Drivers to raise questions over grid grooves

2013 Belgian Grand Prix

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F1 drivers say they will request the opportunity to conduct practice starts on the new surface on part of the grid at Spa-Francorchamps.

A series of drainage channels have been cut in the tarmac across the first 11 grid hatchings to disperse water in the event of heavy rain. These could affect drivers in the front half of the grid when making their starts.

“We actually had a meeting just before the press conference and we were discussing about it,” said Jean-Eric Vergne. “I think we’ll probably bring it up during the drivers’ briefing or team manager’s briefing, try and have a practice start, see if there’s a difference or not.”

Romain Grosjean said: “We noticed it while I was doing the track walk but I haven’t talked with the start guy yet. It looks different when you walk.”

“The first to eleventh grid position are more or less the same so there is no disadvantage from there, it will be more around twelfth position where there could be problems. I think from the first few rows should be same for everyone.”

Sebastian Vettel doubted the channels would have a significant effect on drivers’ starts: “”We don’t know the difference because we never had starts on that kind of surface. I don’t expect it to be a big difference.”

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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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56 comments on “Drivers to raise questions over grid grooves”

  1. I don’t see it making a massive difference but it is good to do practice starts to get the drivers used to the surface.

    1. The more practice starts for Webber, the better :)

  2. If it slows their start down, we could see an interesting mid-pack battle to the first corner.

    1. you mean a huge crash :)

      1. Maldonado gets a bullet start from twelfth and tries to stick it down the inside…

        1. He gains 6 places and lines up side by side, next to the slow starting Grosjean.

          1. and then disaster strikes! :)

      2. I hope nothing happens like last year

        1. it would be good for the championship if only vettel gets hitted… Alonso lost the championship last year because of that

    2. It is weird that they’d make such a change to the surface and only do it on part of the grid.

    3. BTW not good to joke about – Ronnie Peterson diied at the start in Monza when the back of the grid concertina’d into the front

  3. Curious. Everything I know about physics (which admittedly is very little) suggests this will cause problems for the drivers starting on this surface. Surely the reduced contact patch with the tyre will reduce grip?

    That said, if it’s a damp start then starting on the grooves may well prove advantageous, although Formula One isn’t known for executing standing starts if there is any level of precipitation in the vicinity.

    1. Really?

      I can think of only two rolling starts in my history of watching F1 (since 91).

      Also, consider Spa 98

      1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
        22nd August 2013, 21:04

        @optimaximal probably he means the boring periods when SC is deployed until the track gets drier.

        1. Formula One isn’t known for executing standing starts if there is any level of precipitation in the vicinity.


      2. @optimaximal there have been a lot of starts under SC lately !

        Vastly more than 2.

        1. Really? I can remember one recent rolling start because of rain and even then, the actual race escapes me.

          Care to provide examples?

        2. Sorry, fair enough, I have found the Wikipedia entry.

          I really didn’t remember that many!

  4. An excellent idea to close the field up! Why didn’t they think of it before?
    Look out for tactical engine changes by drivers in the front half trying to get themselves moved back off the grooves…

    1. A new idea by Ecclestone to improve the show, make crashes more likely to happen :D

  5. There is a start guy!? There are so many things I don’t know about F1!!!!

    1. set’s up the clutch to get it in the best place for a perfect start.

      1. Maybe they should fire Mark Webber’s ;)

        1. They can’t fire him, he’s the summer intern working for free out the back.

  6. Lewisham Milton
    22nd August 2013, 16:01

    Will drivers with experience of grooved tyres (before 2009) have an advantage?

    1. Longitudinal grooves (on tires) != lateral grooves (on pavement).

    2. I highly doubt it really! I imagine it’ll be pretty much exactly the same as usual with regards to who starts well but the first half may be a bit slower off the line (as there’s a reduced contact patch), so potential for a speed differential between 11th and 12th say (we all know what happened last year when there was a speed differential between two drivers off the line)…

  7. What’s Jean-Eric so worried about he’s only qualied above 11th twice this season.

    1. Fikri Harish (@)
      22nd August 2013, 18:56

      If it does rain, Jev has every reason to be optimistic. He’s rather quick in mixed conditions.

      1. +1

        I don’t think Ricciardo is that much better than him. RB should consider hiring him.

  8. The start will probably be in the rain, so these guys will actually get an advantage!

    1. Well, if its in the rain, it will be a SC start anyway right @john-h :-(

  9. If it prevents a start behind the SC, then it will have done it’s job. Otherwise, it’s just going to slow down the guys in front a bit. Given the infamous concertina effect at La Source, not a really great thing.

    1. These grooves won’t affect that decision as the decision to start behind the Safety car is dependent on overall circuit conditions & the amount of spray expected to be thrown up.

      The grooves will assist drainage on the start line, But will obviously have zero affect on conditions elsewhere round the track & from my experience, The start line is actually the least of the problems at Spa when it comes to the wet, Standing water, rivers, aquaplaning & spray were always a bigger problem elsewhere round the track.

  10. If I was a driver I’d be more annoyed at that annoying humming sound grooved pavement makes when you drive over it.

    1. considering the noise of the engine I don’t think they will really hear going over the grooved part of the track

      1. But they can feel it and its clear how pronounced a tiny flat spot can be.

        1. No worse than running a kerb.

  11. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    22nd August 2013, 18:51

    I’ve just been on the grid in question and I can certainly see what drivers are talking about. The disparity in surface type is immediately apparent, and although there is less tyre in contact with the track, I can confirm, via the industry standard “trainer test” that the is more grip on the grooved surface. The surface is difficult to describe, but it lacks the shiny lesin sheen of the rest of the track and is visibly greyer and presumably grippier. No wonder Vettel wasn’t worried…

    1. LOL, well done with the ‘trainer test’!

      Logic dictates that the ‘grooved’ grid positions would have more grip since it’s a more abrasive surface … the grooves will definitely give the rubber something more to bite into.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        23rd August 2013, 8:03

        Abrasive…that’s the word I was looking for!

    2. @william-brierty I’m very jealous :P Thanks for the on-the-scene analysis! :D

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        23rd August 2013, 8:22

        Sorry @vettel1 but I suppose I won’t help things by saying that the Thursday pit walk in which I got autographs from Rosberg, Hamilton, Grosjean, Vergne and Ricciardo (I cheekily got Daniel to sign a picture of him driving the RB9! He did a bit of a double take!) and got to see Mercedes doing 2.5 sec practice pit-stops only feet away, was an F1 lover’s heaven. Although it was also a claustrophobe’s hell…

    3. Thanks for the info! Great to have first hand info on the subject!
      On a side note… Why on earth would they have done this?? Who will benefit from this? Why did they not do it for the whole grid… Those in the back now really cannot aspire to get in the points. Those in front will just be slingshot out of the line! Not fair at all!

  12. Michael Brown (@)
    22nd August 2013, 19:29

    How come only half of the grid has these grooves?

    1. That bit floods the worst in a downpour.

  13. A smaller contact patch but more mechanical keying. Could even turn out to yield increased levels of grip. Stranger things have happened.

  14. Interesting. Depending on how the tyre deforms and to what level and bonds with the track at a semi-molten state when hot, I think it could potentially increase grip, which would be advantageous at the start.

    Certainly, I think if the conditions are wet/damp those starting on the grooves will have an advantage as the water will have a tendency to sit in the rivulets, leaving the “peaks” drier and therefore grippier.

    I’m interested to know if (even though it is a very short section relative to the 14k track length) if there will be an effect on tyre deg (abrasiveness rather than heat/lateral load induced)

    1. It’s a straight, so any abrasiveness will be less damaging, apart from the start when wheel spin happens.

  15. Romain Grosjean said:

    “We noticed it while I was doing the track walk but I don’t think it will make much difference, since I won’t even make it to the first corner.”

    1. Interesting… w¡seems he´s admititng he will not make it to this first corner as well… it is certainly something to be scared of!

  16. I am more concerned that the grooves may have compromised the structural integrity of the surface and that it may break up under the torque of all the race cars starting on it.

    1. I doubt it’ll have an effect on the structure – the grooves look no more than 1/8th inch deep.

  17. looks like those rumble patches you see on public roads where you need to slow down…is this part of Spa-Francorchamps public or not?

    1. it used to be

  18. What i don’t understand is if they were going to put grooves in to stop flooding on half the grid, why not put them over the entire grid to level the playing field? Even if it’s not required further back you shouldn’t be at an advantage for qualifying say 11th instead of 10th (which you already are because of tyres but that’s beside the point!).

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