested that circuits should be ranked by entertainment value.

Todt has not had a high media profile since taking on the job a year ago, particularly on Formula 1, but lately has come out with some more comments.


Speaking to La Stampa newspaper Todt responded to the criticisms raised of the season finale in Abu Dhabi where several drivers found it extremely difficult to overtake, not least Fernando Alonso, whose world title hopes were dashed by exiting the pits behind the Renault of Vitaly Petrov and Lewis Hamilton who could not pass Robert Kubica.

“We need to encourage more overtaking,” Todt said “In Abu Dhabi, it was impossible. I’m speaking as the President of the FIA. Hamilton had fresh tyres and was two seconds [a lap] faster than Kubica and yet he failed to pass. From now on, before a new circuit is approved, we will evaluate the potential for the spectacle as well as the safety.”

At present a new circuit is subject to an inspection by FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting, which is primarily focussed on making sure that all the deliverables are in place in terms of infrastructure and above all safety measures meet current FIA F1 standards.

But Todt’s intervention indicates that the FIA wants to put circuit designers and builders under more pressure to make tracks on which cars can entertain.

Richard Cregan, the CEO of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has said that they will do whatever the FIA ask them to in order to improve the circuit.

In an interview at the end of last week in Gazzetta dello Sport, Todt said that he would use the FIA commission meeting this week to discuss the problem of overtaking and that each circuit should have an entertainment ranking, a mark out of ten and he would like them to push for improvements as soon as 2011.

Incidentally next World Council meeting is on 9 December at which the Sporting Working Group is due to report on team orders, having been mandated to come up with a new regulation in the aftermath of Ferrari’s team orders infringement in Germany this year. Speaking in Gazzetta last week Todt said that he “regrets” the decision which sparked the original ban on team orders, his call to make Rubens Barrichello give the win to MIchael Schumacher in Austria in 2002.

It’s not been much remarked upon in the media but Todt has also suggested in the last week that there could be a test for young drivers on the Monday after certain Grands Prix. He also said that the FIA was going to open a marketing department. Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM company has been advertising recently for marketing executives, so there is clearly quite a push on. It will be interesting to see where the FIA starts and FOM stops on these areas.

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111 Comments
  1. Paul D says:

    Interesting idea. Alternatively just give Herman Tilke a P45.

    1. jonrob says:

      I have to agree, we wait to see what he does in Austin.

      1. Nando says:

        Todt should act now, Tilke has had enough chances. His solution to this problem will be to have massive straights at every new track like in China.

      2. Grant says:

        Don’t get too excited. Jean’s comments are to help support Ferrari and Alonso’s failure to secure the WDC with the Italian press.

        Silverstone can produce both brilliant and dull races just because of the wind speed and direction. And Monaco will not and should not face the humiliation of a possible poor score.

        Therefore, at best, this will apply to the design of new circits. However, what if a high scoring circit had a poor showing? Credibility will be lost.

        So, I think this will probably not actually see the light of day.

      3. Luca says:

        i think you’re being a bit short sighted in that Todt is only saying this because Ferrari lost out.
        It has been talked about for ages, that the lack of overtaking is not helped by the lay out of the majority of new circuits (designed by Tilke).

        For a final showdown of the season, Abu Dhabi was a let down because the main rivals could not race for the title, as they might be able to at a circuit like Brazil.

        For example Tilke says that the best situation for an overtake is a hairpin before a straight into another hairpin – ok, fair enough, so why at Abu Dhabi does he stick a chicane in prior to the hairpin before the straight thus making it impossible for cars to follow close enough into main straight….? Plus you have all the super smooth run offs that offer no consequence for going wide, if not rewarding it!

        Then there’s Korea – i’m hoping to be proved wrong, but when they race there next year in the dry (poss) then it will be a very dull race as there are no real over taking chances, it may have a long straight, but the open hairpin into that straight mean again cars, as they are, can not stay close enough… then throw in KERS for 2011 and its a procession.

        I admit there are a lot of things that need to be taken into account (tyres, car/engine spec’s, areo etc) but the circuits need to complement the racing not impede it.

      4. Stephen Kellett says:

        “Monaco will not and should not face the humiliation of a possible poor score.”

        Why on earth not? It produces non-races year after year after year. Dull, dull, dull. Unless it rains.

        If any track produces rubbish racing, get rid of it.

      5. Arri says:

        So you don’t think that he doesn’t really feel that something drastic needs to be done to prevent Sundays farce of a race happening again and is only saying this as PR for Ferrari? Odd, most people seem to agree with Todt on this and I don’t think this is just PR to cover for Ferrari, in case you missed it..and I quote…”Hamilton had fresh tires and was two seconds [a lap] faster than Kubica and yet he failed to pass”…funny..no mention of Ferrari? I have to say that I’m glad that it’s being brought to the fore by Todt. Maybe just maybe will get to see driver skills in action without being hampered by track layout.

  2. michael grievson says:

    It’s all well and good in theory saying you have to be able to overtake before getting a licence but proving it on a computer and being able to do it on track are two different things

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      There’s something I don’t understand about overtaking. Everybody knows (Hilke confirmed that) that in order to overtake you need a hairpin followed by a long straight and a chicane or a chicane/straight/hairpin.

      Abu Dhabi has that and yet it proved a circuit where overtaking is almost impossible both in GP2 and F1. The same principle works in Hokeinheim for example.

      Does someone have an answer why does it work on some circuits and not on other. Is it tarmac related or the whole section leading to the straight matters ?

      P.S : this year was exceptional in that the Renaults prevented the overtaking and they were the best cars on the straights since Spa.

      1. Rod says:

        The biggest problem with Abu Dhabi is the circuit is simply too easy, particularly in the sections where overtaking was designed to occur (ie sector 2). The track is silky smooth, the kerbs are very forgiving and there is plenty of run-off for the drivers. There is no chalenge and no risk. Add to this the Bridgestone tires never missing a beat and it means it is easy for drivers to stay on the limit. This makes overtaking almost impossible no matter what the layout is.

        This is exactly the opposite to the Degner Curves, for example, in Suzuka. They are narrow, bumpy, super fast and very un-forgiving. The result is that a driver with more grip or simply more balls can push through here and create an OPPORTUNITY to overtake. Koboyashi proved this despite the short run to the following hairpin. If the straight between the Degner curves and the hairpin was as long as the main straight in Abh Dhabi, many other drivers would have proved this as well.

        Think of tracks in general, and corners in particular, like a Bell Curve. Drivers have to keep the car at the top of the curve, ie, on the limit. A bit below and they are sacrificing speed, a bit over and they are pushing too hard and either sacrificing speed or making mistakes.

        Abu Dhabi (generally speaking) is like a very gentle Bell Curve, and the corners leading onto the two straights are the most gentle bell curves of all. They are easy to sit on top of the limit. This make overtaking difficult.

        There are a few corners in F1 that are a very sharp bell curve. The Degner Curves, the Wall of Champions in Montreal, the entire layout at Monaco. Through here it is almost impossible for a driver to stay on the absolute limit because of the penalties of going over the limit.

        To sum it up, you need to have CHALLENGING corners followed by a decent straight… and then you can plonk a Tilke hairpin at the end to allow a driver to out-brake another.

      2. tom says:

        i like how you said all that, well done. i reckon it’s thinking and wording it like this that COULD make Todts’ idea work (in theory). but then, “in theory, communism works. in theory” homer simpson

      3. Mark V. says:

        Would it help to put the braking zones in a blind spot immediately after the crest of a hill on a steep downslope leading into an off camber corner? Or make the track wider in some corners so there is more than one apex/line?

        How about just make the tracks HARD TO DRIVE so the drivers make a lot of mistakes. F1 needs to have tracks that scare the bejesus out of the drivers like the Hahnenkamm scares skiers every year.

      4. matt nz says:

        excellent comments. I think this issue, and particular the smooth run off areas on modern tracks has been a large contributor to the overtaking problem.

        The number of times this season that drivers have gone off track and rejoined no worse off, or even better off than they were, has been terrible.

        Poor martin brundle keeps having to explain to viewers, ‘well i think he should have to lose a place there’, but it doesn’t happen.

        I realise theres safety issues involved, but how about something that slows or breaks the cars that go off. E.g a forced ‘long cut’ around a tyre barrier before the car can rejoin the track, or how about deflection bollards in the run off area that can smash front wings

      5. Rod says:

        Yeah I agree with both those ideas matt. There has to be real penalties for going off track that aren’t necessarily unsafe. At Monza if you skip any part of any of the chicanes you should have to pull into a ‘stop-and-go bay’ before the next chicane otherwise you get a drive-through penalty. Webber forced the Hulk into 3 errors in Monza and got no benefit from any of them because of far too forgiving stewarding.

        …and btw the day the FIA make an ‘automatic slow down device’ for the cars when they go off track is the day I stop watching F1..!

  3. Gemma says:

    I’m liking Jean Todt more and more……

  4. Galapago555 says:

    Sounds good but I thought that the one to decide on new circuits to be accepted into the calendar was Bernie. Is this right, is it only a FIA’s decission, or is it a question of both?

    Another point: is Mr Todt now going to review all the current tracks (I’m thinking of Valencia, Budapest,…) or this “entertainment ranking” will only apply to new venues trying to host races?

    1. Edd Porter says:

      Bernie signs the commercial agreement without the tracks but they have to have an FIA licence in order to host a Formula 1 event. Look at Korea, where there was thereal possibility that they would not get a licence after Charlie Whiting’s inspection. There would have been no race even though all the contracts had been signed.
      I’d imagine that a process of the FIA signing off based on a new circuit’s design would be required. Would be shame to spend €n million on a new track only to have it rejected.

      1. Jo Torrent says:

        The problem is that a track might look good for overtaking on paper but not once drivers race on it.

        Besides, a circuit such as Singapore is among the worst in overtaking. I don’t see the FIA dumping it though.

  5. Gene says:

    I still don’t quite get the negative reaction stemming from Alonso and Hamilton’s inability to get around the Renaults in Abu Dhabi. I saw several passes for position in the race that prove it’s absolutely possible. I thought the issue was the better F-duct on the Renault that prevented Alonso/Hamilton from getting close at the end of the straights? This has nothing to do with the circuit, and more to do with a technology which is dissapearing next year anyway. Where was Todt’s reactionary outrage at the beginning of the season at Bahrain? From an outsider, the difference seems to be that a Ferrari won there, yet lost at Abu Dhabi. …. and this is coming from someone who HATES when people quote bias from the FIA toward/against any team/individual!

    I appreciate the sentiment that Todt is trying to convey, and there are certainly circuits that could use some work (Valencia comes to mind immediately), but we just experienced probably the greatest F1 season ever. Do we really need to go overboard? I’m not so sure…

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      James said that overtaking was very hard on this circuit even for GP2 cars

    2. Riccardo says:

      It’s been a fantastic season, but why so negative if there’s a chance to improve on-track action? I’d love to see a new sensibility on this aspect. The technical rules regarding the cars are again going to change, we’ll see if for the better. I think, though, that up till now the cars have already been too much standardised. Bettering the tracks would be a very welcome change!

    3. Darko says:

      I’m not sure you’re getting the point. as Todt mentioned Hamilton was on fresh tires & was 2 seconds/lap faster Kubica. the track design simply didn’t allow for sufficient passing opportunities. Abu Dhabi’s long straights are followed by chicanes or low speed corners. Bahrain was the 1st race of the season following very limited off-season testing, so there were quite a few unknowns to sort out.

    4. Mikael says:

      Well one problem with the long straight at Abu Dhabi was that they kept hitting the RPM limiter all the time resulting in that they couldn’t take full advantage of the slipstream.

    5. “…Todt’s reactionary outrage…”?

      I would call his comments calm, considered and a response, not a reaction. I’d like to hope that he’s had the decency to wait until after the end of the season before making any comments on anything.

      Yes, we have had one of the best seasons ever, when you look at the season as a whole, but there were still a number of races that at least part of which were dull and predictable because of the lack of overtaking.

  6. Dino says:

    Does this mean goodbye to Monaco?

    1. Nick F says:

      You get an amazing spectacle and cars crashing into barriers as compensation for no overtaking at Monaco. Valencia is just boring though.

      1. Galapago555 says:

        Monaco is not only about spectacle, it’s mainly about glamour.

        You can see it’s the only venue where the cars don’t run for 305km, they just make 240. And the free practise on Thursdays. Even the podium ceremony is totally different.

        F1 would never be the same again if they stop racing in the poshest streets of the world!

  7. Sander says:

    The track in Abu Dabi provides overtaking when gp2 cars drive on it. I think the problem is with the f1 cars more than with the tracks.

    1. mvi says:

      According to Martin Whitmarsh, the GP2 cars also had trouble overtaking at the Abu Dhabi track.

  8. Kirk says:

    And another point: are the FIA seriously going to wait until a venue (like Abu Dhabi or Shanghai) has spent millions of pounds building a new track to then inspect it and say “Sorry, doesnt look like we can have overtaking here so your F1 race isnt going to happen” – really?!? I somehow doubt it. This is just a PR exercise from Mr. Todt, will change nothing in reality.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      I agree with you. It’s hard to assess how good is a track before actually racing on it. But once it’s built the FIA can’t dump it for overtaking reasons. So, it’s very hard to make such an interesting idea work.

      1. Neal Rayner says:

        Most of the teams have great simulators. It can’t be a great leap for them to evaluate designs.

  9. chris says:

    Want more passing – get rid of the soft tires that leave all the clag on the track which results in a single racing line. Remember the 60′s and 70′s, there was plenty of passing back then. Also get rid of all the fancy aero parts.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      The problem is that with your idea Formula1 cars will be much slower than lower formulas cars which is simply unacceptable for F1.

      The gap is already dramatically decreasing between F1 and GP2.

      1. Gilles says:

        Just slow down the GP2 cars by downgrading their tires accordingly – problem solved.

    2. er,go says:

      Have to agree with you.

      If the track is only one car width wide it’s pretty damn hard to overtake. And with all the crap off-line on the track there really is only one car width in a lot og places. Like corners. And most of that is old rubber.

      In the quest for grip, the tyre manufacturers have severly limited the opportunities for overtaking.

      Solutions? Stop the race every ten laps and run the street sweeper round the track. Put little rotating brushes on the front of each car. Or maybe just get rubber to hold together a bit.

      Can we do with less mechanical grip? Sure. Seems the FIA spend a lot of time reducing aero grip, so bring back good ground effects, double blown diffusers and tyres that leave rubber on the track through loss to the surface only.

      Or maybe tractor tyres on no aerodynamics at all. Massey Ferguson can enter a car for 2012!

  10. jonrob says:

    A large part of the “single line” effect is caused by the tyres shedding rubber and creating a “no go” area of effective marbles on each side of the racing line.
    In the old days we used to see drivers “cleaning” a line that they could then use to make a pass after 3 o4 laps. But now the slightest deviation seems to have them off the track and into a barrier.
    So I suggest that the tyre characteristics have a lot more to do with overtaking than the track layout.

    1. Andy C says:

      Its a point that gets missed quite a bit, but it certainly doesnt help overtaking for sure…

      A lot of the tech advances in aero have done away with the OWG recommendations (think it was called the overtaking working group). It didnt help that the guy heading it at the times team came up with the double diffuser :-)

      1. Gilles says:

        I would suggest to use just 1 type of tire; the hardest one. This should then be used for all circuits as well. No obligatory tire change anymore during the race, if you make them last, you don’t need to pit.
        It would lower costs and add to the excitement, less grippier cars which are more difficult to drive; less marbles on the track.
        Seems like a simple and effective means to spice up the show to me. Or am I missing something ?

      2. Justin Lewis says:

        I think that having a choice of tyres is OK, but with the conditions that the softer compound is considerably quicker but degrades considerably faster than the hard. Then teams and drivers have genuine decisions to make, based on race strategy, the driver’s style and the actual race situation.

    2. Stevie P says:

      I feel it’s a combination of things… you can say that Monaco’s track layout definitely prevents over-taking – but that’s not going to change is it? Silverstone can throw up some great races but then some dirges. Canada always seems to be great – due to their surface always degrading (that’s harsh winters for ya!) and Brazil always seems to create good over-taking. But I’m sure we can all recall “bad” races at those 2 tracks too.

      For me, I’d like to see wider corners, thus giving different lines into and out of those corners. I feel Hockenheim is good as turn 2, provides different lines onto the long back straight (yeah, ok it’s actually a curve) – the optimum line is somewhere in the middle but a driver can take a wider entry and then sling-shot (with the tow) onto the car in-front, in time for the hairpin.

      Bahrain had this too (I forget the corner number, but it was in sector 1)… until they added the new twisty section – grrr! – altering the lines into that corner. I hear they’re not to use that new section next season :-)

      But anyway back to the combo of things… take some of the aero away, this will reduce the dirty air for the following car; give them more racey, less durable tyres – this will throw in more wear-rate issues (however won’t prevent the marbles); and modify some of the tracks making some corners more challenging and also wider corners too, creating different entry\exit lines.

      I don’t think it’s a one item solution – never have done.

  11. I.H. says:

    I totally agree. My question.. Is Mr Tilke the only designer in the world that can design tracks for F1. So far his record is zero for exciting. Does he have a special deal with Bernie to ensure that no one else will get to submit or plan track layouts..as then it may be determined that Mr.Tilke’s are not the be all and end all of layouts.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      The new Hokenheim is good for overtaking. So is Turkey and Korea so far.
      Hilke said that he was willing to do whatever necessary to make a track exciting but that money is the barrier often to more creativity. Add to that the safety constraints of the new era track for F1 and mainly MOTOGP and you end with very limited options.

      The most exciting circuit today Suzuka is impossible to design nowadays because it will be ruled out for safety matters.

    2. Chris says:

      He’s come up with Turkey, which I reckon is pretty good; though unlikely to ask. He does have exclusivity with Bernie.

      Silverstone’s upgrades were made by someone other than Bernie, but that’s because the redesign was undertaken to make the track suitable for MotoGP rather than extending the F1 track.

  12. Steve Dennis says:

    It is not down to the designers or circuit owners to make more overtaking, the onus is on teams and driver.
    The FIA has brought this on themselves by making the cars so similar and taking away the ingenuity of teams designers.
    Give the teams more freedom as they used to have and you will not only see more overtaking, but better racing.
    Car design is a team thing not FIA’s, need I mention the Mansell, Senna & Prost era’s. Even early Shumachers mid 90′s.
    The last 5 years rule changes have made the cars sterile, not the tracks, we have some fantastic tracks, let the cars use them to their ability, let the designers design, then the sport will regain it’s former glory.
    FIA. blame yourselves not the teams for this major failing in a fantastic sport, give us back our glory days.
    This might be controversial, but having been a fan of this sport since late 60′s early 70′s it’s how I personally feel.
    Thank you for reading my rant, may it also start a discussion.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      If car design was less constraining the cars will be too quick for the drivers safety and probably too quick for the drivers to withstand the g forces.

      The problem is that the technology today allows to build cars impossible to drive for human being the same way Jet fighters are beyond mankind physical abilities. The rules are there for safety matters in order to avoid deadly accidents on one hand and to make the cars drivable by mankind.

      These same rules make the engineer task less rewarding. It’s more about refinement than about creativity. The F-duct is the exception this year and in terms of rules it’s border line.
      The blown diffuser was already used in the Renaults of the 80s

    2. jonrob says:

      “The last 5 years rule changes have made the cars sterile, not the tracks, we have some fantastic tracks, let the cars use them to their ability, let the designers design, then the sport will regain it’s former glory.”

      I agree that the current aero regs and tyres are largely the cause of the problem. In support of this see Sander’s comment Nr 7 above:
      “The track in Abu Dabi provides overtaking when gp2 cars drive on it. I think the problem is with the f1 cars more than with the tracks.”

      We often come back to the conclusion that it was better in the old days of Mansell, Senna, Stewart, Prost etc The problem is that the engineering design and development has been done, we cannot un-acquire the knowledge, we are no longer pushing boundaries of engineering, we are merely wriggling around, the regs. The very rules themselves are a damper on inventiveness,
      We need big changes in the rules, and yet vast amounts of money are invested in keeping the status quo, so the likelihood is for small changes only.

    3. Nick F says:

      Without the restrictions the lap times of the cars would not be so close. You would be back to the situation of 1 or 2 teams dominating. the overtaking I most care about is at the front. I want multiple teams to be bale to win a race. That is much more exciting.

      When the new drive trains come in 2013 we’ll see how that changes things. It will be a good test of how the restrictions have helped or hindered things.

    4. Stevie P says:

      But was there really that much over-taking in the past? There was some of course, but then there were other races where there wasn’t.

      One of the fundamental issues (as always)… is that you have the fastest cars at the front and the slowest at the back. The fastest cars will pull away giving a processional race. I have joked in the past about reversing grids and I know it’s not feasible… but what about a random race, where the grid is reversed… just the once, say at Silverstone or some other place that has a wide track (Turkey perhaps) and let’s watch the fast guys get through the pack – yeah ok, it’s not feasible and it’s manipulated and etc, etc, etc :-)

      All of the best races I can name, have been where rain has affected quali or a front-runner has had an in-race issue (be that tyres or gear loss) – you have a Raikonnen \ Alonso starting in 16th and trying to get to the front; you have Senna nursing his tyres, whilst Mansell has pitted and is closing him down on fresh rubber etc, etc.

      1. Ive had an idea about that, instead of reversing grids, a much simpler method of getting overtaking is this:

        Blue flags never get shown for the leader, but get shown for all other cars.

        Simple effect, the leaders get bunched up, more overtaking opportunities.

      2. AK says:

        At least since I’ve been watching, which started at the 86 Australian GP, the vast majority of races have been processional.

        Only difference is that cars were more unreliable some time ago, and also tyre wear more of a factor.

        Remember why they brought in in-race refueling in the first place – to spice up the racing!

    5. Steve Dennis says:

      Thanks for all the replys and very interesting they were too thank you.
      Another one then to add to this, why not any teams outside of the top ten have a free reign at design with no restrictions, except obviosly their budget, but, once they enter the top ten then they have to conform to the rules as set out.
      This should in money allows make the small teams a bit faster and hopefully a bit more competitive.
      Hopefully then, we should have a bit more interesting racing.
      Any thoughts on this as well, particulary from Mr James Allen.
      Many thanks

  13. Nil says:

    The rating system for tracks is an excellent idea. It will be interesting to see what metrics are used for rating as the number of passes at a given track on a given year may vary depending on weather conditions.

    When will we have F1 broadcasts on the internet? James, do you have any info whether YouTube’s Chad Hurley is interested in F1?

    P.S. – Something’s wrong with the comment system. I get to the top of the page after submitting a comment and don’t see my comment and the usual ‘Awaiting moderation’ message.

    1. Your comment made me think, and so Ive just added in a feature for track ratings based on events to our website, with 16 years (so far) of event data, at http://www.ratef1.com/halloffame.php?type=2

      Belgium and Canada come way out on top, and as expected, Valencia and Abu Dhabi come out badly.

      If you just look at passing, China is the clear winner, although funnily, Hungary has had more lapping than anyone else.

      1. Nil says:

        Very interesting data compilation. Although China is up top with the number of times the Safety Car is deployed, it is still not up top with the number of crashes. That also holds true for other new circuits. Is that a testament to the safety of the new venues or just that we’re looking at longer time spans for older circuits resulting in upping their respective crash averages?

  14. tom says:

    i know Todt’s record will be judged only AFTER his tenure, but as far as i’m concerned he’s making all the right noises… so far.

    re who’s decision it is to geta race on the calender i would imagine that once a track has been granted an FIA licence then BE can pick and choose from those tracks.

    personally, the day somebody comes and takes over from BE the same way Todt has from Mosley cannot come soon enough, bilious old troll.

  15. Andy W says:

    Seems like basic common sense to me, Yas Marina is a fantastic setting for a GP, but the track is nowhere near as exciting as it could be. Reduce the straights a little, make the hair pin at 7 an actual hair pin (remove that stupid chicane) and a few other tweaks and the track could match the spectacle.

  16. Phil Cee says:

    If overtaking is going to be a factor in licensing a track then expect Monaco to get dumped! And on that basis it should be replaced by Portimao!

    Seriously though, a great initiative that would make total sense. Todt seems to be doing a decent job so far to be fair, although the team orders debacle needed a firmer hand. Not that Todt was directly involved in the decisions made back in the summer that luckily didn’t affect the championship outcome.

  17. Mk says:

    Some of the so called classic tracks make overtaking impossible too. So people complaining all the time about the new ones is a bit hypocritical.

    Monaco, Hungary, Monza, Silverstone, even Spa is hard to overtake on. So let’s get rid of them too?

    It is not the tracks that is the problem…it’s the cars, because looking at other leagues there is lots of overtaking in pretty much every corner.

    The F1 cars need to be redesigned radically for this. They can keep building all the tracks they want, it won’t solve the problem.

  18. NickyStuu says:

    This may sound like an elementary question – but presumably it’s possible to analyse all of the circuits with good overtaking opportunities, and work out what makes a good F1 overtaking opportunity – whether the angle of the corner, long straights, chicanes, gradient of track?

    It must be possible to come up with a few key principles, and then surely the designer of any new circuit sits down with those principles as his or her starting point?

  19. Jon says:

    This is a good inititiave but FIA needs to look in the mirror. It’s not JUST the circuits that are the problem.

    The regulations are the bigger problem and that is something directly under FIA’s control and easy to manage then modifying every circuit in the world. The cars change from year to year regardless. Yes, all open wheelers will struggle with the problem but F1 is the worst of all.

    Melbourne saw the same problem as Abu Dahbi with Hamilton and Webber on fresh rubber catching Alonso and co. Melbourne is a track that allows overtaking, check out the 2006 race it was a cracker.

    Having cars on equal fuel and 1 stop strategies is a nightmare for F1 cars trying to overtake compared to having cars on different strategies, some on 1 stops, some on 2 stops, and lighter cars overall make them racier and easier to brake on the edge, closer to qualifying. No longer can a car start the racing from the back of the grid light (like DC in Bahrain 2007) and hope to overtake his way to the front in the first 20 laps.

    Dropping and capping the revs over the last few seasons has also hurt. Hitting the rev limiter on the straight is common, where as when revs were unlimited (20k etc) it was rare, usually due to wind directions. Yes, the teams can set a really long 7th gear but they comprimise their qualifying lap to do that, maybe a mandated gap in 7th gear would also help (like 500 revs or something).

    Alone, all these factors are minor. When they all add up it makes a big difference. There are other factors but I don’t have all day.

    The bottom line is since 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 to now overtaking has only gone backwards. The circuits have mostly stayed the same. The FIA has changed the rules for cost cutting, and other factors but have neglected the effect it would have on the racing.

    If a new rule is going to hurt the racing and overtaking chances, it needs to be reconsidered. The circuits are only partially to blame.

    All of the above has been referencing real overtakes, not artificial KERS overtakes where they are ahead before the straight ends or backmarker (Lotus or Minardi) overtakes.

    1. Gilles says:

      Dropping the rev limit makes sense to me as well; with the engines limited to 8 a season anyway, it’s up to the teams to manage them. Just like they upped the turbo pressure in the old days when they needed to.

      1. Justin Lewis says:

        Absolutely agree. Limiting revs is a rule that defies logic. 8 engines should be plenty for a season, if they break too much, make ‘em stronger and heavier.

  20. Stephen Kellett says:

    Lets hope this circuit needs to provide a spectacle license is also applied to existing tracks.

    If so, bye bye to Valencia, Monaco and Hungary – no fan of these tracks where you only get good racing if it is wet.

    I’d like tracks to be marked on location (10 for Monaco), overtaking (0 for Monaco) and spectator facilities (I guess that is less than 5 for Monaco). Then aggregate, so Monaco gets 15 of so on that score. Maybe thats enough to keep it in the game, I don’t know. But it seems unfair to just judge on overtaking, it should be on a number of things.

    1. Stevie P says:

      Stephen, Monaco is the ultimate challenge for the drivers… y’know those folk that actually drive the cars ;-) Hell will freeze over before Monaco is dropped because of it’s history and tradition, regardless of the lack of over-taking places. Every driver wants to win the Monaco GP!

      Personally, I don’t mind Monaco because it’s so tight – mistakes can be made. For me, I’d get rid of Hungary for starters. I like Turkey, but I’m not overly-keen on the large run-off areas. For me, Valencia is utterly boring! Abu-Dhabi’s the same, but last year was it’s inaugural race and this year we had “the decider” – so you had to tune in. Love Spa – who doesn’t? I never used to like Suzuka, but I can understand why the drivers love it and thus I have changed my view-point. I didn’t like Indy, but it gave us over-taking at the end of the long straight. I’m undecided on Korea – we need a dry race there to see how the layout affects the racing.

      Everyone has different likes and dislikes track-wise, but what about consulting the drivers on which tracks should stay or go?

    2. Justin Lewis says:

      Yes. I worry about Turkey, the only good new track. Great race, but no fans. Will it be dropped, and let in another shocker like Singapore or Valencia?

  21. Christian says:

    James, in what way is grip related to cleaning the track? Last year at Singapore there were dust clouds whenever a car went off the racing line, this year it looked like they had cleaned the track before the race and the racing was much better with a lot more overtaking. Similar dust clouds appeared at Abu Dhabi this year. Certainly this plays a part too?

  22. Darren says:

    How will they rate Monaco for entertainment value – if solely on overtaking, surely it will get a zero?

  23. JimmiC says:

    …or better still, get investors to pump money into bringing classic racetracks up to scratch and stop sending the circus to places that aren’t interested in F1.

    Also, tracks are not totally to blame – the aero packages are causing just as many problems.

    1. Gilles says:

      Great idea ! Let’s bring back Zandvoort, Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca

  24. PaulL says:

    I read Todt’s comments a few days ago and he seemed to be more in regret that Rubens wasn’t “obeying” his known responsibilities and that he regretted having to make the call to Rubens telling him to move over.

    But that’s very different to regretting the decision to have Rubens’ move over in the first place.

    Contrary to my initial feelings however I like the job Todt is doing as president.

  25. Nick F says:

    This all sounds like good stuff to me. I think he’s doing a good job so far.

    I hope they actually get the drivers and teams to help them with circuit modification. Don’t just hire some random company to do it. The teams have expensive simulations of the circuits and have exact data on what the cars can do, and the drivers know what allows them to overtake.

    Hell, if they are struggling they could even release a circuit modification for an online simulation game. Thousands of fans playing them and you would soon work out what was working.

  26. Jason C says:

    While making sure that a circuit provides entertainment is a laudable aim, and the overtaking question is a perennial head-scratcher, I think there’s a lot to go wrong with the idea of ranking tracks based on how much overtaking they allow.

    Think about the current circuits: Hockenheim has lots of overtaking opportunities. Is it one of the best circuits? I don’t think so. Do Spa, Suzuka, Silverstone, Montreal, or Interlagos have the most overtaking opportunities?

    What Todt wants to happen and what actually happens may be very far apart if he enacts this kind of rule. Then again, it may be an ‘attack vector’ for the FIA elbowing their way onto Bernie’s territory. Up until now, it’s been up to Bernie to pick the tracks and make the deals, and simply up to the FIA to rubber-stamp any new track after making sure it’s safe enough. This would allow them to come in and have a say in the actual selection of tracks that are used.

    Despite all the above negativity, I think that giving someone else a say in track selection is a good idea. Otherwise the motivation is simply to accept the venues that are willing to pay the most, and as we can see, that’s what’s been happening in recent years.

    Oh, and Abu Dhabi would probably have been a lot more interesting had refuelling been allowed.

  27. Todd says:

    I think the problem with the Yas Circuit is the turn 8/9 chicane. This corner needs to be reprofilled as a fast left right, high downforce corner like the nurbugring chicane at Magny-Cours or turns 11/12 in Melbourne. It will still give the grandstand there a great view. But will also allow faster cars/drivers to get a run down the next long straight and make the move.

  28. Pinball says:

    I’m a bit over the blame for no overtaking being put on the circuit. Each circuit has corners, and straights, meaning each circuit has braking and acceleration zones. Therfore each corner has an overtaking opportunity going in to and out of the corner. Therefore it’s not the geometry of the circuits that is the problem.

    The problem can be broken down into four parts:
    1) The drivers – They are so convinced that at certain circuits there are only a few overtaking areas (just watch any of Mark Webber’s track preview videos from this year)
    2) The cars – From all reports the cars cannot travel closer than one second behind a car in front, whether it be for loss of grip or engine heat management problems. Lap times from F1 drivers are so close that no driver is going to make up 1 second of distance braking into a corner to be inline with the car, and then going through the corner make up another second of distance to pass the car.
    3) Runoff areas – Most new runoff areas are all ashpahlt these days. If a driver screws up their line in to or out of the corner they just use the asphalt runoff, and there is no loss in time for them, which makes it harder for the car behind to get close to them.
    4) Compulsory pit stops – It’s so easy for the teams to base a race strategy around the pit stop.

    The solution is also 4 parts:
    1) Tell the drivers that it is okay to try and pass anywhere on the circuit, and ease off on the stewarting. At the moment I dare say most drivers are too afraid to attempt a pass in case they get some sort of plenty.
    2) Change the cars so they can sit right on the tail of the leading car, like touring cars and stock cars are able to. Close up the minimum gap between the cars.
    3) Change the runoff areas, to a 10 metre wide section of grass, followed by an asphalt runoff. Punish drivers who get their lines wrong.
    4) Make pit stops optional. Let the teams actually use alternative strategies.

    1. Trent says:

      A lot of sense in what you are saying.

      On paper, you can not fault any of Tilke’s circuits – they are designed to do their best to facilitate overtaking in the modern F1 car, which is not always possible (ie DESPITE the circuit, not because of it).

      However, if the spotlight is on any circuit it should be those that have a proven record of providing dull races. I would put Barcelona and the Hungaroring at the top of that list.

  29. Rod says:

    I agree with the comments so far that the main problem for overtaking is the cars and not the tracks. I would go a step further and say that specifically, tires are the biggest problem.

    Having tires, particularly the soft options, able to last entire GP distances without a significant drop in performance is very damaging to the spectacle. If we were to see two pit-stops for each driver per race for tires, through necessity and not regulation, then we would have some great racing. Especially if some drivers gamble on a single stop and try to nurse their tires.

    Less efficient front wings and rear wings that produced more drag would certainly help, but having tires that degrade significantly during a race would IMO be the must-have item to produce great racing.

    Then I’m sure we would see a whole new range of possible overtaking places on circuits everywhere.

    The other option is simply to bring back JP Montoya!

  30. Colin says:

    What about having less driver aids? Remove launch control, have manual gear boxes or similar. Anything to increase the chance of a driver error, which may help another driver to overtake.

  31. Alexbookoo says:

    I am convinced that the solution to the overtaking problem is simple – make the tracks less grippy. Melbourne and Interlagos usually produce good races with overtaking. They both have old tarmac with low grip. The most eventful races are when there is hardly any grip, ie when it rains. Instead of pouring money into adjustable rear wings and artificial KERS boosts they should just resurface all the new tracks with less grippy tarmac. Cheap and easy.

    1. Gary Rowe says:

      Or, reduce the grip available to the cars through their aerodynamics & tyres. Make them less easy to drive perfectly, but reasonably forgiving so that we will see people trying things different.

      As a spectactor I’m not much interested in speed for speed’s sake, but more to SEE drivers showing off driving skills by visibly working to get the speed.

      1. Alexbookoo says:

        Yeah I agree with your last point but it’s surely much simpler and cheaper to resurface the tracks than to change the regulations on aero and tyres. I’m not against such changes, but people have been talking about them for ages and it’s easier said than done – tyre companies don’t want to be known for rubbish tyres and as soon as aero regulations are changed engineers find a way round them, as with the double diffuser. If the track surfaces are changed, not the cars, then it’s the same for everyone and under FIA control.

  32. seifenkistler says:

    I wonder who will pay for the new tracks. Tracks are used for different racing classes. Many track owners have to earn money by allowing normal drivers with normal cars who pay to test their racing abilities.
    I wouldn’t invest any money in a new track if i can’t be sure that a rule change or a smart engineer would throw all calculations in the basket.

    Consider F-Duct: you can have big wings and can still be fast on straights.
    KERS: It will give extra power for overtaking, but what if the car in front uses the extra power of KERS for defending?

    I never understood why KERS wasn’t allowed fully, Why limit it to xxx seconds?

    And if Todt gets the new tracks, will it be the end of drivers defending their position? Would be boring too.

    Would be like the soap boxes i drove as a kid. A duel on 2 more or less identical tracks, no overtaking and the best car/driver allways winning.

  33. snafuracer says:

    No guys, it’s totally wrong to blame it on Tilke – he’s a designer, yes, that’s a fact, but he has to follow certain rules, created by FIA, in order to retain some safety, read the regulations. Austin, in particular, looks good for overtaking, it’s mix of this and that, so hopefully it will bring excitement. I embrace what Todt is trying to do, as we know that we can expect BOREDOM in Bahrain, for example, just as well as Valencia, Abu Dhabi, Germany, etc.

    1. James Allen says:

      He often has to make tracks which also work for bikes, as do all designers, the economics of a track demand it. That’s not always good for cars.

      1. Bec says:

        Yes, and it looks like India might be sanitised for motogp too.

        Just look at Silverstone, there’s so much run-off in places now, you need the Hubble telescope to see the action.

    2. Neal Rayner says:

      I’ve heard that if they submitted Spa as a new track, it wouldn’t be allowed under current regulations because of the hills. So I do have some sympathy for Tilke. On the other hand, it would great to:
      a) Get some fresh design thinking from someone else (drivers perhaps !?)
      b) Review the regulations to allow non billiard-table flat tracks.
      c) Find safety options other than large run off. Something that would punish a car in the event of a mistake, without damaging the driver. Not easy, but there are a few creative engineers in F1 I hear.
      d) #neweyfacts If Newey designed a racetrack, it would be Spa+.

  34. Gary Rowe says:

    I think it a bit rich to blame the circuits, when you are the person ultimately responsible for the regulations that give us cars with so little chance to overtake! I think this is a red herring, to appear to be reacting to the fact the fans are fed up with no overtaking, but in fact drawing a smokescreen over the real problem.

  35. Carl says:

    Three questions – any answers appreciated:

    1.
    Doesnt Abu Dhabi have the ability to change its configuration – about 25 different ways?

    2.
    Could this circuit be used by the FIA/New track designers to test MANY overtaking options/corner combinations – using cars similar to the 2009 Toyota being used by pirelli? – or at the very least using the open wheelers that the track already owns?

    3. This might be a totally ignorant question but – could SOME of the currently “boring” tracks like Val, Can & Hungry GPs have their racing “ïmproved” (and here comes the ignorant part) …by reversing the racing direction?

    1. James Allen says:

      1, Yes, but the change need to be to remove the chicane before the hairpin and bring the hairpin back for spectator safety as the cars will be arriving more quickly.
      2. Yes, so could Paul Ricard, which has many configurations.
      3. Interesting idea – no idea

      1. seifenkistler says:

        3. Think pit entries and boxes are designed for one direction at most places ?

    2. Rich C says:

      “reversing the racing direction?”

      No, this would confuse all the Brits that run F1. It is why some non-Brit driver will win the 1st race in Austin!! :D

      ok, ok I just made all that up! Sorry… :(

  36. Road of Bones says:

    Here’s a thing – in order for a new track to get an FIA licence, then it has to provide “entertainment” – how are they supposed to assess the “entertainment” of a new circuit until they can run a race on it? Sounds like Catch-22 to me…

    I’d rather the FIA president put the fear of Todt into all the less-entertaining circuits by axing the dullest races, Barcelona & Valencia, and replace them with Aragon & Portimao – we’d probably see some hasty modifications to the other culprits thereafter.

  37. Grant says:

    The answer is easy Mr Todt – FIRE TILKE ! He is the useless sod that is building these pretty circuits with no entertainment value – look at the classic circuits, all provide overtaking (provided the driver is talented enough – Fernando Alonso wouldnt be able to overtake my nan on the M1)

  38. Andy Bird says:

    I think that the overtaking issue is being looked at in the wrong way.

    There are many factors involved in the difficulty of overtaking, but by far the most significant is that of the sensitivity of the cars to running in the aerodynamic wake of another car.

    This is not confined to Formula 1 by any means (at Macau, even WTCC drivers were complaining about losing downforce!), which would explain why the GP2 cars had similar problems in Abu Dhabi.

    The Overtaking Working Group attempted to address the aerodynamic problem a couple of years ago, but failed abysmally. This failure was entirely predictable since the OWG was made of representatives from the (bigger) teams, and the members were thinking of ways of negating the effects of the rule changes, even as they were drawing them up!

    The issue needs to be looked at independently (Gary Anderson, maybe?), so that vested interests do not get in the way.

    Until this happens, the sport will never provide the spectacle that it could. The amount of proper on-track battles towards the front of the field in F1 during 2010 was very limited (only Turkey and Canada, when discounting the variables of weather & backmarker intervention), yet it is being acclaimed as the best year ever. Just imagine what it could have been like!

    1. Bec says:

      The FIA’s CDG wing idea may have proved useful, but again the teams ruled it out.

      FOTA say they want more overtaking, but what the disunited teams really mean is, they want their particular team to be doing the overtaking, and not being overtaken by any other team.

      FOTA really need to be taken out of the rule making process.

      1. Rich C says:

        “FOTA really need to be taken out of the rule making process.”

        I agree, but its not possible.

        James – I thought FIA made the actual “Rules” and FOTA’s anti-competitive “rules” were just a gentlemen’s agreement? So what would happen if someone did *not join fota and chose to follow only fia rules? Could they do that?

      2. James Allen says:

        No, the FIA set the rules in stone, but FOTA is part of the process via the working groups which comes up with the rules

      3. Bec says:

        Generally speaking, any interested party can propose a rule, but then that rule goes to a vote, and everyone of the 12 teams has a vote each, the FIA have 1 vote, FOM have 1 vote, Pirelli have 1 vote, and depending on what’s being voted on and in what working group, the sponsors have up to 3 votes.

        So you can see the teams are in the driving seat when it comes to rule changes, except if it’s a safety rule, then the FIA can impose those.

  39. zxzxz says:

    why don’t they reverse this process and form a search committee to research which currently existing tracks not currently in use by f1 provide the most over taking opportunities in other series?

    1. Nesto says:

      +1. The new tracks are too sterile. The most popular ones are the older ones with history built from another time. Who cares if a track doesn’t have fancy facilities ? I know I could care less.

  40. Robert Powers says:

    1 Monaco,really in jeopardy?Not.

    2 Turbos,boost button?Hope.

    3 Austin,racing?Yes.

  41. seifenkistler says:

    Many track owners don’t want F1 races on their track. I think Hockenheim was loosing 5million each race and since its partially state owned many not F1 interested people consider a F1 race as wasted money. German tracks do more money with oldtimer races/shows or music events than F1. So i really wonder how Todt will get track owners to desgn a track specially for F1.

    In my opinion the solution has to come from the rules about car design.

  42. Andy says:

    Overtaking was never going to happen in Abu Dhabi, it was far to dusty off line, short of getting all the dust/sand of the whole track, it will never be anything other than a procession :-(

    1. Rich C says:

      *Any place where its 500 degrees in the shade and you get sand in your shorts isn’t a proper place to go racing anyway!

  43. Drew says:

    Hi All,

    I’m the guy that re-designed Silverstone, as James will confirm, and it’s very difficult to get the balance right for cars and bikes. As some of you say the runoffs at Silverstone are large but we found ways to bring the spectators in closer around the bits we designed. The runoff size at Woodcote is unavoidable due to bikes requiring gravel. Abu Dhabi and other all asphalt runoffs are smaller due to the calculation needed for runoff. Riders tend not to like sliding accross asphalt as they get friction burns.

    The old story of overtaking though,well it was widely agreed that Silverstone had more overtaking in every category that raced there this year. If budget allowed we would have changed Brooklands slightly to make it tighter. Talking to Race Engineers and drivers in F1 if there was a bigger stop at Brooklands then there would be more opportunity.

    Being an ex-Race Engineer and car designer I like to have the best tools to achieve the best design first time round. Something that came up during the Silverstone process was the use of simulators and we now have our own in house dynamic simulator which we run all our new circuit designs through first. We can race the AI on the simulator and we can take them to one of the various commercial simulator centres and we invite current drivers to come and test the race ability. We see this as the only way forward and we’re continually developing our simulator.

    With regard to the regulations imposed on designers there are always ways to get the best out of a design. The biggest problem we tend to have is the bit of land we have to work with and the budget. It’s very expensive to build a hill or dig down into a water table…

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks Drew, for that contribution.

    2. Rod says:

      Drew, thanks for the post and great work on the new Silverstone. IMO it is a fantastic new section that is both challenging for the drivers in terms of laptime and encouraging of close racing and overtaking (despite the entry speed of Brooklands as you mention).

      I’m interested to hear more about the way simulations are used to test new layouts. As a sim-racer myself, I think there are many highly talented and intelligent virtual drivers around the globe who could provide some great feedback for new layouts. iRacing (www.iracing.com) is doing some very exciting things in blurring the lines between the virtual and real worlds of motorsports (I would also love to hear your thoughts on iRacing James, as I know it’s been mentioned on here before).

      iRacing already has the 2009 Williams F1 car in its system and it would be one of the most sophisticated virtual representations of this car outside of the teams simulators themselves. Any proposed new tracks could easily be built and tested with online races incorporating hundreds of beta testers from around the world.

      Would love to hear your thoughts on this…

    3. Bec says:

      Abu Dhabi also uses modern barrier construction, meaning the spectators are closer.

      Accommodating bikes certainly ruins the spectator experiences for the cars, not just through the vastly expansive run-off areas, but also the radius of corners, the bikes like to flow through corners whereas the cars need a violent stop to aid overtaking.

      The lap at Silverstone has also lengthened, meaning you see the cars less often, and with a greater gap in their appearance.

      Talking about ‘earth moving’, Austin have had to get special state dispensation to dig down more than 4 feet … And I thought red tape in the UK was bad ;)

  44. Liam Banks says:

    when they say a rating for the spectaclt would that not include the whoe feel of the event and not just the racing???
    Like for instance monaco would get a great rating because even though its not the best racing its a fantastic spectacle due to the history and the whole feel of the event?
    thats sounds much more likely than just a rating based on overtaking

  45. JohnBt says:

    Herman should study SPA, MONZA & SILVERSTONE very carefully and think out of the box. I’m sure he did but get out of his box, PLEASE!

    I find Herman tracks very boxy, not enough dangerous curves.
    Elements of danger equates to excitement too.

  46. Drew says:

    I understand that we did make the race 8 laps shorter at Silverstone, however if you were lucky enough to sit at Becketts or the Arena you got double the action. The view from Becketts is particularly good as the Maggotts and Becketts area are the highest points of the Silverstone site.

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