Drivers question run-off changes at Parabolica

2014 Italian Grand Prix

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Formula One drivers have questioned the need to replace much of the gravel run-off at Monza’s Parabolica turn with Tarmac.

During today’s press conference several of them acknowledged the new solution was safer, but said some of the challenge of the corner had been taken away.

“I think the FIA a very, very conscious of safety and I think that’s nothing to shy away from, that’s a very important issue,” said Lewis Hamilton.

“But I’m old-school so I like the old circuits, back in the nineties when there was no Tarmac run-off areas and it was grass because even last year when you went around that corner you didn’t know, and I experienced it last year, I went wide through a mistake, and you paid for the mistake.

“But what is really important is if you have an incident the Tarmac does slow the car down better. It is a good move, but you can’t win both sides.”

Kevin Magnussen said he’s “not a big fan” of the new run-off.

“I think it adds to the experience of driving at circuits if there is a little bit of a bigger consequence of going off the circuit. [I’m] not saying that we should compromise safety but in my opinion I don’t think we’re making the track more unsafe by having gravel.

“It’s still an awesome circuit, I’m sure, and I’m still going to really enjoy driving it, I know that for sure. Haven’t driven it yet so we’ll see how it is.”

The McLaren driver’s view was echoed by Valtteri Bottas. “I really think last year was maybe a bit more challenging in a way,” he said, “because you were always in the exit going with the outside wheels going in the white line and you knew that if you go a couple of centimetres too wide that’s it, you go off”.

“But now it doesn’t matter if you go a bit over the white line, you just need to keep a least two wheels on the track and that’s it. But it’s still a good track, just one corner is less exciting.”

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The FIA has said the change was previously requested by the drivers. But Fernando Alonso suggested that while some may have asked for the run-off at the entrance of the corner to be paved, to improve safety if the suffer a brake failure approaching the corner, the alterations went beyond what they had asked for.

“There had been some discussions in the past for the entry, probably, in case you have a brake failure or something,” he explained, “to have the possibility to go straight, get on the gravel and hit the tyres”.

“But probably from mid to exit of the corner [to have been paved], that was probably a surprise.”

However Nico Rosberg was more firmly in favour of the change.

“It was one of the more risky corners that we still had in our calendar,” he said. “It definitely makes things a lot safer and that is the right direction to go in.”

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2014 Italian Grand Prix

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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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45 comments on “Drivers question run-off changes at Parabolica”

  1. So when I read another article earlier that said drivers wanted this it was nonsense…?

    1. I think this goes back to Fernando’s reply in that they wanted the first half paved to help against brake failure but the 2nd half should have been kept as gravel.

    2. @xtwl I was wondering about that as well. It seems like whenever the FIA have to answer a tricky question, they either respond with “that’s what the drivers want” or “because safety”.

    3. @xtwl Well there are 24 drivers on the grid. Unless they all went one way or another, it is easy to say “drivers in favour of x” or “drivers oppose y”

  2. I STILL don’t understand why they have to lay tarmac on the whooooooole run off area. After the apex, any tarmac run off is just unnecessary.


    “I really think last year was maybe a bit more challenging in a way,” he said, “because you were always in the exit going with the outside wheels going in the white line and you knew that if you go a couple of centimetres too wide that’s it, you go off”.

    How’s that different from the rest of the track? push your luck, and you’re off. So the solution is to make it easier? I call that lame…

    Outrageous. Simply outrageous.

  3. petebaldwin (@)
    4th September 2014, 15:42

    I think Bottas summed it up perfectly there.

    “But now it doesn’t matter if you go a bit over the white line, you just need to keep a least two wheels on the track and that’s it. But it’s still a good track, just one corner is less exciting.”

    Surely there’s something they could do as an alternative so that if you go off, you won’t have a huge crash but you will lose lap time. This year, they’ve effectively gained a car width in terms of track on the exit so the corner has been made much easier! That’s not even taking into account the ones who go even wider so that all 4 wheels are off the track but I’m sure Charlie will decide they aren’t gaining an advantage and are just trying to get closer to the fans.

  4. “But probably from mid to exit of the corner [to have been paved], that was probably a surprise.”

    Exactly, I’m not too fussed about the tarmac run-off area at the entrance to the corner, it’s the tarmac that runs along the corner exit that really bothers me. That was the coolest part about the old Parabolica, accelerating as close to the edge of the track as you dare.

    As Magnussen says, the tarmac there doesn’t really make the circuit any safer. The only result of the tarmac being there is that the punishment for carrying too much speed through the corner exit is way lighter. I still prefer drivers the more severe punishment, because it makes the accomplishment of having a perfect exit off Parabolica even more impressive.

    Sadly it is becoming a trend to have tarmac at corner exits (earlier today it was announced that Dunlop curve at Suzuka will have tarmac run-off as well). It just gives the circuits less character and makes F1 look flat.

  5. Last year Di Resta had a big brake failure going into there, I’m guessing that’s what sparked debate amongst the drivers and Charlie. I’m not saying we should be complacent but I’m pretty certain he was fine afterwards, so surely the gravel did its job?

  6. How is this falling under safety? If someone has a brake failure, won’t they career straight into the walls?

    1. @wsrgo Brake failure is fairly rare but when it does happen it tends to be a single brake that has failed – e.g. when Hamilton had his problem in Hockenheim – or very occasionally two if there’s a problem on one axle. I can’t think of any example of a driver having a total failure of both brakes on both axles (does anyone else know of one?).

      So in the event of a brake failure normally a driver has other working brakes which can still slow the car down significantly, providing all the wheels are in contact with the ground. The last part is important, because that’s more likely to be the case if a car is on a paved run-off rather than gravel. We often imagine that when a car goes into gravel it is slowed to a stop but that doesn’t always happen. Depending on the angles and speed involved it can skim across the gravel with very little retardation, or worse dig in and flip over.

      That’s why in the event of a brake failure Tarmac is considered preferable to gravel.

      1. @keithcollantine kobayashi in australia 2014.

        1. never mind, it was only his rear axle.

      2. Michael Brown (@)
        4th September 2014, 17:17

        McNish in Le Mans 2011 – he went off at a high speed and skipped across the gravel, and nearly went over the barrier.

        1. @lite992 Are you saying he had brake failure on all four wheels or that it’s an example of the shortcomings of gravel traps? I agree if it’s the latter but I thought the cause of the accident was he hit another car.

          1. Michael Brown (@)
            4th September 2014, 21:30

            @keithcollantine Yes I was talking about the shortcomings of gravel traps. Even with four brakes McNish couldn’t stop the car, so having less would be an even bigger problem.

            Since this thread is discussing brake failures, I apologize for the confusion.

          2. @lite992 No problem, just checking!

      3. Technically Bouemi (It may have been Bourdais) when both his wheels popped off at the same time would count because there was no way he could break

        1. @tealzombie Yes he could, and did, using the rear axle.

      4. …which certainly isn’t aided by the very low ride height and flat bottoms (in terms of skipping).

      5. It’s also much quicker for help to arrive on tarmac (and get away, out of danger) than the crews having to drive or trudge through gravel to reach the scene of the accident.

      6. @keithcollantine Buemi lost 2 wheels at China. Does that count as brake failure aswell :P?

        Still, they slow down until the apex? so every bit of tarmac after the apex on the outside is unnecessary.

        1. @fer-no65

          Still, they slow down until the apex? so every bit of tarmac after the apex on the outside is unnecessary.

          I think what you mean is what Alonso was saying – having a direct Tarmac run-off for someone who’s had a major failure approaching the corner is necessary, but extending it around the rest of the bend isn’t. Which seems reasonable to me.

          Another point worth keeping in mind though is that Tarmac run-offs are probably cheaper for circuits to maintain than gravel run-off.

          1. @keithcollantine, quite a while ago but the accident that broke MSCs legs and promoted IRV, was caused by a brake failure I believe but I am not sure if it was total, he did go off in a straight line though.

      7. @keithcollantine Ah, yeah, flipping over, that’s a problem. Thanks for the explanation?

  7. It’s another example of the FIA just doing whatever THEY want – fans, drivers & teams aside. F1 should not be primarily all about safety, it should be about challenging the pinnacle of the sport’s drivers & machinery, not molly-coddling them, as they persist in doing with these stupid changes, gradually eeking away at the enjoyment for Drivers & Fans.
    PS: Yes F1 has pioneered safety measures not in just F1 but in all forms of motorsport and road cars, and I applaud them for that. They need to know where to draw the line though.

    1. Where would they draw the line then, in your opinion?

      1. i think my sentiments are quite evident from my posting, without needing to go into specifics. :)

    2. And what about other categories?

      As I said in the past FIM/Dorna also asked for this change because tarmac runoff is better for the bikes.

      The World Superbike championship does not have a round at Monza this year because they had also requested this change to the runoff & it wasn’t ready in time there there usual early season date.
      Next year Monza should be back on there schedule primarily thanks to this new runoff at Parabollica.

  8. So much for the drivers requesting for the changes. I still firmly believe that the best drivers are the ones that can go the fastest while staying on the track. Hugely disappointing change and hopefully they’ll keep the rest of the circuit untouched, though inevitably the likes of the Lesmos, Degners and the Albert Park circuit will soon suffer the same fate in the name of “safety”, which just seems rather hypocritical considering the introduction of standing starts after Safety Car periods next year.

    1. There is no chance of them being allowed to tarmac Albert Park.

  9. deliberately driving outside the track limits has become an increasing problem; mostly without any negative consequences. at Spa the climb out of Eau Rouge (Raidillon sp???) had most drivers running very wide on the LHS trying to straighten the road to keep maximum speed. They were going well off the track although still (barely) keeping two wheels within the white lines.

    time to introduce largish irregular shaped and spaced rumble strips (lumps) so that there is a marked performance disadvantage of running outside the white lines. they can have concrete beyond that, but there needs to be a speed disadvantage any time the driver goes off the track. alternatively, it could be via gutter-like channels running alternatively parallel, obliquely and perpendicularly just outside the white lines. something to upset the aero performance of the car, etc.

    there are other solutions, including “automatic”drive-through penalties, but that would need the race director to be much much more dilgent in observation and implementing them.

  10. Yes, obviously Magnussen and Bottas are the most qualified bunch to ask when it comes to safety measures. How about we ask Senna? Oh, wait…

    1. @aced So, you need people to die in order for safety to be a talking point?

    2. Yeah, Mr Senna, had asphalt run off at Tamburello saved your life?

      Or maybe we should ask Shoya Tomizawa and Allan Simonsen, the most recent victims of fatal accidents in MotoGP and Le Mans 24 hours, had astroturf next to asphalt run off saved their lives or actually claimed them?

      1. In the case of Simonsen, replacing the astroturf with asphalt probably would have made no difference given that the main cause of his injuries was the inadequate design of the barrier.
        Before then, the barrier was right up against the side of the circuit and was right up against a swathe of trees, so anybody hitting the barrier was going to be decelerated very quickly and potentially subjected to blunt trauma injuries, as happened to Simonsen. They have now pushed the barrier back a bit, but it’s still a rather compromised solution – either way, the short run off area means that any driver hitting that barrier will be decelerated very rapidly, even if you replaced the astroturf with tarmac.

        The other aspect is that the ACO hasn’t improved the safety standards for the GT class either – I believe that the side impact protection regulations for the GT class are unchanged for 2014, even though Simonsen’s fatal accident raised questions about their provisions.

  11. and that is the right direction to go in

    Already planning to go there and use it Nico? :-P

  12. No more clenching buttocks while drivers track out right onto the white line then? Removing all risk from circuits makes for a very dull experience for both viewers and drivers.

    If the FIA want to reduce risk from brake failures they should reduce brake performance instead (less performance = longer braking zones = more time to decelerate before leaving the track).

  13. Having seen some images of the exit today I actually don’t think it was be as easy to run off & put 2 wheels or more over the white line as it was in the past.

    There’s a strip of astroturf around the outside & through a corner like parabollica where your still trying to put the power down through the exit & the car is still loaded as your still turning right I don’t think the astroturf will offer the grip or allow for the sort of stability we see elsewhere.

    If anything I can see putting a wheel onto it causing a bit more of an issue than the grass did in years past because the astroturf tends to be less consistent (See the final corner at Hungary this year, Vettel goes over it a dozen times without issue before he did it again & spun).

    As Anthony Davidson has said a dozen times, On corner exits where you already have the car straght & the power down the astroturf doesn’t cost you anything, But when its in a place where your still turning & modulating the throttle astroturf does reduce grip & does cost you time.

    1. Poeple have used the astroturf before and they’ll use it again.

      Heck, some where even using it while it was damp at the entrance of the main straight at Hungary.

  14. Didn’t the motogp boys have a say in this too, they’d rather slide on tarmac, than tumble on gravel. Or something like that.

    1. It was the World Superbike championship.

      This year they didn’t go to Monza because of concerns over the runoff, FIM/Dorna held a meeting with the Monza officials in January to discuss changes to the runoff & the gravel at Parabollica was one of the things discussed.

      WSB should be back at Monza next year as a result of the changes that have been made at Monza.

      1. I’m glad I didn’t imagine it!

        I’m sure it won’t too much difference, apart from Maldonardo might benefit.

  15. LOL. Just been watching FP1. Valtteri Bottas went off the Parabolica for more than a few centimeters… actually almost all four wheels… bet he wished he hadn’t said what he said about the tarmac being there now…

  16. I don’t think anybody wants the sport to be unsafe, but it’s going way too far in the other direction now. All this tarmac run off just makes mistakes meaningless.

    Remember when Hamilton slid wide at Rivage whilst leading at Spa in 2010? He crawled through the gravel and kissed the barrier, and just about rejoined. It was dramatic. Now he would just run wide and lose half a second. Wow… You need to have mistakes and retirements to add to the drama.

    It’s getting to the point where every circuit is becoming a giant carpark defined by white lines. Here’s an idea for the FIA. Stop coming up with stupid gimmicks like double points, DRS, standing restarts etc, and give us some proper circuits with grass and gravel. It can still be safe – Albert Park has a good amount of run off, but it also punishes mistakes and often has dramatic races. The new circuits are just wide, identical, horrible… I’m losing more interest as each corner is ripped up and every last challenge is being taken away. And don’t get me started on track limits…

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