Pierre Gasly, Red Bull, Hockenheimring, 2019

“Poor design” of drag strip run-off criticised by drivers

2019 German Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

Charles Leclerc’s criticism of the drag strip run-off where he crashed at the Hockenheimring has been echoed by other drivers who went off at the same part of the circuit.

Leclerc said the run-off, which forms part of a drag strip at the circuit, was “very slippery” and “unacceptable”. Lewis Hamilton, who hit the turn 16 barrier where Leclerc went off on the same lap as the Ferrari driver, said the surface of the run-off was “like ice”.

“Normally it would be gravel,” said Hamilton. “I don’t feel any particular way about it [but] if it’d been gravel I probably wouldn’t have gone as far and I would have been able to come back on.

“But pretty poor design, that aspect of the track, I would say.”

Carlos Sainz Jnr also went off at the same point on the track earlier in the race, without hitting anything. “I was probably one of the only ones not to put it in the wall after touching it,” he said.

Sainz expects drivers will race the matter with FIA race director Michael Masi this weekend. “For us it was a very costly mistake to put a tyre there,” he said.

“I guess it will be discussed in the drivers’ meeting. But at the same time I think it made the race a bit more exciting. I paid my price for going there.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“Instead of that maybe you can put gravel and I would be very happy,” said Sainz. “But it’s a drag strip.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hockenheimring, 2019
Hamilton also went off at the same corner
“It’s on the limit but it was the same for everyone at the same time. I didn’t put it in the wall so I was happy. At the point I thought I was the only stupid guy to spin there and I was so frustrated with myself. But then I saw a lot of people doing it.”

However Masi had no concerns about the performance of the run-off. “The drag strip looks fine,” he said when asked by Racefans. “We inspected it the other day and had a look again post-race with the water on it. It’s fine.”

“Put water on painted run-off and as much as you can do anything to make sure that it’s anti-slip paint, it’s still more slippery than what unpainted Tarmac is,” he added.

Masi pointed out drivers have previously asked for run-off areas to offer “consequences” for running wide. “Credit where credit’s due, all 20 drivers have been very consistent in their views if they run off-track there should be consequences, so to speak,” he said.

“Maybe straight after a race they might have a different view the way that it’s affected them. But sitting down with them individually and as a group that’s been their consistent view and it hasn’t changed.”

The problem is likely to be rendered moot next year Hockenheimring does not currently have a place on the 2020 F1 calendar.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2019 F1 season

Browse all 2019 F1 season articles

Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

Posted on Categories 2019 F1 season articles, 2019 German Grand Prix, F1 newsTags , ,

Promoted content from around the web | Become a RaceFans Supporter to hide this ad and others

  • 58 comments on ““Poor design” of drag strip run-off criticised by drivers”

    1. My grandmother would have known to keep off that shiny patch in the wet. Send them all back to driving school.

      1. +1

        Track limits are defined for a purpose; it’s simple, stay within them. Teach them to keep it within the track-edge white paint and then penalise them if they don’t. Perhaps allow a pre-determined *number of times they can go onto / over the white paint during a race, but once they exceed that number, start imposing penalties. Make the *number consistent for all races, so that everyone knows in advance what the tolerance threshold is.

        If a track is too narrow at some point, perhaps it could be re-profiled and re-marked. Unless / until it is, keep the car within the white lines.

        1. ^^^ penalties = time penalties

        2. You’ve got it completely backwards. In dry races, i.e. most races, this run-off area would NOT penalise them for going off, while gravel would; and in wet races, gravel would still penalise them. So what they’re proposing, for safety reasons, would actually penalise mistakes MORE.

      2. Well it is fun to see only the ones who finished the race in corner 16, or suffered from it, are the ones who are complaining.
        I think it was great to have such a run off there, because you couldn’t ride normal lines now. You had to race clean from turn 11 (Mobil 1) all the way to turn 1 (Nordkurve). But most problems occured by a mistake in either 13 or 14. Hamilton, Sainz, LeClerc, Hulkenberg and others understeered out of that corner. Verstappen oversteered out of turn 13, same goes for turn 1 with Hamilton and Bottas.
        But only for turn 13, this was forgiven. The rest was too risky to go that hard through the corners. Hamilton was extremely lucky at turn 1.
        But this is what you want. The areas should be race ending in some cases. If there was a gravel trap during this race, there were not so many drivers trying to go hard through the corner. So less action. Next year in the rain that will be different.
        I think @krommenaas has a valid point that in dry condition this corner with run off is still a risk. I’m still waiting for a 1999 Michael Schumacher British GP moment, where someone hits the barrier just by brake failure and this run off isn’t slowing down. This kind of accident is going to happen sooner or later and then the gravel (or something else) will come back.

    2. Well Carlos, Kimi slipped out and didn’t hit anything. Nor complain about it afterwards.
      It’s like he’s a professional or something

    3. James Coulee
      1st August 2019, 8:40

      It’s not fine because if a car has a problem at full speed before the corner, that run-off won’t slow him down a km/h before crashing the barriers, and that’s what it’s there for.

      1. James Coulee
        1st August 2019, 8:42

        (Nor allow any sort of control before the crash, which is equally bad.)

      2. I agree. While I think it’s their fault for running out of the track, safety wise that thing is unacceptable. If instead of putting a tyre off track someone had a brake failure or anything of the sort they would have crashed straight into that wall.

        1. It’s not their fault for running off the track, they were put on the wrong tires at the wrong time. The rain had stopped some but came back around the time LEC pitted for slicks. HAM’s strategists were forced to put him on slicks because of the time that would be lost if he pitted under green rather than under SC.

      3. I also agree, this is the only valid reason it should be changed, unless it is the aim to “punish” drivers more in the dry for going off.

        1. I disagree completely. Taking this viewpoint, let’s then consider the very high number of places around all the venues they use, where if a car has, for example, a brake problem at high speed it will hit a wall having hardly been slowed down by a runoff. That’s why they use tire barriers in many places, but sometimes it’s just a hard wall. They can only do so much at some venues, and otherwise it’s racing, and the cars are stronger and safer than ever. I’m not being flippant about driver safety, just pointing out the reality.

      4. Yeah, that’s my feeling too: either there’s runoff/gravel/something else to slow them down (especially in tricky conditions?!) or not, and then it is a potential safety issue.

    4. Hakk The Rack
      1st August 2019, 8:51

      This is pure Formula 1, strict from it’s own DNA. You fail to make a corner, you’re out of the race. Senna, Mansell, Prost, Piquet, Hakkinen and others knew this rule very well. Then came this run-offs as a reaction after Senna’s crash.

    5. Funny that they’re more than happy to drive over it when it’s dry.

    6. Charles Leclerc’s criticism of the drag strip run-off where he crashed at the Hockenheimring has been echoed by other drivers who went off at the same part of the circuit.

      I think that sums it up pretty nicely. Those who suffered complain, those who didn’t don’t complain.

      1. What would they complain about? If they never went off at that corner in the wet how would they even know what it was like?
        Whilst driving to a delta Hamilton went off and hit the same barrier that Leclerc was walking alongside. Seems we are OK with that, but I’d cut Leclerc some slack given what happened to his godfather.
        And call me cynical but if Leclerc had chosen to walk the other way and was collected by Hamilton this article would be full of hand wringing and a deep search for some scapegoats.

        1. @riptide

          What would they complain about? If they never went off at that corner in the wet how would they even know what it was like?

          Well we know what it was like, we have an opinion about it and we never went off at that corner too.

          1. So your ‘complain’ is now ‘opinion’? Make up you mind. And yes, some others do have an opinion. Just because this site chooses not to give them doesn’t negate that fact.

            1. @riptide I agree with your concern about Leclerc walking there. It was indeed a dangerous situation. But it was Leclerc who causes the dangerous situation in the first place. Why is he walking slowly on the runoff during the race? He knew how slippery it was.

              What I meant was that those who crashed in that area thought it was too dangerous. I question their objectivity. I am curious if the other drivers (that stayed on track) didn’t mind about the slippery runoff, or that they did mind but weren’t asked or added in the article.

          2. That has come across as a bit abrupt. Not meant to be.

            1. @riptide Thanks for adding that.

    7. Michael Brown
      1st August 2019, 9:20

      Build a wall there instead

    8. In the rain, the run off area didn’t do what it’s supposed to do: reduce the speed and let the driver regain control of their car in such a way that they are slower then when following the race-track.

      On the other hand we’re talking about the elite drivers here and even I could see the mirror-like reflections which would indicate it would be super slippery.

      1. Elite drivers and the unpredictable conditions of rain amounts to a lottery.
        The fact Hamilton ran wide while running at the safety car pace indicates no driver is ever in total control in such situations as we had that race.
        A driver could hit a puddle on the race track and end up on the slippery stuff.
        The only conclusion is that, what is designed as safe in dry conditions is not always safe in wet conditions. Hence the FIA should not do track inspections on only dry days.

        1. The FIA does track inspections on every day, like they did last sunday…. when it was raining…

          1. StefMeister (@stefmeister)
            1st August 2019, 11:09

            I think that in an era of constant complaining about track limits & running wide not punishing drivers enough everyone has forgotten what the purpose of runoff areas is actually supposed to be.

            The purpose of runoff areas be it grass, gravel or tarmac was never simply to punish mistakes it’s supposed to be there for safety to slow cars down to prevent them hitting the barriers with as much force as they otherwise would & the purpose of tarmac is also meant to give drivers an opportunity to get the car under control & continue on.

            A runoff area that is so slippery that more often than not it fails to slow cars down & also seems to just drive them into a barrier even at slow speeds with little/no possibility for drivers to recover control isn’t doing the job it’s supposed to be doing.

    9. They are asking for gravel, give them gravel

    10. My favourite corner now.

      It would be cool to have a mod for the F1 game where there would be a sheer cliff to a lava pit at the edge of the entire track. Just dont go off track!! Could be a cool race online.

    11. I agree with them. Let’s fine Tilke €5,000. Problem solved.

    12. Gravel works because the car decelerates no matter the conditions.
      The drag strip there was like an extra hazard helping only to slide assist the cars into the wall. So yes it’s poorly designed in the case of a wet race.

      Leclerc had 2 excursions already there before he crashed into the wall. I think he probably deserved that one for being so careless. Think about this he went from having a real shot at winning the race to DNF and losing the maximum points possible in the championship battle with VET and VER.

      1. Gravel doesn’t always work. Cars sometimes skip over gravel like a stone skipping on water. Gravel is only effective at relatively low speeds.

        1. T16 is relatively slow speed. Gravel would work great there Imho.

    13. Strange reasoning of Hamilton there. If it was gravel, 9 out of 10 times he would’ve beached it and could pack up and go home. Now he may have hit a wall, but was still able to bring it in, get some repairs done and finish.

    14. Is this not the same piece of track mentioned here by Lando Norris? https://www.racefans.net/2019/07/31/racefans-round-up-31-07-2/
      Lando says it was dangerous but decided not to ‘let on’ because he thought it could serve him with a racing advantage.

      So from my side I knew that straight away, obviously I’m not going to tell anyone because I’ll let them try it out. But every person that made a small mistake, just lost the rear or under-steered a bit into the last two corners, went onto the drag strip and you just see the fricking… it’s like you accelerate, nothing you can do.

      A few years ago, I think I remember watching a wet DTM race here and the cars deliberately swept out as wide as possible onto the drag strip on order to open out the curve. From what I remember they all did it safely, rapidly and spectacularly. So has the surface deteriorated, was the rain stronger or are F1 wets not as adhesive as DTM’s were?

      1. No, Lando, Hamilton and Leclerc were doing it during practice. Even in the dry the risk is high and the reward low-just a fraction of a second along the pit straight. You have to hit the kerbing perfectly right.

      2. @nickwyatt – I think yes, it’s the same stretch that Lando referred to.

    15. That bit of run-off was perfect. It wouldn’t work at a high-speed corner, but I’d be happy to see that kind of tarmac (kept wet) on slower or medium-speed corners (with dry tarmac/gravel further out) to enforce track limits.

      Perhaps they could run a competition… design a system that maintains a slippery, wet section of tarmac for several hours without causing flooding to nearby kerbing and track surfaces.

    16. I think that in an era of constant complaining about track limits & running wide not punishing drivers enough everyone has forgotten what the purpose of runoff areas is actually supposed to be.

      The purpose of runoff areas be it grass, gravel or tarmac was never simply to punish mistakes it’s supposed to be there for safety to slow cars down to prevent them hitting the barriers with as much force as they otherwise would & the purpose of tarmac is also meant to give drivers an opportunity to get the car under control & continue on.

      A runoff area that is so slippery that more often than not it fails to slow cars down & also seems to just drive them into a barrier even at slow speeds with little/no possibility for drivers to recover control isn’t doing the job it’s supposed to be doing.

      1. You’re right, however, you haven’t included the element that this was a wet race. Shall we now analyze and rethink all runoff areas at all tracks for their wet condition performance? I’m sure this is not the only runoff that would be slippery when wet, like grass runoffs for eg. and undoubtedly other tarmac runoffs. Sometimes there is very little distance from the track to a wall via a runoff, and sometimes there’s just a wall. When it rains the consequences change, including on painted parts of tracks.

      2. Good point @stefmeister

        I think a lot of people (myself included) took pleasure at seeing a punishment finally handed down for running wide, after numerous races where either nothing happened, or the FIA took some limp-wrist action.

        Like you said, it became apparent to me when watching F1’s top 10 clips just how slippery that stretch was, because the drivers were literally passengers on it, no matter what speed they hit it at.

        From a safety perspective, that likely needs addressing. From a rules perspective, I’m still hoping and waiting for stricter action when breaching track limits.

        1. The ‘good news’ about this situation is that at least in the wet the cars were going much slower than had it been dry.

          I like Masi’s response, basically, there is nothing wrong with the ‘drag strip’ and drivers consistently have asked for consequences for going wide. So basically, nothing to see here.

    17. If it had been a wall like Monaco how many would have hit it?

      They knew it was perilously slippy, the best drivers in the world should have been more cautious.

      1. If it had been a wall like Monaco how many would have hit it?

        @philipgb – blame the others all you want, but you’ve got to appreciate Leclerc. He was consistent at both tracks ;)

    18. The F1 grid right now is such a bunch of hypocrites.
      ‘Let us race!!’ – ‘Why is that not a penalty?’
      ‘Mistakes should have consequences!!’ – ‘Tracks should be very forgiving!!’

      These things are contradictory. And it just shows that drivers want something in theory but can’t take it in practice. And it’s very disappointing. It’s the old chesnut from football: ‘sign some players!’ – ‘not that player!’

      1. The F1 grid right now is such a bunch of hypocrites.

        Exactly and the reason is obvious: self-interest. This is exactly why drivers shouldn’t be involved in the rulemaking. Consulted? Maybe, but they shouldn’t have real influence.

    19. The runoff (read dragstrip) gives, in dry weather, actually more grip than the track itself. So the best way anytime is to stay on the track. Either punishment by the marshalls or by the track. Easy.

    20. I don’t see anything wrong with it, maybe install a gutter to drain the water a bit.

      1. I don’t see anything wrong here either. Grass would have been just as slippery, gravel would have beached cars and a wall would have had even more direct consequences.

        So, unless you want track limits to be a joke and all tracks to be like Paul Ricard, consequences for going off is exactly the way it should be.

      2. Further to this thought, the incidents seemed to be fairly benign with, iirc, two out of three escaping and the one more trapped by gravel than damaged.

    21. I learned a whole different lesson from that runoff. If all the runoffs had a strip that was that slippery surrounding the circuit we’d see a lot less corner cutting and no need to bother the stewards. Everybody wins.

    22. And, in other news, the Montreal “Wall of Champions” has been called a “poor design”. Or, is that a “great one”?

      1. It’s a “great one”!

    23. These drivers seems to have a hard time understanding what the term “Track Limits” means…

      One week, they are complaining about drivers going off the track and gaining an advantage. There should be penalties for that!
      Then they complain about getting penalties. There should be gravel traps!
      Then gravel gets dragged onto the track causing safety cars. Get rid of gravel!
      Walls are dangerous!
      Curbs are hurting our dainty cars!
      Asphalt is too slippery!
      Ashphalt is too grippy and fast!

      It just goes on and on. To me, first point is ‘Drivers are expected to stay within the track limits. If you don’t, you get what you get.’ Second is ‘Track design should both be as safe as possible for the drivers, and should punish those who exceed track limits where possible’. And lastly, if you do exceed track limits in qualifying AT ANY PLACE, that time is deleted.

    24. Make every runoff using that material!

    25. It is funny how things been read differently each week. If Hamilton wouldn’t been of the track and hit the wall, that time everybody would say this tarmac run-off area is completely dangerous. But, Hamilton gone off, so they now have to say tarmac run-off at that point is OK, Hamilton souldn’t gone off. Just remember, at the beginning it was the same Hamilton who wanted to start the race in that conditions.
      Dirvers wants GRAVEL instead of TARMAC. Behave yourselves, that’s also what us fans want.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
    If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.