F1 at Le Mans, ugly cars and more of your questions

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Could F1 race on the same track used for the Le Mans 24 Hours? And would Susie Wolff have been allowed to substitute for Valtteri Bottas in Australia?

These plus more of your questions answered below.

Why doesn’t F1 race at Le Mans?

Why don’t some of the world’s more interesting circuits feature on the F1 calendar, asks Andre:

Why doesn´t F1 race at circuits like Road America, Le Mans and Motegi? I think that they can bring a good spectacle and fans.

I know that Le Mans had F1 in the 1950s but in these days a race days could be incredible.
Andre Gutierrez

Le Mans did hold a round of the world championship, in 1967. However that was on the short ‘Bugatti’ circuit, not the famous Circuit de la Sarthe which hosts the 24-hour race. It proved unpopular and wasn’t used again.

But the track which holds the famous endurance race doesn’t have a suitable licence to hold F1 races. The FIA issues licences to circuits which permit them to hold different categories of racing based on factors including their length, safety standards and so on. As Formula One cars offer the highest levels of performance only circuits with the highest rating – level 1 – can hold grands prix.

The three circuits you suggested are all FIA grade two tracks, and so cannot hold rounds of the world championship. The limited run-off at several high-speed sections of the Circuit de la Sarthe is likely to be a significant part of the reason why it isn’t graded higher, and the same probably goes for America’s superb Road America track.

Here is a current list of grade one circuits which can hold F1 races:

Albert Park
Circuit of the Americas
Bahrain International Circuit: Grand Prix, Endurance, Oasis, Outer and Paddock circuits
Buddh International Circuit
Circuit de Catalunya
Dubai Autodrome: Grand Prix and International circuits
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Indianapolis Grand Prix
Istanbul Park
Korea International Circuit
Losail International Circuit
Marina Bay, Singapore
Moscow Raceway
Paul Ricard
Red Bull Ring
Sepang International Circuit
Shanghai International Circuit
Sochi Autodrom
Valencia Street Circuit
Yas Marina

Circuits which may hold F1 tests but not races are given a ‘2+1T’ designation. These include the Jerez circuit in Spain which F1 regularly visits.

What’ll she do, mister?

Next, a short and simple questions from Adam:

What is the top speed of the 2015 car?
Adam Bobby

Looking at the data from qualifying, where the top speeds are usually recorded, Felipe Massa hit 335.8kph (208.6mph) in the speed trap at Bahrain. That’s 7kph higher than last year and 21.6kph higher than in 2013 – the last year with V8 engines.

However we can expect to see even higher top speeds later in the year at Monza, the fastest track on the F1 calendar, where Nico Rosberg hit 353.9kph (219.9mph) in qualifying last year.

Could Wolff have substituted for Bottas?

Robert wonders whether Wiliams missed a chance to have two cars running in the first race of the season:

Could Susie Wolff have driven in Australian Grand Prix as she is the official third driver for Williams?
Robert Baxter

Susie Wolff would be able to compete in a race if Williams entered her for one. However she was not able to substitute for Valtteri Bottas when he was injured in Australia because he had already taken part in qualifying before he withdrew.

Article 19.1 (a) of the Sportimg Regulations forbids drivers from being substituted one they have qualified:

[Driver] changes may be made at any time before the start of the qualifying practice session provided any change proposed after 16.00 on the day of scrutineering receives the consent of the stewards.

A return for refuelling?

Refuelling was banned at the end of 2009 having been reintroduced in 1994. Matthew thinks it should come back:

Why doesn’t F1 bring back refuelling at pit stops?

Surely this would make races more interesting and maybe give the middle teams a chance of mixing it up with the bigger teams.

With all the technology they must be a way of making it safer if its a safety concern to refuel in pit stops.
Matthew Black

Whether refuelling was enhancing F1 races at the time it was banned is a debatable point. I was never a fan of how it worked in F1, and it created knock-on problems which were never satisfactorily solved, such as whether drivers should be allowed to pit during Safety Car periods. Nor were the safety problems ever fully mastered – there was a refuelling-related fire in the penultimate race before the ban in 2009.

Ultimately I was pleased to see the back of it and haven’t missed it, and think there’s more than a touch of ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ from those who want to see it return.

More importantly, changes in F1 make a return less likely now than when it was originally banned. The philosophy behind F1’s V6 hybrid turbo engines encourages manufacturers to extract as much performance as they can from a limited amount of fuel. Allowing them to pump more in during the race would contradict that goal.

Furthermore, it was the cost of lugging truckloads of refuelling equipment around the world which spelled an end to in-race refuelling in 2009. The financial situation of the sport now has clearly only worsened since then, and it’s hard to imagine the many team bosses who are already hard-pressed for funds voting in favour of a cost hike.

Why the ugly noses?

F1 noses look a lot less ugly now than they did last year – but why did they become so strange in the first place?

What’s the concept behind introducing ‘proboscis noses’ in rules and regulations of 2014?
Abhishek Dangi

The ugly noses which distinguished last year’s cars weren’t created deliberately by the rule makers.

Since 2012 the FIA has tried to force car designers to lower noses at the front of the cars as a safety measure. However designers prefer to keep the noses high in order to improve the airflow at the front of the car.

In 2014 the nose rules were changed to force designers to lower the tips further. However many chose to continue using high noses and use a long, thin section to satisfy the FIA’s requirement. Further rules changes this year have reduced but not completely eradicated the problem.

See here for more on the details of the nose regulations:

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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 “F1 at Le Mans, ugly cars and more of your questions”

  1. Indycar and nascar have been refueling forever and they never have the issues with fires. I think refueling would definitely bring back some different strategies and make for more exciting races. I was disappointed when they banned them. Brig back refueling and open up the tire choice and you could have teams doing some blindingly fast stints.

    On a side note I’ve tried joining this website forever and never get the emails. Nor do they appear in my junk folder. Not sure what’s going on?

    1. Re-fuelling only makes sense in endurance racing…A grand prix is only 305Km long so if a car can’t be engineered to run that distance then we’ve got a real problem on our hands!Also they’ve been fire related incidents over the years and last week two nascar mechanics were almost burnt alive, really not worth the hassle…The two tyre compounds is a great idea in principle, the fact they hit the “cliff” after 10 laps is another story…

      1. refueling makes plenty of sense if you are losing 2 seconds per lap over half the race. The real question is why can’t people see the obvious.

        1. @pcxmerc How did you arrive at that figure?

          Your comment led me to do some spread sheets and I can not but think you pulled that number out.

          So the quoted number for the lighter cars were about 0.45 per 18 liters (should be less now, but I’ll use this).

          Not taking into account pit stop time loss for refueling, lap time loss over the first half of the race for a non-refueling car is 1.2 s on average compared to 1 stop refueling.

          So assuming the non refueling car has to stop for tires, so the 1 stop re-fueling car would only use 10 s in the pits, the average time loss over the first half of the race for the non-refueling car is only 0,4s per lap. Obviously no loss for the second half.
          If it would not need to stop for tires, it would be almost 0.8s per lap on average faster for the first half.

          I compered different strategies, all of them compare quite similarly, but making 2 or more stops for fuel becomes slower.

          Assuming linear fuel usage and lap deficit, and taking into account ONLY the affect of fuel and pit stop loss, even stopping once is exactly the same as stopping 0 times, stopping more times becomes slower and slower overall.

          1. Look at Kimi’s lap times, he was the only driver going almost flat out (unobstructed, most of the time) the whole race, Lewis was controlling it from the front and slowing down Nico and Vettel.


            Kimi was around 101 seconds on his first stint, 99 seconds on his second and 97 seconds on his last stint, the difference being around 4+ seconds from a full tank to almost empty.

            57 laps divided in to two equals approximately 26, 26 laps * 2 seconds = 52 seconds. thats almost a whole minute, now subtract 52 seconds with the time it takes to poor 50 kg of fuel in to t tank.

            in 2010 refueling rate was aprox. 12 liters/sec, 12 liters is 0.75*12 kg, which is 9 kg/sec. which is approximately 6 seconds refueling time.

            is it worth it, yes, it is. 52 seconds – 6 seconds is the difference between 1st place and 5th.

          2. (sorry, 57/2 is just over 28 laps), which equates to 56 seconds, net gain of 50 seconds.

      2. Just because you can’t see the flames doesn’t mean there isn’t a fire, hoseing the driver is not a joke it’s to put out the invisible ethanol fire.

        1. Methanol is the invisible fire not ethanol.

    2. Might as well have a time trial and run the cars one at a time, as the refuelling strategies were all about keeping the cars apart on the track. F1 has never recovered from that – look at all the fuel and tyre rules that lingered after refuelling was banned, designed to mix up the order in a false way.

    3. Indy has had issues with fire, even worse since it burns with an invisible flame.

      1. they spray water on the the overflow to prevent it, its no issue

      2. @melthom – Definitely, ask Rick Mears.

        For all the reasons Keith mentioned refueling in F1 is over and done. From a safety standpoint this is a very good thing. Bringing it back to improve the show just doesn’t work for me. I would much rather see racing competition on the track rather than a refueling contest in the pits. There is already enough strategy with tires and good pit crew work is still as crucial as ever with stops regularly timed under 3 seconds.

    4. Average overtakes per race doubled in 2010. during the refueling era it was constantly around 15 overtakes per race – so I don’t see how this will improve the on-track action.

    5. Saying IndyCar and NASCAR “never have issues with fires” is a bit overstated. While I can understand why refueling persists in those two series, I also appreciate that it does not happen in F1.

      Fuel still plays a big factor in design and strategy with F1 cars. It just isn’t necessary to decrease safety by artificially reintroducing refueling when it isn’t needed.

    6. I remember reading that 3 team personnel got injured in a fire during refuelling in NASCAR, just last week.

  2. Le man would be impractical , that long straight …. F1 suits with a more twisty circuit , like imola

    1. Speed is impressive but if that were it a Bugatti Veyron would do fine. It is in the corners where a F1 car makes the difference.

      1. And le mans is relatively low on corners.

        1. @matt90 Although that being said, the Porsche curves would be a great set of corners to see an F1 car go through.

    2. The other aspect is that the devil would be buying ice skates before the ACO ever allowed F1 to use the circuit that they consider to be their “Blue Riband” event.

      They have made it clear that they will never allow any other motorsport series to use the Circuit de la Sarthe – not only is F1 out of the question, so is MotoGP (I don’t think they’ve ever allowed motorcycles around the full circuit) and pretty much anything with an engine that is not directly controlled by the ACO.

  3. A return for refuelling?
    I disagree with the “statement ” saying fuel economy and refuelling don’t go together:
    They don’t have to fill them up you know ;) It would enable to run cars with low amounts of fuel, thus lighter, and even running more economic and quicker, and most important, not stressing the tires that much with all excess fuel weight. Refuelling makes more interesting combined strategies possible

  4. Safety is important, but this circuit grading has a decidedly political feel to it. Dubai Autodrome, Mugello, and Paul Ricard are the only tracks not designed / recently used by F1. Probably it costs a lot of money to get a grade-1 status from the FIA.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      29th April 2015, 19:35

      All of those tracks have been raced on fairly recently in F1 or were otherwise deliberately built to be F1 standard. I imagine most circuit owners that aren’t planning on holding F1 races just don’t want to turn their circuits into massive car parks with all the best bits removed!

  5. So much wrong with F1…..tyres restrict flat out racing but so do corners need to get rid of corners so everyone can drive flat out for 300km. Not fast enough as LMP1 cars are so brilliant despite still being a good deal slower….

    Not loud enough as LMP1 sound so great, only GTE sound good in WEC so solution is add another category in with F1 with loud engines to bolster the grid and sound albeit 20 seconds a lap slower.

    LMP1 forces private teams into lower categories F1 cannot do this although many say WEC is better…they are applauded for 3 car teams F1 would be ridiculous to do this

    Overtaking in F1 is prescribed as of course there were so many daring overtakes in WEC like Porsche overtaking everyone half way down a straight…of course F1 must do better and people are not satisfied until we see a car doing 150 overtaking one doing 160, at all costs F1 must re write physics. Every overtake must be epic as every goal in football is.

    1. lolz. I watched the the Silverstone-WEC race, and believe me when I say that the #7 & #8 Audi cars while being quicker made so many attempts to over take (Duval seems to be quicker than Fassler) that it would have taken at least 15 tire changes if they were on Pirelli’s to make that kind of action happen.

      You know what’s funny, how nobody can pass at the front of the field this year in F1 because the tires fall off after 1 or 2 laps of trying to over take. The problem with F1 are the ludicrous restrictions that don’t allow teams to compete and force teams to pay to lose because there is so very little latitude to take risks find alternate ways to succeed. The factories in F1 are not helping either.

      the problems in F1 have nothing to do with the turns, but they do have to do with people who refuse to admit the obvious.

      1. I know. I went to WEC this year at Silverstone, most important for me was great value for money I would not even attempt the F1 race but even if F1 was cheaper it’s too busy 130,000 is too many people much prefer the more relaxed environment at the WEC event. I do feel there is a lack of balance though in the criticisms of F1, many things can change but it feels sometimes it is one rule for one series and another rule for the other.

      2. I know. I went to WEC at Silverstone no way for F1 as not as much value for money plus toi many people, I enjoyed walking round without bumping in to people and the fences 4 deep with people, plus can just sit in any grandstand, parking easier, can drive straight in just before the start etc

        Thing is people do seem to praise one category fir some things whilst having a go at the other for the same thing I do not feel F1 main issue is the races but behind the scenes stuff. The races for me are as good as any since I started watching in 1990.

        I appreciate your view on tyres but WEC is very much strategy with teams running fuel strategy a d tyres to make less stops and at points of the race cars are lapping with 2 seconds difference. Audi v Porsche could have been a 2 second faster F1 car overtaking before a drs zone then being re taken. There was also a sense of fixing at Silverstone where Porsche stopped less due to fuel and tyre saving and Audi were given a very dubious penalty an hour after the incident when it looked like Porsche could not catch and it gave a grandstand finish. If this happened in an F1 race all hell would break loose.

        1. yeah, but this year in F1, you can’t try to overtake like that, This year the cars are 2+ seconds a lap faster, probably one of the reasons why Renault sucks more this year, unfortunately, I don’t think the tires caught up and they are getting hammered hard. I have watched all the F1 races closely this year, and it’s very clear all the leader has to do to win is leave extra time in it for the pits (margin/tire life) and just slow everyone else down. It’s kind of pathetic, Lewis might win almost every race this year if he can manage to out qualify his teammate.

  6. I wasn’t aware that Suzie had a Super License. From the response in the article it appears she has. Live and learn.

    1. She has currently but it won’t be renewed for next year as the requirements are changing.

  7. Can Mugello and Imola host F1 races? I thought they both were out of the list. At least that gives us an Italian option if Monza is no longer one.

    1. @xtwl ? Then there’s the question of whether Bernie will take it :(

  8. robert jones
    29th April 2015, 16:37

    What about my ideas on introducing of BTCC weighting of cars who were on the podium in the last race ? What about actually having business qualified managers running F1 as a business, instead of a cowboy or used car salesman unreal Bubble of ignorance.

    1. What about my ideas on introducing of BTCC weighting of cars who were on the podium in the last race ?

      You mean success ballast? I think it’s a horrible idea for F1 – and the BTCC, for that matter.

  9. “The financial situation of the sport now has clearly only worsened since then”

    Can we have an article to back this statement up? Is there less money in F1 now than there was before the financial crisis? or is the real problem that there is too much money in F1 that the smaller teams can’t compete? how have the teams budgets changed over the years? how much are Mercedes spending (including engine development costs?)

    1. These are the figures that the BBC have given for the team’s 2014 spending:

      Ferrari: £250 million (+unmentioned engine development cost)
      Red Bull: £250 million
      Mercedes: £200 million (+around £140 million for engine development costs)
      Lotus: £130 million
      Williams/Force India/Toro Rosso/Sauber: £100 million
      Marussia: £70 million
      Caterham: £60 million

      Although I don’t know the figures for how much Ferrari/Renault spent on their PU, I’ve read elsewhere that Mercedes spent more on engine development than either Ferrari or Renault (as you’d expect). The Mercedes PU was actually the cheapest of the three for customer teams however, so the difference in investment between the engine manufacturers likely wasn’t too large.

      Another significant point to note is that Ferrari have increased their budget by a further 100 million Euros for 2015, suggesting that F1 budgets – certainly among the top teams – are likely to keep increasing.

      1. Oops, I missed out McLaren – the article states that they spent £200 million in 2014.

  10. The only race track between the 3 mentioned there that F1 could race on with minimal safety changes is Motegi; in fact, with just pits upgrades, Motegi probably could host F1 races. But Motegi is only a decent track- its’s definitely not better than Suzuka or Autopolis. I would like to see a GP at the Autopolis circuit before Motegi; maybe the Japanese GP could alternate between Suzuka and Autopolis.

    Road America is, with Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca one of the 3 best circuits here in the United States. It would be simply incredible to see F1 or IndyCar (again) race at Road America- but run-off at the Kink at Road America can’t be made, not because there is a forest there (that is good enough a reason not to make run-off there) but there are train tracks in the forest right next to the circuit. One would have to put the train tracks underground to make suitable run off there.

    On the other hand, seeing an F1 race at a circuit that has lap times longer than 3 minutes, I think, needs to be done again. Sure, it’s a lot harder to put a race on a circuit around or longer than the length of Le Mans. But an actual F1 race on the actual Circuit de la Sarthe is something I wouldn’t be sure about- that circuit belongs to the 24 Hours race.

  11. Refueling would bring down the lap times, but the overall race time might not be impacted because the length of the pit stops would be much longer (for example: 7-9 seconds, like in 2004 as opposed to 2.5-4 seconds). So over 3 stops one could lose minimally 9 seconds to 19.5 seconds maximally (or 6 to 13 seconds over 2 stops) and that is just in the pit box alone. Of course I am assuming that the tires are the same as they are in 2015 and that they would refuel every time they came in to stop for tires.

    I guess all I am trying to say is that refueling might make it seem like they are going faster, but in actuality they may not be getting to the checkered flag any faster. This coupled with the fire hazard issue makes me want to say no to it

    Just some food for thought.

    1. at 12 liters per second, half a tank is just less than 6 seconds.

  12. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
    29th April 2015, 21:58

    Bring back Imola and German GP!!

  13. So Keith, what you’re saying is the more airflow at the front of the car the better for the car?

    So why did some teams like Ferrari opt to make a relatively long nose, therefore further limiting the airflow at the front of the car?

    Or is that the reason why Ferrari has been aerodynamically weak this year?

    1. It’s easier to pass the crash tests with a longer nose.

    2. Ok 1: The long nose or “blade nose” that Ferrari and Mclaren have opted for does not limit air flow at the front at all, that is quite an odd statement. It could be argued it limits flow to the rear, but in yaw it actually allows quite a lot of airflow to the rear also.
      It has been noted in F1 Technical that the blade nose design is actually quite a good one aerodynamically, which leads me to 2: Ferrari has been far from “aerodynamically weak” this year. It is generally accepted that they have the second best chassis behind Mercedes so far this year.

  14. How come Monaco, as a street circuit with so less run off area, can be classified as grade 1?

    1. Because it’s Monaco.

    2. Ha!
      The mystery of F1 lies in how it is consistently inconsistent.

      1. But at least its consistent.

  15. How can La Sarthe not be ok for F1 but Monaco is? Oh yes, silly me, Money.

  16. Manually gravity refuel will also reduce cost and give spare time to replace tire, therefore more safety.

  17. Come on people! Go back in time and refresh your memory: refuelling SUCKED! That’s why we ditched it and were super pleased with how it turned out without it!

    You’d re-introduce refuelling and you’d want to get rid of it again after a single season.

    This shows how frustrated the fans are with how Formula 1 racing looks these days making them desperate to make any change to F1 just for the sake of changing something.
    But you cannot act like a hamster in a spinning wheel and go back and forth between making and re-making the same mistakes all over again.

    So please STOP this nonsense discussion about refuelling. STOP IT. We’ve been there, we’ve done that, refuelling sucked and we are all happy it won’t ever come back. We don’t need a Groundhog Day.

    Now look around and let’s discuss the current problems and let’s go forward.

  18. @keithcollantine Isn’t Istanbul Park an FIA Grade 1 circuit?

    1. @tonyyeb Yep just realised the copy of the list I had was not the latest version – have updated the article accordingly.

  19. Le Mans did hold a round of the world championship, in 1967. However that was on the short ‘Bugatti’ circuit, not the famous Circuit de la Sarthe which hosts the 24-hour race. It proved unpopular and wasn’t used again.

    @keithcollantine I wonder why, even that is quite an enjoyable track (maybe a bit short), and it holds MotoGP races as well.

  20. A one day F1 series at the Nurburgring would make a pleasant change from the long winded world championship, basically like the cup events in football. Maybe a similar format as the BTCC where they run two races during the day with the fastest cars starting at the back of the grid in the second race.

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