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Todt says new tracks must provide overtaking to get licence
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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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

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.


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.


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


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…


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 😉


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 ( 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…


Thanks Drew, for that contribution.


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 🙁


*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!


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.


1 Monaco,really in jeopardy?Not.

2 Turbos,boost button?Hope.

3 Austin,racing?Yes.


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. 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.


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!


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.


“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?


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.


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


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)


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.


Three questions – any answers appreciated:


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


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?


“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!! 😀

ok, ok I just made all that up! Sorry… 🙁


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


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


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.


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.


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+.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


…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.


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


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

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