F1 drivers praise Mugello but Petrov says it’s not safe

2012 F1 season

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F1’s return to Mugello for testing has been praised by many drivers – with the exception of Vitaly Petrov who says the track isn’t safe enough.

On Tuesday Mark Webber hailed the circuit as being far more satisfying to drive on than some modern F1 venues:

“Did ten dry laps today around Mugello, which is the same as doing 1,000 laps around Abu Dhabi track in terms of satisfaction,” he posted on Twitter.

In between runs today Daniel Ricciardo said: “Love driving the beast round here, awesome high speed circuit. Can’t wait to get back in after lunch.”

Sebastian Vettel said: “I’m happy to be here. Unfortunately we don’t have this track on the calendar. It’s an incredible circuit with a lot of high-speed corners.

“It’s what you hope for in a Formula One car, because you can really feel the downforce. Once you get into the rhythm it’s really enjoyable.”

Nico Rosberg, Bruno Senna and Jean-Eric Vergne also praised the circuit.

But Petrov raised concerns about the circuit: “I’m not sure the track is right for today’s F1 cars,” he said yesterday. “You get very close to the walls and it’s maybe a bit small for the cars now, but it’s still a good challenge putting together a quick lap.”

He told Autosport today: “I don’t think we should have come here. It is not safe and wide enough.”

Unlike most modern F1 venues, Mugello has no tarmac run-off – the track is mainly bordered by grass and gravel traps as can be seen in this satellite picture:

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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80 comments on “F1 drivers praise Mugello but Petrov says it’s not safe”

  1. Exactly, they don’t call it “Wall of Champions” for nothing. And somebody ask Perez about Monaco. I prefer gravel traps in any case. Punishes you for making errors.

    1. However, the cars can potentially dig in, which isn’t a good thing.

      1. I think it’s a good thing that a driver, who can’t keep his car on the track, doesn’t get to continue his race.

  2. I think the lack of tarmac invasion/trees and greenery surrounding Vitaly have perhaps made him feel a little faint…

    1. xeroxpt (@)
      3rd May 2012, 17:03

      hahahah, Petrov feels homesick in Mugello.

  3. JPQuesado (@joao-pedro-cq)
    3rd May 2012, 14:34

    Man up, Vitaly!

    1. Regardless of our personal thoughts on that, I don’t think it’s right to criticize someone for commenting on safety.

      1. +100
        safety first, entertainment second.

        *sigh. It would be nice though.

      2. JPQuesado (@joao-pedro-cq)
        3rd May 2012, 16:21

        I just think that the tracks with 100 metres+ asphalt run-off areas aren’t exciting. If a driver makes a mistake, he should get punished by getting beached in the gravel trap. I admit that in some cases it may not have the best results but nowadays drivers have the luxury of making mistakes and run wide and they aren’t punished. These are drivers who are at the top level (or should be), and they should try to avoid making mistakes.

        However, I DO NOT want to see anyone killed, so I understand why he said that.

        1. JPQuesado (@joao-pedro-cq)
          3rd May 2012, 16:24

          And this is a sport which will always be dangerous, and, lets admit, its the danger that brings excitement.

          1. Exactly, You either love race tracks or parking lots with wide tarmac.

        2. Maybe they should keep the tarmac runoff areas but find a way to limit the car to half throttle when running outside the confines of the circuit or something or something. Could even have the bonus that it’ll stop arguments over passing outside the track.

      3. DK (@seijakessen)
        4th May 2012, 0:03

        I disagree. This is the main problem with F1 currently when it comes to track design. They have gone too overboard with safety thus negating the importance of risk/reward on many circuits. No offense, if you blow off the track, you should be penalized for it by getting stuck in a gravel trap, or having trouble getting back to the track. Based on his comments, I don’t think Vitaly could have been capable of racing in F1 20 years ago.

        1. He probably would have, actually, considering the poor(er) quality of the drivers back then.

          1. DK (@seijakessen)
            4th May 2012, 0:14

            lol what?

            You might want to go check to see some of the guys who were on the grid in 1992.

            Don’t forget F1 wasn’t operating as a borderline spec race back then either.

          2. Hm? The Nige was good, Patrese…wasn’t but had a good car, Schuey was decent, Senna was subpar that year, Berger was slightly above par that year (yet still below Senna, which underlines how overrated he was), Brundle was nothing special. Petrov would’ve beaten all of the others and even one or two of the aforementioned ones.

            You’re greatly underestimating the value of today’s grid.

          3. DK (@seijakessen)
            4th May 2012, 0:49

            @pamphlet Based on what you are saying, you really have no clue about 1992. Saying Senna was subpar was pretty much the clincher on that. Senna wasn’t subpar, the problem was the Williams FW14 was so far ahead of every car on the grid technologically that trying to beat Mansell was near impossible. On top of that, saying because Berger was below Senna means he was overrated is hysterical. You’re trying to compare someone to arguably the greatest F1 driver in history.

            I don’t underestimate the value of today’s grid, I just recognize that a lot of the lower ranked drivers are not any good, Petrov being one of them. Petrov would have had a seat on a team like Jordan or Venturi. Doomed to be an eternal backmarker.

            You’re talking like someone who started watching F1 in the past decade or so with these comments.

          4. Petrov would have had a seat on a team like Jordan or Venturi. Doomed to be an eternal backmarker.

            And he isn’t a backmarker in 2012?

          5. > You’re talking like someone who started watching F1 in the past decade or so with these comments.

            There’s your problem. You could easily be experienced in a domain and still have no idea what you’re talking about. Like you are. Clearly proven by your statement that Senna is “arguably the greatest F1 driver in history”.

            Mansell and Patrese had the best car on the grid by a landslide, but that doesn’t stop the fact that Senna barely beat his teammate by one point. Looking at how strong Senna was the following year (despite once again not having the best car), it’s painfully obvious that either he underperformed with the second best car or Berger did better than he usually did.

            Even Schumacher had a better run that year. That had to sting.

          6. DK (@seijakessen)
            4th May 2012, 3:37


            Most people who raced in F1 during Senna’s time said he was the best. The only reason I say arguably is because of Jim Clark. Fangio himself said Senna was better than he was. He still won 3 races in spite of the subpar year which kind of blows a colossal hole in your claim.

            As for the Williams, I pretty much said they had the best car on the grid by a country mile…not sure what parroting what I said has to do with anything.

          7. DK (@seijakessen)
            4th May 2012, 3:39


            Which is what my point is basically…Petrov isn’t any good.

            A lot of strings got pulled to get him a seat with Caterham…really late in the offseason for it to happen. If there wasn’t external pressure on Caterham and the need for a Russian driver on the grid, Petrov never would have been in F1 this season.

          8. And? Schumacher only won once race and was still above him. Wins aren’t everything. Prost himself agreed with that.

            Hell, if you’re going to mention people who think Senna was the GoaT, why shouldn’t I mention people who say that, for example, Schuey was? The legendary Murray Walker, for example. And he, too, has seen most of the top tier F1 drivers, if not all of them. The only place where Senna is the greatest was in the wet. Other than that, the entertainment value that he brought and his spirituality make loads of people flock to him instead of calmer yet easily as strong if not stronger drivers. Hamilton vs Button, anyone? Hell, look at how highly rated Kobayashi is right now.

            And what I meant was that Senna still had the second best car. And still underperformed in it.

          9. As for your second comment, Trulli was underrated in my view and I was also disappointed to see him replaced (especially that late), but he’d lost any and all motivation, kept complaining about power steering and was constantly getting his hindside handed to him by Kovalainen. Petrov, on the other hand, has matched and even surpassed him at times (and I’m not talking about Bahrain, either).

            Pay drivers can be good. Schumacher was good, and he was a pay driver at least in the beginning.

          10. @pamphlet – Vitaly is a pay driver, and not a very good on at that (there have been good pay drivers in the past – Senna could be counted as one but he decided to fight his way in by virtue of his talent) but obviously he isn’t a terrible driver otherwise he wouldn’t have made it to this stage.
            As for saying that the drivers on the 1992 F1 gird were of a poor quality and that Vitaly would be competitive, I have never heard such nonsense. The FW14’s were completely dominant as @seijakessen has already mentioned. Senna performed extremely well given that his machinery was not capable of winning the championship, after all the drivers in the William’s were no slouches. As you can see from the championship results Senna only lost 3rd to Schumacher by a very small margin due to reliability issues; he was fundamentally quicker.

        2. @seijakessen

          I’d like to remind you, that before Senna’s death there hadn’t been a death in over 10 years. And a common comment was that everyone had let their guard slip, and been complacent.

          Just because there hasn’t been a death since Roland and Ayrton doesn’t mean it’s safe. Just look at all the close calls in the last few years.

          1. DK (@seijakessen)
            4th May 2012, 3:27

            @mike I never said F1 was safe, what my point is even Jackie Stewart who is a huge proponent of safety says thing have gone too far. Tarmac all over Spa? Joke.

            BTW, you forget Elio de Angelis who was killed at Paul Ricart in 1986. It gets forgotten because it didn’t happen during a race weekend.

          2. @seijakessen
            My mistake, before Senna’s death there hadn’t been a death in over 5 years

            I still think my point holds.

            And I didn’t say that Spa covered in tarmac is a good thing either, if you look at my comment below you’ll see this, as I distinguish between fast and slower corners, where I feel, the issue is not the same. Having said that, making a blanket comment that F1 has gone too far with safety, as you made, I think is a very silly way to go. Looking at the close calls, as I’ve said, I think shows this.

    2. Wonder what Vitaly has to say on Monaco and Monza.

    3. After reading other guys assessment of the circuit Vitaly is a bit off. I think he hates Monaco and that crazy wall in Montreal :)

    4. xeroxpt (@)
      3rd May 2012, 17:11

      If you’re afraid to drive you might aswell die – something Senna would say to Vitaly.

      1. Kind of ironic that senna is dead isn’t it.

      2. Senna would not have said that.

        However, he may have said, if he’s afraid to drive he is no longer a racing driver…

        But that’s very different.

        1. @mike To be fair, Senna said a lot that was rubbish. He’s a legend, but his ethics and morals are questionable. Racing should not be at the expense of everything else.

          1. Agreed.

  4. Well, if Imola isn’t coming back, Mugello would be a nice setting for a European Grand Prix. It sure beats Valencia….zzzzzzZZZZZZZZzzzzzzz

    1. Lets be real here, an F1 race held in my bathtub would be more exciting than Valencia…

      1. Definitely. My many happy memories of doing just that as 5/6 year-old at washtime can attest to this

      2. In my tiny backyard would be way more exciting.

  5. The surrounding is breathtaking.

  6. Mugello is a nice track, However its not a very good track for racing.
    I’ve watched many car races there over the years & none have been that good. Its like Imola & Magny-cours in that regard.

    1. Possibly true but how many of those races involved tyres like we now have and DRS? If the drivers love it and it is not far off F1 safety specs then why not look at it?

    1. Knowing that he was mostly uninjured i smiled a bit :)

    2. Fantastic. I can’t believe he managed to find a wall to hit in some of those crashes.

    3. You could do that with any driver.

      I’m not a fan, but be fair.

  7. Maybe Vitaly prefers the large barriers of Monte Carlo? Those are much much safer! ;)

  8. I’d like to hear Petrov’s opinion on Monaco, with NO run-off areas :)

  9. As long as a track isn’t just downright deadly, I would rather there’d be an element of danger with a lot more exciting track. As Vettel said high speed corners which really test the downforce of the cars seem to be lacking in the modern f1 calendar, which negates the excitement as Mark said.

  10. antonyob (@)
    3rd May 2012, 16:45

    wow what a fabulous setting. the cars look infinitely better surrounded by trees and grass banks. Predictably Petrov is getting a shoeing, and rightly so!! You come and sit at my desk Vitaly, i’ll drive your car.

    1. You come and sit at my desk Vitaly, i’ll drive your car

      LMAO ! Better make sure your company pays the bill to Caterham though. They need a pay driver

    2. Predictably Petrov is getting a shoeing, and rightly so!!

      I bet that if Petrov said “Abu Dhabi isn’t safe”, you’d be heaping praise on him for it.

      1. They would…

        Or if Alonso had said it wasn’t safe they’d all be nodding their heads importantly and saying, well, yes yes, quite right.

        1. Hey, we agree on something!

          I wonder what the reactions to Petrov’s comments would be if Webber hadn’t described a lap of Mugello as being a thousand times more satisfying than a lap of Abu Dhabi; ie, if Petrov was the only person who said anything about the circuit, how would people respond?

          Too many people are making Petrov out to be a coward for thinking that Mugello is unsafe. But nowhere does he say “I’m scared whenever I do a lap here”. His point is that Formula 1 has out-grown the circuit. It’s very narrow in comparison to other circuits, and it probably doesn’t have the frequent access points for mashalls that other circuits do. After all, it doesn’t have a Grade-1 licence, and the biggest actor separating Grade-1 from Grade-1T circuits is safety.

  11. I never liked tarmac run offs… I don’t really think it’s the best way to stop cars going off, though gravel traps are not the best thing either. But I think they do a better job overalll.

    The run off areas in Mugello are not the biggest ever, but I wonder if it’s any different to other circuits. Like Monza, where they go flat out almost all the lap, and there are not much room for mistakes either, yet they still race there! Same with Canada, the track is incredibly fast too, yet there’s not much room…

    Thinking about it, I’d say Mugello’s okay… it might not be the safest ever, but it’s ahead of Monaco, that’s for sure. And if it’s ahead of Monaco, then they should be able to test there.

  12. Gravel traps and testing don’t mix very well. There were a lot of red flags – how many of those could be avoided if the car could just drive away? Gravel’s good for stopping a bouncing bike, or as a deterrent/penalty in races (I liked the “surprise” gravel traps built into the painted design at Bahrain, Turn 1 at Hockenheim needs those!). But the teams could have picked their testing venue more carefully.

    Great to hear so much enthusiasm from the drivers, particularly the Red Bull drivers suggesting having a race there. They should bring back the San Marino Grand Prix, they could move a few of the walls back (which they couldn’t at Imola – too many chicanes and ghosts there now anyway)

    1. @bullfrog how’s that different to Jerez or Valencia, then? neither have tarmac run offs, but they always test there. I think they chose well about Mugello… besides, it’s better for them to test there rather than Barcelona, which IS in the calendar.

      1. It’s probably the same at Jerez and Valencia – I guess they’re more famous as bike tracks too. It’s just that every time I checked how the testing was going, the session seemed to be stopped!

        I don’t mean to criticise Mugello – it looks way better than those two Spanish tracks from the photos and driver quotes. And I’d rather see them trying different tracks too, like Mugello, Portimão, Imola… and how come Paul Ricard has a race, but they never tested there?

  13. The problem with gravel traps is the cars have the potential to dig in and even flip.

    Ideally the solution would be something like a tarmac runoff that also punishes you for going off tack, but until that happens then its a choice between boring and dangerous, and as a human being I would prefer boring so that no one gets hurt, even though as a fan I like the gravel traps.

    I am conflicted.

  14. I can understand where he’s coming from, but at a time when Monaco and Montreal are still on the calendar, it’s a little bit ridiculous.

    I personally think that if the drivers like it, then it should be on the calendar. Obviously, that isn’t how it works, and it’s a shame that the ‘pinnacle’ of motorsport doesn’t have the greatest race tracks on their calendar. Replacing Valencia and/or Abu Dhabi with race tracks like this would surely hail much praise from most, if not all Formula 1 fans.

  15. I can see where Petrov’s coming from, but gravel traps aren’t dangerous per se. They provided a surface which can and does stop speeding cars and punishes mistakes (surely desirable). Sure, having cars rolling isn’t ideal, but they do have roll bars to keep the driver safe!

    1. One key problem is that, if the cars dig in while still going very fast, what happens if the car goes airborne? How do you manage that?

      For slower corners however, I agree, gravel traps should be used.

  16. Being part Italian, I’d love to see this as the European GP. Bring back Imola also to be the San Marino GP again!

  17. Kudos to Petrov for speaking out his mind instead of joining the ‘popular-bandwagon’. As a driver he will be the one worried about his safety and nobody else, and he has every right to express his opinions about the circuit. Mugello might have lush greenery, history and lots of gravel. But if it is unsafe, then it is unsafe. Nothing changes that. As to a circuit punishing a driver, this is only a testing circuit and someone’s life should not be the price.

    1. At last, someone with a mind of his own in here.

  18. Get rid of Abu Dhabi! Burn Valencia to the ground! Forget about India and South Korea! Turn the lights of at Singapore! Bring back the old Hockenheim and Imola. Race twice a year at Spa. Put in Mugello for good measure. It is what the fans and drivers want. Only Bernie’s bank account doesn’t. If F1 makes use of proper circuits, maybe it doesn’t need to bring in bi-annual gimmicks like DRS, KERS, or altered tyre or refueling rules.

    1. Speak for yourself @brolloks I like the old circuits as much as the next fan, but I do believe in at least trying to push further afield. This is a world championship after all. Where be the challenge in using the same circuits forever?

      1. DK (@seijakessen)
        4th May 2012, 0:07

        No one had a problem with F1 being considered World Championship all those years they weren’t going to the Tilkedromes of Asia and the Middle East. There are plenty of fantastic tracks across the planet. The problem arises in using rubbish designed tracks that are never going to be considered “classic” ever. They’ve been using Monza for over 50 years, there’s still plenty of challenge there…same with Monaco.

        1. Monaco is currently one of the most boring tracks on the calendar, mind you.

          1. Monaco’s not a boring track, it’s considered by the drivers to be one of the most challenging and enjoyable in fact.

    2. If F1 stays in Europe it will never be a world sport. Sad to lose the old Euro tracks but there is potential for FOM to learn from their mistakes – S Korea, I’m looking at you – and develop some decent tracks out here. That said, China, for all of the criticism levelled at it, has produced the highest scores on “rate the race” for the last couple of years and that’s where “heritage” comes from – the memory of great drives in the minds of the fanatics rather than the specific properties of the track.

      (Yes, I know that it’s laughable to expect FOM to learn from it’s mistakes but there’s always a chance.)

  19. So I expect Petrov not to race in Montreal, Monaco, Singapore and Valencia? Since they have walls much closer to the track than other circuits. Maybe racing on the new circuits have made the drivers a little too paranoid about safety.

    Didn’t they know what they signed for when they took up racing?

  20. Not surprised Vettel likes it, their philosophy suits the circuit perfectly! I’m sure he would like a few Mugello’s on the calendar every year.

    I’m sure if this ever did get on the F1 calendar the safety would be approached with a fine tooth comb.

  21. If you think that people have to run with mostly untested parts here, yes, there is a certain element of truth to his statement. There’s a reason why you don’t go testing at Monaco, people.

    1. Untested parts doesn’t necessarily mean the driver will be at a risk. Unless they are totally changing the car upside down and leaving a couple of screws loose, I really don’t see an issue with testing in Mugello.

      Driver safety is of utmost importance, no doubt about that, it is just that this seems unfounded.

  22. gotta say, when champ car races are held at airport circuits there is normally a lot of overtaking. wideness of the track and run off areas gives drivers lots of confidence

  23. HaHa
    Vitaly when you (sorry your sponsors) replaced Trulli at what ever that team is called nowdays resulting in no Italian drivers in F1 you remarked that the reason for this was that Italian drivers lacked passion and gut’s.

    If your to scared to race at Mugello perhaps you can get an Italian driver to replace you for that race.

  24. Matt (@agentmulder)
    4th May 2012, 2:18

    I applaud Petrov for speaking his mind. It’s his opinion, and he’s entitled to speak it. Still, as others have said, in the context of the current calender it’s of a strange one.

    We have Monaco, Valencia, and Singapore, all with much closer barriers, no runoff whatsoever, all on the calander. We have Montreal, Monza, and Spa, all with much higher speeds, all still on the calander. F1 is going to a whole new track this year, with exact track particulars unknown. Where is the line?

    Just because Mugello doesn’t fit the mold of the new tracks, where nearly anything high speed has to be straight, doesn’t make it any more or less dangerous than any other venue F1 goes to. Speed isn’t the only thing that can kill you in F1. Massa was very close to dying not from insufficient runoff, but a spring hitting his face. Schumacher could have been killed in Abu Dhabi in 2010 at a chicane when the Force India decided to jump. Webber survived a nasty crash at high speed on a track with much less runoff than Mugello, and without any type of arresting material between him and the Armco.

    Personally, if I were racing, I’d feel a lot safer at a track with gravel runoffs and space between me and the wall than I would at one where the runoff looks like a colored part of the track, or the walls are inches from my face.

  25. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t a bunch of the paved runoff more of a result of Motorcycles racing on those tracks then it is an F1 safety move? I remember Tilke saying something to that affect when talking about the design of CoTA.

  26. Guys, I think when talking gravel vs tarmac you are forgetting how it all started. Paved run-off areas are a relatively new thing, and they are the result of the campaign to improve safety of both car and moto racing. In the past, when almost all run-offs, bar street circuits, were gravel by default, it turned out that gravel traps became inefficient in slowing down F1 cars, particularly as they were getting faster and narrower. There was a particular problem with cars getting airborne over the gravel and flying into the barriers, another one was cars partially digging into the gravel and rolling over. At one point it became a serious issue and was widely discussed among the drivers and teams. So, the solution was to use tarmac instead, and it worked. I remember how everyone was praising paved run-offs for they offered more control of the car and better slowdown (since you can still use your brakes).

    It really seemed like a good solution at the time and still is for what it is worth, because it does what it’s supposed to do. However, these tarmac areas do seem a bit too forgiving, moreover, sometimes they allow drivers to go as fast as on the racing line, which was used for several rather controversial overtakings. Perhaps, the balance between safety and driver punishment for errors needs to be restored in this case.

    Re Mugello, I will not comment on Mr Petrov’s rants, he’s entitled to his view as we’re entitled to form our opinion of him based on his comments. Yet, I do not believe that Mugello would be a good place to host modern era F1 GPs. True, the track has a great flow and is likely to be a great fun to hotlap. However, it appears to be very narrow and lack slow corners, which nowadays spells ‘no overtaking’. The track’s layout almost guarantees processional racing, unless, of course, Pirellis would start to instantly self-destruct, but even in this case we would get a lot of trains because there’s not much space here to use DRS, and we saw what happens with Pirellis when drivers leave the racing line in the corners. So, not a good track for today’s F1 (which perhaps says a lot about today’s F1).

  27. Questioning the safety of a track is always worth while; where would the sport be without Sir Jackie Stewart? And in light of Webber and other’s praise for the track it does look like winging. But it’s easy to quote a few comments out of context and make a headline and Petrov is an easy target in this respect. He’s not a coward and he’s not a rubbish driver.

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