Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Interlagos, 2016

Why turn 15 was the danger spot in Brazil

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Which is the most dangerous corner on any track in Formula One? Turn 15 at Interlagos, the curved left-hander which brings the cars onto the pit straight, has to be a top contender.

Pit entry, Interlagos, 2014
There’s little room for error at the inside of turn 15
There is no kerb on the inside, just a painted strip of asphalt. Drivers take it with two wheels on the track, the rest of the car straddling the green run-off.

To their left, the drivers pass a head-on barrier which separates the track from the pit lane. They whistle past just metres away at over 320kph (almost 200mph).

The track owners made the best of a difficult job when they revised this section of track two years ago. But the confines of the track leave them with little scope for major change.

The consequence of a puncture or suspension failure at this point on the track don’t bear thinking about. The pit entry barrier is amply padded but the deceleration involved in hitting it would be huge.

And while it’s daunting enough in the dry, in wet weather the spray from leading cars amplifies the danger exponentially. During Sunday’s race F1 had more than one near-miss right here.

When the drivers trailled around behind the Safety Car pre-race turn 19 was one of two corners Jenson Button singled out as the biggest trouble spots.

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“Visibility is non-existent,” he told his team on the radio. “Lots of standing water everywhere.”

“But the corners that really matter are turn five and obviously the last corner. Because obviously they’re completely blind as well with the spray.”

The race got underway but as the rain worsened a heavy crash for Marcus Ericsson at the similarly quick turn 14 brought out the Safety Car.

Jolyon Palmer, Renault, Interlagos, 2016
Palmer “couldn’t see his steering wheel” when he crashed
Meanwhile the rain continued to build and the slight banking at turn 15 was causing small rivers to flow across it, as Button reported on the radio. “The problem you have in the last corner, there’s so much running water all the way across the circuit,” he said. Despite growing concerns from the drivers about the conditions – Max Verstappen said he felt like he was “driving a boat” – the race restarted. But not for long.

As the cars reached turn 15 at racing speeds for the first time the two Mercedes passed through unscathed but Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari snapped out of control and struck the barrier on the right.

For a sickening moment Raikkonen was facing the pack rushing towards him. Only by swerving right at the last second did Esteban Ocon avoid a nightmare nose-to-nose shunt.

Meanwhile another astonishing near-miss was unfolding just a few metres away. As the pack slowed to avoid the carnage ahead Jolyon Palmer, running last, was trying to pass Daniil Kvyat on the inside of turn 15.

With Kvyat on his right and the turn 15 barrier coming up on his left, the unsighted Palmer was fortunate to avoid a much more serious accident. “The visibility was so bad that I couldn’t even see past my steering wheel,” Palmer recounted afterwards. “I didn’t see where the corner went, I knew that there was the pit wall and pit lane somewhere. I just couldn’t see anything.”

On the radio a furious Sebastian Vettel, who had just dodged his team mate’s crashed car, said the conditions were “mad”.

Kevin Magnussen, Renault, Interlagos, 2016
Visibility improved later on – but not by much
“We need to stop the race,” Vettel urged. “It doesn’t work. How many people do you want to crash? I nearly crashed into Kimi in the middle of the straight. Couldn’t see anything.” Unsurprisingly the race stopped.

The wet conditions made what was already one of F1’s most dangerous corners into an even greater risk on Sunday. The combination of surface water and dire visibility eventually tipped the balance from acceptable challenge to unacceptable hazard.

The line between the two conditions is narrow. Some have been quick to criticise race director Charlie Whiting and slow to appreciate the difficulties of getting this call right. Erring on the side of safety, particularly in the light of events at Suzuka two years ago, must always be the way to go.

Later on when the race resumed Nico Hulkenberg performed a dazzling feat of bravery at turn 15. He placed his car exactly where Palmer had his near-miss as he dived between Kevin Magnussen and the pit barrier to gain a position on a still-soaked track.

One of F1’s paradoxes is we want to be dazzled by these acts of driving brilliance but we also understand drivers must be protected from unacceptable risk. In Brazil F1 trod that fine line and thankfully emerged unscathed.

2016 Brazilian 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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  • 50 comments on “Why turn 15 was the danger spot in Brazil”

    1. Brazil has always been notorious for rivers, especially as it undulates so much – especially at that part of the circuit.

      Clearly certain areas which were problematic in the past (turn 3) no longer appear to be so problematic, but the run up the hill and the subsequent kinks remain an issue. The final kink especially reminds me of something seen on an oval, and there are very good reasons as to why races are not run in the wet on those.

      The track is also built on marshland, which does not really help. Whilst I do feel that Pirelli’s tyres are in part to blame, we had some scary shunts there before that era as well, again in 2003, so this is not new. I wonder if this would not have been quite as much of an issue had parc ferme regulations not been in place, and everyone was running a full wet setup.

    2. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      15th November 2016, 13:10

      I have to admit I was one of the people who thought it was silly to stop the race for so long. But after seeing Kimi and Palmer crashing, I realized Charlie was right.
      But, could Pirelli make tyres useful for these conditions? Or is that beyond engineering possibilities? I don’t want another driver dead, but F1 has become, especially during wet races, too conservative. And I’m not sure if regulations can find a balance between fun but dangerous and boring but safe.

      1. Let Pirelli test. Problem is small teams complain it is unfair as they cannot afford it but think big teams will get an unfair advantage so everyone has to have bad tyres. How can you make a good tyre without enough actual track time?

        1. They’ve had 6 years now. That’s a lot of track time. The “not enough time” excuse is wearing extremely thin.

          1. They’ve had 6 years now. That’s a lot of track time

            It’s disingenuous to say that they have had 6 years of track time. How much of that 6 years used full wets? A small percentage. Then on top of that consider that car development hasn’t been static for the last year, making it difficult to form useful conclusions from the scattered data they do have.

            1. Car development will never be static, a good tyre is a good tyre across a range of applications. The loads an F1 car would generate under wet conditions would not be greatly dissimilar to other vehicles, let alone the relatively minor rule changes between years (besides 13/14) as the speeds are obviously diminished.

              As for how much of that 6 years has been used in full wets? I don’t know (could be an interesting stat when compared to how much time other suppliers had to produce a workable wet tyre in the past), but there are a lot of cars on track when it has been, that’s a lot of data, and a lot of time they’ve had to extrapolate and develop from it.

              Could there be more time? Sure, maybe even there should be a stipulation to require teams to spend more time in Free Practice when it’s wet gathering data as opposed to sitting out. But that would be a tough sell.

              I’m just not convinced that Pirelli couldn’t produce a better wet tyre given the time they have had. It’s too easy for them to point fingers elsewhere (a lack of testing opportunity) considering there’s no competition working under the same conditions to compare to.

              They’ve been all too quick to place blame rather than admit they could be doing a better job, and vowing to work harder.

            2. Tristan, as far as I am aware, 2016 was the first year where the teams did actually undertake a meaningful amount of mileage in pre-season testing on the wet tyres.

              In 2014, out of the 12 days of pre-season testing, just one day was set aside for wet weather testing, which was the second day of testing at Jerez. Whilst the teams did rack up a total of 331 laps on that day, the track was only really wet for a few hours in the morning and most of the teams sat out the morning session (I think that Rosberg was the only driver who actually did any long stints on the wet and intermediate tyres that morning).

              If the teams had run throughout the day on the wet tyres, Pirelli might have had data from a bit less than 1,500km of testing – in reality they only had data from a few hundred kilometres of running, and virtually all of that came from just a single car and driver.

              Furthermore, that test data would have been corrupted by the fact that, since this was the first test, the teams were changing the cars throughout the day as new parts were trialled out or new set ups implemented, not to mention the natural variability caused by the fact that the weather conditions varied (starting out as wet initially, before becoming completely dry by late morning). At best, the data coming from that test would have been rather confused and inconsistent.

              In 2015, the problem was even worse – Pirelli pushed hard for a proper wet weather test under controlled conditions in pre-season testing, but the teams refused to co-operate and, despite the FIA writing a requirement for the teams to conduct at least one day of testing pre-season for wet weather tyres, those tests never took place as planned.

              This year, Pirelli was finally able to persuade the teams – for the first time under the current regulations – to undertake two days of wet weather testing under controlled conditions at Paul Ricard, using the sprinkler system fitted at the track to undertake tests using 2015 spec cars (chosen because they were in a known fixed configuration).

              However, even then Pirelli were limited by the amount of water which the circuit could pump onto the track to maintain those set conditions. In order to maintain reasonably consistent conditions throughout the test, they could only have three cars on track at the same time (one each from Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull), with each car running 10s behind the car in front and each car being limited to stints of around 10 laps.

              In total, Pirelli racked up about 2,300km of testing mileage in this years pre-season tests – the first time in several years that they actually managed to get a moderately useful amount of mileage, though still far less than what other tyre manufacturers used to rack up every year in the past. All in all, the amount of data that Pirelli has had at their disposal really isn’t as exhaustive as you might think it is – it’s pretty limited compared to what most manufacturers used to work with in the past.

            3. I’d love to get some insight, I think this is an area where greater transparency could go a long way in to understanding the issue.

              I just don’t understand why they can’t run for weeks if they want with cars that have near f1-like qualities. Is it a money thing, was Bernie too stingy in going for the cheapest offer? Isn’t there something in the contract that says they allowed to use cars more than 2 years old for testing?

              I dunno, maybe you’re right and Pirelli simply can’t do their job with what they have available. But then I don’t know why they’re staying mum about it when some drivers are unequivocally blaming the tyres. One would think this would be a great opportunity to raise the issue for further testing, even perhaps put the issue on the GPDA to try to use their clout to push for it.

              All I know is it does nobody any good for Brundle and co to be talking about how the sport has lost it’s way and how he could do it in his day, when it’s genuinely unsafe for them to be racing. Essentially goading accidents. Or maybe it does do the sport good, generating reactions, etc…

      2. Goodyear had a “monsoon” tyre in ’97 but was scrapped the following year as I think it was deemed to be redundant as any race requiring that level of water clearance wouldn’t start.

        1. @ Ed:
          It was still in use in 1998. No idea whether it was continued in 1999.

          1. I don’t believe the monsoon tyres were available in 1998, Pretty sure they were abandoned half way through 1997 as they were never used as conditions bad enough for the monsoon’s tended to be conditions that were unsuitable for allowing the cars to go out.

        2. It was theoretically available in 1998, in the sense that Goodyear was willing to provide them if needed but I’m not sure any got made, because of the determination @gt-racer mentions halfway through 1997 that they cleared too much water. As in, the amount of water the tyres would clear would cause aquaplaning on the underbody of the car.

          Similarly, the extreme wets Pirelli produce kick up so much spray that it’s not possible to see through them when conditions are bad enough to warrant them, unless running at Safety Car speed.

          1. There is a limit on everything: Pirelli could have made tires which can prevent aquaplaning further, but this would deteriorate visibility even further. If they want to race in such monsoon conditions, they’ll need to make wheel covers to deflect the spray. Another issue is the ride hight which limits the bottom clearance in the latter half of the car

    3. People keep talking about Bianchi and how F1 can’t have a repeat, yet it seems to have been largely forgotten that Bianchi’s death was caused by a tractor / crane in the run-off.

      1. @strontium It was, but remembering that does not mean forgetting other pertinent factors. Particularly when we’re talking about something as serious as someone being killed.

        1. That FIA report was a disgrace though @keithcollantine. The gravel and barrier were there because racing cars crash, and the crash would have been as harmless as Sutil’s, if the crane hadn’t been put in front of the tyre wall when everybody knew yellow flags get missed or ignored.

          Anyway this time it was all about visibility, not tyres. Doing 300kph with no vision. It’s insane but it won’t change until there’s a tragedy, unfortunately, because the will isn’t there. Humans aren’t very good at long-odds risks while they seem abstract.

      2. +1 to the tractor, still horrible but if they sent a safety car out he might still be racing.

      3. The barrier Keith noted in his article about Turn 15 might not be fatal in the sense a tractor would be, but hit the wrong way and serious injury would probably still ensue – and there were times when it, or a similarly bad accident elsewhere on the track, felt likely to happen with the way it seemed some were playing with fire. I think we can all agree we don’t want unnecessary serious injuries, any more than we would want an unnecessary death.

        1. Well we’ve seen high-energy impacts at direct angles into a tyre wall @alianora-la-canta, in Monaco with Max and in Spa with Kmag, and they walked away as per the design. Fact is FIA stuffed the Bianchi panel with insiders who took care to avoid identifying the very, very obvious primary factor in the head injury, because that crane deployment was the thing that could be laid at FIA’s door.

          So @strontium is absolutely correct. Now in the rain the issue is not tyres but visibility and spray, which is going to get worse next year. Let’s hope they don’t need any evasiveness about that.

        2. @alianora-la-canta

          I think we can all agree

          While I certainly agree, the booing from the fans and the commentators urging the race to start suggests otherwise.

          1. The crowds and commentators probably didn’t want unneccessary serious injuries either; they just didn’t perhaps see how that situation would have caused them the way that I, for example, did. This sort of judgement will always lead to differences of opinion regarding the cut-off point.

    4. From the onboards, it looked like there was a slight kerb on the inside of 15. The paint didn’t help, but the physics of water moving downhill means that it will pool against any raised surface as it continues downward. The drivers who spun there did so because they drove into that pool of water with their inside front wheel.

      Not to state the obvious, but if you want to stay safe through a wet turn 15, stay clear of the line.

      1. Really, its self-enforcing track limits. Let the racers race, they just need to realize the wet apex is wider than the dry one.

        1. Unfortunately, about half the F1 drivers didn’t appear capable of this over the course of 71 laps. Some were fortunate in being able to catch their errors, others weren’t. This suggests an overestimate of the general capabilities of F1 drivers by those deciding on which weathers F1 races in…

          1. Doesn’t matter who the driver is when you get aquaplaning, then you are just a passenger. It’s just luck if you can recover or not.

        2. They did let them race. And then people like Kimi and Alonso spun.

          They don’t spin because of lack of skill.

    5. While I understand the need for safety, there is one big point to raise: This is the pinnacle of motor sport. If the cars (and drivers) can’t handle those conditions, something is wrong. I have seen races with worse conditions conducted safely in the past.

      I would suggest that we need improvements to the rules, tyres, cars, and testing to enable the “best racing drivers in the world” to compete safety without having to stop the race.

      I also believe that F1 could easily have a fleet of “water clearers”: Cars/vehicles designed to circulate and clear the track safely, instead of “wasting” racing laps circulating at an ineffective speed behind the safety car.

      1. I have been a NASCAR super fan since I could walk and since tuning into F1 I’ve never understood why they don’t have something to at least get the standing water off the track before the race and during any red flags. It’s obviously different in the US as the Air Titans completely dry the track before it is deemed safe to return to but F1 should look at some sort of truck to sweep water or suck it off the surface to at least get raceable conditions back.

        1. Air Titans would be too loud for F1. They would have to develop quieter hybrid-Titans. Then the next season say that they would be too quiet ,the long time fans missed the scream of the prior version. ;)

          1. Hahahaha that made me crack up in a silent lunch room with about 25 lazy old co workers.

        2. F1 should look at some sort of truck to sweep water or suck it off the surface to at least get raceable conditions back

          There was a recent race* where they tried that. The trucks they used had little to no effect, and the commentators said that the F1 cars themselves were better at removing the water than the trucks.

          However, that’s not to say that it’s impossible to do this.

          * It could have been the Canadian GP a few years back which lasted over 4 hours due to stoppages.

          1. That was one of several races where it was tried, @drmouse. And you are correct that the organisers basically decided that there were few circumstances where they were an improvement over either running the cars or letting the track dry naturally.

            1. When it’s wet in Silverstone, they have road sweeps driving around hoovering up the water then dumping it off track.

              It’s hilarious especially when you have one road sweep clearing the tarmac run off and the next minute another one comes along and dumps is water right back on it again

      2. @drmouse There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just the reality of what an F1 car is.

        This is the pinnacle of motor sport

        While I certainly agree, I don’t agree the inference that it means they have to be good at dealing with wet weather. If you want them to be able to deal with wet whether, campaign for greater ride heights. You have to remember, that even in the wet an F1 car is very, very fast. It just happens that, well, they aquaplane and with so much power you get wheel slippage. The only way to make them deal with water better would be to slow them down.

        a fleet of “water clearers”

        Yeah, but, it’s rain. You’d need to have them going constantly to be useful, all over the track. It’s just not realistic.

    6. Jonathan Parkin
      15th November 2016, 16:59

      I still remember Stephane Sarrazin crashing at the pit lane kink in 1999. He spun heaven knows how many times. Didn’t bring out the SC though interestingly

      1. The crashes at the pit lane entrance were also potentially horrific. I was concerned that Massa had gotten out of his car too soon, after the earlier near misses.

    7. Hulkenbergs pass was a piece of beauty though. Sad he missed out on a deserved podium yet again

    8. I absolutely think Charlie was justified in delaying the race. It shouldn’t have started when it did, it was clearly not safe. And yet with the pressure from the crowds, what else can they do?

      I am simply of the opinion that the fans, as a group are shallow and do not consider the safety risks with the respect they deserve. Every time there is a wet race we get people complaining en masse about delays and safety cars.

      Frankly, I think the fans should be ignored when making safety related decisions.

      1. @mike – I agree with you about Charlie’s decisions.

        However, I wouldn’t be that harsh on the fans … at that time, the trackside fans (and some behind the TV) were probably just keen on viewing some action. In hindsight, at least some of them would have recognized the risk and accepted the delays, particularly after seeing the crashes at the pit entry and on that straight.

    9. OMG!!! BAn Interlagos now! So much risk! How on earth can we allow this to happen! The humanity!!! PLEASE STOP NOW!

      1. @psynrg Would you still be saying that if Kimi had of been hit by the Manor head on?

        1. @mike It’s impossible to say. Just as it’s impossible to place a value on acceptable risk. The term ‘acceptable risk’ is in itself as good as an oxymoron. Risk is risk. There are an infinite number of possibilities to what could happen when piloting anything above any speed which presents a risk of injury or death.

          We can suffer life threatening injuries by tripping up on a pavement. Or be strapped in a car – equipped with a fantastic array of protection measures – and survive a 150mph shunt into an object.

          This aversion and alarm to heightened risk scenarios does nobody any favours. Ocon wasn’t “just millimetres from Kimi”, it was probably about a metre, ah OK, a thousand millimetres then. Close for sure, but nobody knows what would have happened had there been contact. That’s just speculative hyperbole; Kimi’s decapitation to Ocon launching into the stands taking out 100s of spectators – just two of the ridiculous imaginings I’ve heard since Sunday.

          It’s all very well hyping up the danger element of F1, in order to drum up interest or site clicks. Misinformation like that just distorts the discussion and we end up with no races in the wet, or 75 laps behind the safety car.

          The drivers are willing participants after all (and I’d do anything to swap with Kimi on Sunday, of course!)

          1. @psynrg “Acceptable risk” cannot be an oxymoron; your second paragraph contradicts that notion. In any case, at some level “acceptable risk” has to exist because if F1 really tried ignoring that notion, it would get banned worldwide – as motorsports was for a very long time in Switzerland. (And the main dangers in an Ocon/Raikkonen collision would have been from debris hitting other people and the amount of energy going through their survival cells, in case you are wondering).

          2. @psynrg Acceptable risk simple means risk you are ok with and risk you are not.

            While Ocon may have been a “meter” away, which frankly is a bit ambitious to say, simply put it doesn’t matter, if Kimi can spin to the side, he could also have landed in the middle, or another car could have been further over than the Manor. You simply can’t say “well it didn’t happen so it was fine”, it was absolutely not fine. We very nearly had a very serious accident.

            Regarding the crash, if you’re trying to argue that a head on collision at the speed they were going is ok, then I’m afraid I have to categorically disagree.

            The drivers in the 50’s where willing participants as well. Saying that it makes such risk ok is a cop out. It’s not. Bianchi was willing, does that make the risk posed by the tractor ok? No, absolutely not.

      2. Saying that from the safety of your own couch is easy, isn’t it? While you might not care, luckily there are plenty of those who do.

        Risks for a major crash were there (aquaplaning and zero visibility), it’s just pure luck that Ocon did not hit Kimi. F1 racing will always include risks, but having drivers to drive with zero visibility through section where multiple drivers already spun out due aquaplaning, is just too much. Do think the race control did a good job under the pressure they were.

        If you think what Bianchi’s death meant to F1, you can try to imagine if we lost both Ocon and Kimi. We can have better races in safer circumstances.

        1. @blackbox I’d have happily swapped with any of those drivers on Sunday, if I had the money I would have paid for the privilege!

          Imagine the awesome thrill of hurtling around Interlagos in those conditions at nearly 200mph? That’s the whole point!

          I commute a bike in London every morning and evening of a weekday. I think I’m at greater risk doing that – but it’s nowhere near as thrilling, that’s for sure.

          So I guess we need to stop pointing guns at drivers and their families? Give them instead a free choice as to whether they want to drive, or not. Of course that’s ridiculously facetious, the drivers do it ‘cos they love it, and you’d find plenty that would do it in T-shirt and shorts without a helmet given the chance (yep, that’s me signed up anyway!)

    10. Agree it was borderline unacceptable last Sunday. That could easily have been a black weekend for F1.

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