Spa-Francorchamps, 2014

FIA and Tilke “ruined F1 racing with idiotic run-off areas”

F1 Fanatic Round-up

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In the round-up: Former Ferrari and McLaren F1 driver Stefan Johansson says excessively generous run-off areas have spoiled F1 racing.

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Here’s the winner of this week’s Caption Competition featuring Jenson Button and Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs.

Ricky Wilson, Jenson Button, McLaren, 2015

“I can’t believe it”, said Jenson, “I’ve never been this far away from pole.”
@Jonny705

Thanks to everyone who took part this weekend, and a special mention to Craig Wollard, Selbbin, Illusive, Jann and RamboII for their excellent suggestions.

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  • 66 comments on “FIA and Tilke “ruined F1 racing with idiotic run-off areas””

    1. I don’t agree that Tilde has ruined F1. One of my favorite Tilkedromes is Istanbul, and it was always pretty great racing there, even with all the runoff areas.

      1. Istambul is great but it also has the same problem Johansson rightly points out: massive run off.

        FIA believes tarmac run offs are good for safety in case of a spin, because it allows the car to slow down much faster, and not dig in the gravel traps.

        But that’s a not a complete solution: firstly because it doesn’t slow cars down when it rains, which are conditions where spins are more frequent (as shown by Schumacher in Belgium 2011 when he lost a wheel and the tarmac run off never stopped him), it doesn’t slow cars down when they miss a corner, allowing drivers to cut corners or keep their foot down while re-entry (as it happened with Kimi in Silverstone 2014, he kept his foot down, catched a bump on the edge of the track and spun around), and under certain circumstances, it just doesn’t work at all (Webber’s brake failure at Singapore 2009).

        Instead, gravel traps ONLY has 1 problem: cars digging in, which doesn’t happen that often, nor it’s as dangerous as it used to be. They also penalize drivers if they miss a corner, and work even with rain.

        Also, the way FIA uses tarmac run offs is wrong in many ways: if a car has a mechanical problem or the driver fails to stop coming into the recently ruined Parabolica, they’ll go straight ahead (as it happened to Webber, when his wing failed in 2012). So why, oh why, did they have to put a layer of tarmac all the way round until the main straight? no one goes off after the apex…

        Sometimes FIA tries to work on a problem and they over-do it. Tilke isn’t responsable for that, he just designs the tracks according to FIA standards.

        His designs are not my cup of tea tho (Abu Dhabi being a prime example of how to spend 800 million dollars on a parking lot, full of chicanes, and no way to modify it) but on THIS subject Tilke is free of blame, IMO.

        1. no one goes off after the apex

          People will say that right up until the point someone goes off after the apex.

        2. gravel traps ONLY has 1 problem: cars digging in, which doesn’t happen that often, nor it’s as dangerous as it used to be. They also penalize drivers if they miss a corner, and work even with rain.

          Water is a lubricant @fer-no65, and it lubricates the gravel ‘balls’ to move against each other as well as a tyre to slide across the surface. Rain helps the gravel to compact too, so one way and another it is actually more affected by rain than tarmac.

          Also gravel has to be contained by a lip and that tends to launch a car as we’ve seen so many times. It can flip cars as you say, let the roll hoop sink in, spread onto the track and take cars out of the race so we can’t enjoy them racing any more.

          Tarmac runoff is safer in every way. It just has to be properly designed, that’s all, like they finally did at Monza but not at Canada or Sochi.

        3. it also has the same problem Johansson rightly points out: massive run off.

          I disagree, safety is your first priority, not the aesthetics of a track.
          F1 cars are incredibly fast, and because it utilises downforce, can deaccelerate very quickly, but they can do that only if they are pointing frontwards. When an F1 car isn’t pointing frontwards, as in a spin or when it looses traction and travels sideways, then it will deaccelerate about the same as a normal road car. Adequate space is an essential attribute to stopping a car if you want to avoid a serious crash.
          Tike design’s tracks to a specification, and, just like any other contractor, has to do the work to the customer’s satisfaction otherwise he won’t get paid.

      2. Me neither, it’s just that aero is overpowering racing, both can’t work together. Look at bike racing, they haven’t been able to introduce downforce and they haven’t faced any change in the ability to race wheel-to-wheel. The “sanitizing” has lead simply to a decrease in drama via the fear factor and the beauty. Tracks look ugly with less and less grass.

    2. I fully agree with Tegler here, these tarmac run off areas have sanitised F1 tracks completely

    3. Yes, let’s all just forget that a lot of these tracks also (want to) host motorbike races, and therefore have to adhere to FIM track regulations which require tarmac runoffs. Instead, let’s ignore that inconvenient fact and blame Tilke (who has to work within both FIA and FIM regs) and the FIA (who have no say over bike racing).

    4. On the subject of run-off, I like to believe that one day the powers that be will find the correct balance between safety and challenge. There’s nothing wrong with a “free pass” expanse of tarmac when it’s in the right place, but they shouldn’t just be automatically cut and pasted onto the outside of every single kerb.

      1. Thank you for that one @sato113!

    5. I don’t get the caption winner, help me

      1. Neither do I.

        1. I’m guessing the suggestion is JB is about to start a race from the factory due to accumulated penalties, but it is just a guess.

      2. Yeah, specific knowledge needed for that one, kinda an “in” joke. There were some way funnier ones that everyone would have got in my opinion.

        1. ColdFly F1 (@)
          9th November 2015, 8:30

          And let’s hope we never get a Caption Competition based on this year’s COTA podium interview.
          Imagine having to listen to the whole Elton John back catalogue to get the joke!

      3. It’s based on Kaiser Chief lyrics “Oh my God I can’t believe it, I’ve never been this far away from home ”
        The caption fits the song perfectly.

        1. Apart from a bit of forgetfulness about the about the 2007 and 2008 Earth Dream Honda’s. Jenson’s well used to this.

        2. Thanks :)

          It may be a clever one but I don’t think it’s really that funny (there were a lot of better captions to pick from). Then again, I guess it’s never funny if you have to explain the joke :P

    6. Perhaps its wishful thinking, but I think Illien’s denial has the ring of being too specific and therefore not a complete “No, I’m NOT involved with powering Red Bull next year, that rumour was a hoax!”.

    7. Most of Tilkes tracks are not fun to drive based on my experience with f1 simulators. Long straights and tight corners account for the majority of sequences. Just generally dull with not much sense of excitement. /rant

    8. Blaming Tilke & the FIA for the tarmac run-off may be popular but directing the blame at them alone is not always fair.

      Back in the late 90s/early 2000s for example it was the Drivers via the GPDA who were expressing concern about the gravel traps & pushing the FIA to look for alternative solutions, Especially after some incidents during that time where it was felt gravel had made accidents worse either by causing cars to flip, Causing cars to skip over the top & not lose speed or causing damage to a car that contributed to an accident been larger than it otherwise would have been (Burti’s 2001 Spa crash for example where the gravel/grass broke the front suspension on both sides, Causing loss of steering & braking).

      Also worth pointing out that some circuits made the change without any input from the FIA or F1 as there are a lot of circuits who made the switch that don’t hold FIA series let alone F1. Several road circuits in America/Canada for example have moved to tarmac runoff because of other categories such as Nascar (Watkins Glen, Mosport & Road America for example).

      Its been said before that tarmac is seen as been a lot safer for bike racing because gravel nearly always causes bikes & riders to tumble & injuries to limbs are more likely to occur as riders tumble through the gravel.
      And as I’ve said before categories such as Touring, GT, Nascar & Sportscars like tarmac to gravel because those types of cars dig into gravel a lot easier & can be harder to recover.

      With regards to Tilke specifically, He gets a lot of blame for tarmac runoff which isn’t really justified as he is only following the runoff guidelines he’s given at the time & they have evolved over the years. Places like Istanbul & Bahrain have miles of runoff because the guidelines of the times called for large runoffs, Newer circuits of his like Abu-Dhabi & The Indian F1 circuit have smaller runoff areas in comparison because the Tecpro barriers & modern car safety allows for less runoff.
      His earlier circuits like A1-ring & Sepang originally featured grass/gravel runoff & when new even Shanghai & Bahrain originally featured more gravel traps because that was what he was asked to do. Newer venues such as Abu-Dhabi are all tarmac runoff as again thats the way he was asked to do it.

      Its the same looking at other areas of circuit design, He has guidelines, He’s told where the circuit will be & what restrictions he has & can only work within all of that. When given a decent bit of land & a few less restrictions he’s more than capable of coming up with a fast flowing track like Sepang or an undulating, interesting & fairly fast circuit like Istanbul or COTA. However when he’s given a flat bit of land with limited space & other restrictions & guidelines your going to get something like Abu-Dhabi.

      Finally its often overlooked that Tilke himself isn’t solely responsible for the circuit designs, He has people within his company who give him input & pen designs themselves & more recently he’s also been getting input from teams & drivers. The Korean & Indian F1 circuits for example featured a lot of input from drivers & before been finalized the Indian circuit was tested in teams simulators & things like the wide corner entry’s & the fast 6/7/8/9 chicane section & I think even the level of banking at turns 10/11 were added based on driver feedback.

      I’ve always been interested in seeing what Tilke could come up with if he was free of the guidelines & restrictions that are placed on him.

      1. +1. Fundamentally it is the FIA regulations behind most of the “tilke hate”. Also fueling the fire: building tracks in places that don’t care about racing (Korea, India). Based on my PS3 experience Turkey is a great track. India is also a great track. Korea is horrible as is Abu Dhabi. And thank goodness we don’t worry about Valencia any more. There are tracks that you just love driving- Silverstone, Canada, Suzuka, Spa. These tracks have a different character than what we have seen and I am sure we could get more of them if the FIA would allow it.

        1. I wouldn’t put India as one of the places that don’t care about racing as India has a long heritage of Motor Sport & the 3 F1 races held there were pretty well attended.

          I also disagree about Korea been a horrible track, The middle sector in particular was fantastic full of fast, flowing corners & even some of the more fiddly stuff towards the end was a decent challenge for car & driver.

    9. I think I can speak for a lot of F1 fans. Glock/brazil/2008 will forever be a ?. Mick as an occasional gamer I generally don’t like Tilke tracks either. Mike I’ve never heard F1 drivers dislike long fast corners, besides this point I totally agree with you. Many Tilke tracks follow the same philosophy, which results often on similar layouts, if not identical, ex: Malaysia & Shanghai. Other Tilke tracks have some variety in layout, Korea does one different thing per sector. The thing is, all Tilke tracks try to incorporate everything, every type of corner all speeds. Basically all tracks are all rounders, there’s not an high speed track a medium or a street circuit style, lots of elevation or no elevation. The only Tilke tracks that offer personality are those that have to be to a certain degree improvised on a specific geography.

      1. The thing is, all Tilke tracks try to incorporate everything

        @peartree Yeah, and it only seems to work out at COTA, or Istanbul depending on who you ask. India is like Tilke his anti-Tilke. That was a very good racetrack if you ask me. It’s a real shame we lost that one.

        1. Agreed on India. That was a good track.

      2. +1 on this. Most Tilke tracks have a 1 km straight and a few slow corners to improve overtaking (because the braking zone is longer). The same formula at every new track is boring.

        1. @xtwl @brianfrank302 Agree on India. Anyway as @paeschli it’s the same formula. With India Tilke incorporated the high rising braking zone of Texas and then put the Texas undulating straight.

          1. @peartree India had their first race in 2011 and COTA in 2012?

    10. Man I want that Hamilton vs. Vettel next season so bad.

      Just think, it can become a classic, and our kids and grand-kids will be begging us to tell them about the Ham-Vet story.

      If Vettel can influence the 2016 Ferrari like he says, and James Allison keeps up his work, then 2016 should be a wonderful season.

      But I can also be severely disappointed though.

      1. Can be and will be. Until we get a change in the engine / testing regulations, nobody can catch Mercedes and nor will they. Next year will be just as much of a foregone conclusion as last year and this year. But Vettel can’t say that, because his real job is to try and get publicity for Ferrari, so he has to pretend to be optimistic. Deep down, he too knows that Ferrari doesn’t have a chance in hell. They’re racing for third and fourth, and to occasionally mop up after a Merc mistake. They’re no longer racing to win because they know they can’t.

        1. next year… more development… and teams can touch part weren’t allowed… so not teams has chances to catch merc or at least give them harder time

    11. It seems many F1 racers watched their first MotoGP race last Sunday. Like there was even a challenge going from last to fourth on the Yamaha. Those bikes with drivers like Rossi, Lorenzo, Marquez on them are plenty faster than even the Mercedes compared to a Sauber. The entire field consists of amateurs except for maybe the Ducati’s compared to the top four. It would have been a good race by him had he been able to get to third but that was always going to be unlikely. In the end it was pretty predictable what was going to happen. Except for a crash I didn’t see how Rossi was going to win this. ‘Kick or no kick, he has himself to blaim for that’, even without the penalty I don’t think he would have gotten higher up than fourth. Good season nonetheless, roll on 16.

      1. Just going to add right away that I completely agree that in yesterdays race Marquez drove for Lorenzo, no doubt. Most interviews yesterday were funny in light of the race. I do find it funny how Lorenzo gets killed for getting a hand from Marquez but nobody dares mention the entire field almost going wide for Rossi.

        In the end the championship has been sour since before Phillip Island. There are several drivers who need to do some thinking and talking before 2016. Though as we’re used to in sport, this won’t be the last time a title was helped by someone who wasn’t involved.

      2. Well no, you are wrong to most of those remarks. These riders are not amateurs, they are some of the best riders on the world (well as in F1, most of them), and the factory bikes are essentially the same. It’s more like Mercedes compared to Williams if you ask me. Rossi did an amazing race to manage and pass all those drivers as fast as he did, however as the race is short and there are no pit stops, so there is only so much you can do starting from last on the grid.

        As a long time Rossi fan (I am watching MotoGP for years), I don’t think he deserved the title based on speed alone. He lost from this teammate in almost every aspect (wins, poles, fastest laps). However he was very consistent and I think all racing fans understood what Marquez did in the last 2 races. Most for the frustration if you ask me comes from the fact that it could have been a great story, 36-year old Rossi getting another title and then (possibly) retiring. However speed-wise, Lorenzo totally deserves this.

        1. These riders are not amateurs, they are some of the best riders on the world

          @afonic You’re just paraphrasing what I said. I added compared to. There wasn’t a single person on this planet who doubted he would reach fourth by half distance. Yes, he plowed through the field thanks to being on a better bike and being Rossi, talent wise and ‘others going wide’-wise. This is hardly the first time one of the four top riders comes from far back with ease.

          For me it was fine whoever won until Malaysia. I even preferred Rossi as indeed it would have been a very nice story. In the end a point from seventh or first counts for the same and Rossi featured on the podium plenty of times this season and as you say thanks to consistency was in the hunt. He simply should have known better in Malaysia and so should the stewards. A DT, or even worse a DSQ, should have been given and start afresh in Valencia.

          1. @xtwl I understood what you said, but you missed the whole “being Rossi” part at your first post. He is one of the best (if not the best) riders in history, of course nobody doubted that he can aim for 4th, however some of those passes were pretty amazing.

            If you give his Yamaha to another driver, I don’t think he can pull off that recovery. Unfortunately as injuries are common in MotoGP, he have seen replacement drivers struggle with top teams’ bikes, like Honda this year.

            All and all, it was a fun year, with many breathtaking races, the kind that we see only once or twice each year in F1. The last 2 races kind of ruined it for me, but let’s hope next year Yamaha, Honda and why not, Ducati are close, and we can have even more action!

    12. Funny how Ferrari think that Massa was the better driver that year. He got handed a few gifts by the FIA that year, made a lot of mistakes and Hamilton had an important victory taken from him pretty arbitrarily.

      I am not a huge fan of either, but I really do think that in the end we had the more deserving winner that year.

      1. @bascb Neither of them had particularly good seasons. Had Alonso perhaps stayed, or Kimi (what even happened to him) had a better season who knows…

        1. I agree with that too @xtwl. The Ferrari car and the McLaren were clearly ahead of the rest. Both Hamilton and Massa threw away a lot, Kimi even more so (Heikki was never really in it it).

        2. @xtwl, with regards to Kimi’s performance in 2008 – he reportedly gave an interview with Turun Sanomat where he admitted that, after struggling for several races with getting the front of the car to behave as he wanted it to, he lost interest in the title battle and gave up on trying to compete that year.

          1. At Spa we could see that Raikkonen was most certainly still trying to win that race. A bit too much actually and he overcooked it. Same thing in Singapore. Both Massa and Raikkonen had to come from all the way back and Raikkonen actually fought his way up to P5, but again was trying too hard and taking too many risks so he crashed out.

    13. I love that interview with Johansson for the to the point observations about F1 tracks, about driving skills and about how IndyCar approaches things.

      Now, I don’t agree with his notion that F1 needs the Max and Bernie show back and all is well (times move on), but he is again right that the current rule making just doesn’t work.

      1. @bascb, that’s the thing though – the fixes always involve repeating the past.

        It is never a case of “this is how we can create a new future for the sport”, it is always a case of “this worked in the past, so it must be the solution for now”. There is a difference between learning from the past and simply trying to repeat it, and all too often we see people wanting to do the latter.

      2. What’s wrong with the current rule making then? FIA and FOM still can do whatever they want, just as before. nothing has changed. The teams have some token input, but no more than they had that back then.

        What people mistakenly think has changed in the rules is that the teams can now just veto stuff whenever they want. Apart from Ferrari, this is simply not true. They can only stop regulation changes for the current season and up to some point for the coming season.

        Ferrari’s veto and the protection of the teams for rule changes during the season were already in place when Ecclestone and Mosley were trying to destroy F1 together.

        1. Ecclestone and Mosley were trying to destroy F1 together

          I presume you’re talking about the period when safety in F1 was completely overhauled to the extent that the very fundamental spirit of the sport changed for the better?

          1. @raceprouk No. What are you on about anyway?

            I’m talking about the FIArari years, taking on their own stewards overthrowing a perfectly sane ruling by something shady, introducing grooved tyres for more overtaking, rushing a ridiculously low budget cap just to annoy Ferrari when they fell out of line, abusing the EU ruling to sell F1 commercial rights for pennies on the dime etc etc etc.

            In other words, hostile changes almost every other season. For no good reason. The aftermath of their destructive rule is still felt today.

            I guess it’s easy to forget the mess f1 was in when Mosley was Ecclestones hand puppet.

            1. What are you on about anyway?

              Raised cockpit sides, improved crash structures, wheel tethers… y’know, stuff that keeps people alive.

    14. “Massa clearly best driver in 2008”

      Hmmm. That is one way to look at things. IMO a very misguided way. Another way, but hard to really ‘prove’ is that 2008 represents one of the few times where a driver won a WDC in a car that wasn’t the fastest. It was fairly close (it can’t not be close, too much gap and even Superman can’t make up the gap), but for me the Ferrari in 2008 was the quicker car.

      Massa did, however, drive a great year. He’s never really got the credit he deserves for the fight he put up – and the way he decimated Kimi. He also showed great fortitude on the podium in Brazil, and in his way of dealing with it afterwards (he HAD IT, and then it was gone – that would have messed me up).

      But I still also think Hamilton has never really got the credit either for winning in a year when he didn’t have the quickest car. Some of his adventures in seasons post-2008 (especially 2011) I believe came in part from a belief in his head of, ‘I beat an inferior car once, I can do it again.’ But in years where the gap was just too big.

      Preparing for a flaming…

      1. If massa never got screwed over by renault crash gate in Singapore he’d have won that race and the championship instead of 10 points he left with 0

        1. And had Hamilton not had his Spa win taken from him unfairly, he’d have likely been champion even if Massa won in Singapore. My point being there’s a million ways to play the what-if game.

          1. And had Hamilton not had his Spa win taken from him unfairly

            I used to feel that way until I had a discussion with somebody later in 2008 who explained the reasons he was given the penalty to me.

            Like most others I used to hold the view that he gave the place back after cutting the chicane so all should have been fine. However according to the person I spoke to the telemetry showed that while Lewis did lift off the throttle to give the place back when he came off the runoff he was also back to 100% throttle before Kimi was fully back past him, & the stewards felt that he also ended up closer to Kimi with a greater chance to attack into turn 1 than he would have been had he lifted out of the move as Bus-stop & gone through the corner behind Kimi.

            The GPS/Timing loop data also showed he was faster on the run between bus-stop & La Source than he had been on any other lap which added to the stewards opinion that he had gained an advantage.

            He also told me that it wasn’t an easy or quick decision & that the stewards took a lot of time to dive into all of the data that was available to them before reaching there decision & that all 3 of them were comfortable that they had made the right call based on the data they had in-front of them.

            1. The GPS/Timing loop data also showed he was faster on the run between bus-stop & La Source than he had been on any other lap which added to the stewards opinion that he had gained an advantage.

              Funny how that never gets mentioned by the media…

            2. The reasoning behind stewards decisions were not made public back then & the stewards each weekend never had any communication with the media so the media were nearly always completely in the dark about that sort of thing.

              The person I got the info I mention above worked at FOM as a liaison between them & the stewards that weekend (In terms of pulling up all the data & video angles from FOM to the stewards room) so saw all the data & heard much of the discussion that took place between the stewards. He’s a close friend of mine who I worked with for much of the 10yrs that I was at FOM & I just happened to ask him about the Spa ’08 penalty a few years after which was when he told me about the stewards reasoning with regards to the penalty.

            3. The reasoning behind stewards decisions were not made public back then

              This is part of the problem; if there was full transparency regarding stewards’ decisions (no earlier than 48 hours after the race to preserve integrity), then a lot of these arguments would vanish.

            4. And Kimi stuck it in the wall and didn’t finish the race….. If you stand back and look at it objectively, the result should have stood. It was close to the end of the race so the stewards didn’t have a chance to review during the race and instruct Hamilton to give the place back (as happens all the time now) so reviewed it after the race. Fair enough. But to penalise someone after the race for illegally overtaking someone in the last few laps when that person who was overtook didn’t finish the race…..Where’s the advantage gained? You can’t gain an advantage over someone if they didn’t finish because they crashed out all on their own. And for me that’s where unfortunately the politics in F1 comes in.

            5. @gt-racer
              I LOVE every single one of your posts each and every time.

              Especially, the posts about what the teams REALLY think about Pirelli (like I suspected) that some people seem to still be naive about :)

            6. But to penalise someone after the race for illegally overtaking someone in the last few laps when that person who was overtook didn’t finish the race…..Where’s the advantage gained? You can’t gain an advantage over someone if they didn’t finish because they crashed out all on their own. And for me that’s where unfortunately the politics in F1 comes in.

              So the rules should just randomly be ignored?

      2. No flaming from here, as I see the season pretty much the same way. I my eyes, Ferrari did have the best car.

    15. I don’t think there’s any answer to the current crop of sanitised circuits. Whichever way you look there’s a combination of no elevation changes/interesting topography, simple 3 fast corners 1/2 long straights with a slow section layout, massive tarmac runoffs and track limits ‘enforced’ by painted lines and flat kerbs all situated in the bleakest desert or car park.
      Yes, night races make Singapore, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and soon to be Sochi look less drab on TV but they’re still go kart tracks where they’ve replaced the tyre walls for concrete barriers and fences. At least when Red Bull fence off a street in a city to do a demonstration they’re allowed to rev the engines and do donuts.
      That said I do think Austin had the right idea in creating an elevation change by building a hill, using the extra grippy strips where tarmac runoff is needed and actually getting some spectators in, Mexico may turn out well so perhaps they are getting better but to me track layout can’t help interesting racing while drivers are going round like their grandma afraid of applying multidirectional load to the tyres.

    16. The Ilmor founder, who confirmed that he had provided the Milton Keynes outfit with some input this year regarding Renault’s power unit, said he wasn’t aware of Red Bull and Renault’s current engine prospects.

      At the end of that article is an interesting comment:

      If it happens I will look then at what the tender says and decide what I’m doing,” Illien concluded.

      As I understand that, he is saying if Red Bull want a new engine they should put it out for tender, meaning engine suppliers would have to have time to evaluate the tender, make submissions, and then Red Bull would make contractual arrangements with the best submitter. I don’t know if there is enough time for the tender process to be done properly.

    17. Don’t agree; the good races are when people fight for the win; the boring ones are when the front team has more than a second a lap advantage.

      So if someone is to blame it’s Mercedes; and years before was Redbull, before that Brown and Ferrari; so cudos to each of them for that.

      Half joking, half serious, Bernie might have had the right idea with the sprinklers. That would not level the field, it would mix it up.

      1. So if there’s a six-way battle for third, with position changes on every lap, the race is boring because the Mercs are a second a lap faster?

    18. Former Ferrari and McLaren F1 driver Stefan Johansson says excessively generous run-off areas have spoiled F1 racing.

      I must agree 100% with this man!

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