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Wurz calls for re-think on off-track deterrents

NEWS STORY
18/09/2019

Not for the first time, in its infinite wisdom, F1's powers-that-be ignored the opinion of drivers and fans, and went ahead with its phasing out of gravel traps as a means of deterring drivers from exceeding track limits.

Instead asphalt run-offs became the norm and as an added deterrent at some corners, where drivers seem particularly keen to take advantage, sausage kerbs were added.

However, as we witnessed at Monza, things can go horribly wrong, and it is largely thanks to the Halo device and Lady Luck that the sport wasn't mourning for a second consecutive weekend when Alex Peroni crashed during the F3 race.

For as long as anyone can remember, the Parabolica featured a significant gravel trap, which not only deterred drivers from taking advantage, but punished those who merely made a mistake on entering the legendary corner.

Grand Prix Drivers' Association chairman, Alex Wurz, believes the sport should once again be looking at gravel traps as opposed to the sausage kerbs, which proved the 'launch pad' for Peroni's car.

"You can see interviews of mine for many years which say that I am not a fan of asphalt run-off areas," the Austrian told Motorsport.com. "I think asphalt run-off areas at certain parts of the corners are extremely efficient, extremely safe and good. But we have gone far beyond that. We have placed asphalt run-off areas on corner exits, where I would have still preferred gravel. Some corner exits should be grass.

"On corner entry, where usually you have issues with things breaking and you are coming from high speed, then an asphalt run-off area is quite good," he admits. "Sometimes gravel in these situations is actually dangerous, like you saw in Melbourne with Alonso, who slid sideways into gravel. Then you fly into the air, so we lose control of the car even more.

"But on corner exits, after you are down to your minimum speed, with any trajectory towards the run-off, I would think on eighty percent of solutions that asphalt is just too much.

"For the track operator, for everyday business, asphalt run-off areas are great," he admits." If you have the Porsche club, and if the amateur spins off, he doesn't damage his car in the gravel, and you don't have a half an hour red flag until you get someone out. But this is where you, as F1, as a track operator, have to decide.

"There is no easy solution here, but slowly and surely everyone is getting onboard of the message that we have to think of solutions. There are solutions.

"As a businessman in track design I am not disclosing them publicly, but I am getting very close to say 'OK, screw the business, we have to help the industry'," he insists. "That means step-by-step, corner-by-corner, and every corner is different because of styles and trajectory unique to each corner."

"We had yet another example of a sausage kerb ill placed, causing a massive accident," he says, referring to the Peroni crash. "We saw one in Spa few years ago in GP3.

"They reacted, and this sausage kerb is hidden now under a slow ramp, which would not propel the car into the air. But Monza was another example that those solutions are not good."

His comments come at a time when it is revealed that, ahead of next year’s return to the calendar, a number of gravel traps at Zandvoort will now be replaced with asphalt run-offs.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Canuck, 18/09/2019 23:56

"@Barslug _ have been advocating electronic walls for years now. It would as you say interact with the ECU and cause the car to have no throttle response for 1/2 a second. That would be a great deterrent to drivers with no safety issue. All works except the throttle response, much like what you say "

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by F1nerd, 18/09/2019 17:16

"Remember the kerbs from years ago which were high rumble strips, when the drivers ran over them it shook the car and the driver so they avoided them and stayed on the black stuff."

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3. Posted by Barslug, 18/09/2019 15:57

"With as advanced as the electronics are on modern racing single seat cars, there is no reason they can’t install the sensors and magnetic strips into the asphalt runoff areas that would automatically put the car into anti stall mode. The drivers would avoid them like the plague knowing they would lose half a second or more by taking too much corner. "

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4. Posted by husoi, 18/09/2019 15:47

"Instead of those ridiculous "Sleeping policemen" use what is common in Spain. uneven paving blocks that will make you slowdown if you don't what to loose control of the car. You still have the necessary grip and you won't be grounded as in gravel but you will be up for a good shake if you don't reduce your speed.
It will be the last place on the circuit you will ever want to drive."

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