F1 2019 screenshot: Abbey reverse

Why a reverse race around Silverstone isn’t realistic

2020 F1 season

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One of the more unusual suggestions which has been made as a result of the disruption to the 2020 F1 season caused by the global pandemic is that Silverstone could run a race in the opposite direction around the track.

Why might this be necessary? The idea came up in an interview Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle gave last week, while discussing steps the promoter could take in order to hold more than one round of the world championship if needed.

Formula 1 is anxious to begin its heavily delayed season as soon as possible. But it remains to be seen when that can happen and how easily it and its 10 teams, distributed across Britain, Italy, France and Switzerland, may be able to assemble at the same venue.

With the majority of teams based at Silverstone, one option for the championship could involve holding multiple races at the home of the British Grand Prix. Running the track backwards was proposed as a means of offering different layouts at the same venue.

Luffield reverse
Luffield would be approached it high speed in reverse
On the face of it this does look like an ingeniously simple way of creating a completely different layout. But realistically there are practical reasons, some of which may not be immediately obvious, which make such an option unlikely.

As the video below illustrates, reversing the direction of travel for the cars would mean all of the run-off areas and barriers need to be reappraised. While Silverstone has generous amounts of run-off in places, the orientation of its run-off areas is not necessarily suitable for cars running in the opposite direction. Copse, pictured top, which cars would approach at near-top speed, is a good example.

Pit lane entrances and exits are another problem, as these involve solid structures which separate cars from people. The barriers around them have to be configured in such a way to minimise danger to drivers. Reverse the direction at which cars approach them and clear problems follow. And at Silverstone this challenge is doubled as the circuit has two pit and paddock complexes.

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But the strongest argument against resorting to a reversed layout is there are better options available. Silverstone already has other track configurations available which F1 could use with potentially much less difficulty.

The International circuit uses the same pit and paddock as the grand prix track, and cuts out part of the circuit by connecting Village corner to Becketts. Alternatively the National circuit, which is based at the old pit and paddock, uses an entirely different series of bends.

Although both circuits are shorter than the minimum track length stipulated by the FIA for Formula 1 races, a dispensation could be made given the highly unusual circumstances. Both options would likely require little if any changes in order for F1 cars to race on them safely.

They would also offer further advantages in the event races have to be held ‘behind closed doors’. As both are considerably shorter than typical F1 tracks, fewer marshals would be needed, allowing the sport to reduce the total number of staff it needs to hold an event. This could prove vital as ‘social distancing’ measures and restrictions on the size of public gatherings are expected to be eased incrementally.

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Video: Could F1 really race Silverstone backwards?

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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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33 comments on “Why a reverse race around Silverstone isn’t realistic”

  1. Yeah, “reverse layouts” require a lot of temporary infrastructure. Openings in barriers, for example, which are needed for access, are asymmetric with regards to direction. You could design them to be adjustable with temporary barriers, but it takes a lot of work. The only example of a reversable layout at a modern near F1 grade track is the Indy road course, which ran IndyCars clockwise and MotoGP anticlockwise.

    Silverstone would need significant work at almost every corner and would be a worse circuit for it. You’d be replacing permanent infrastructure with temporary, it would cost money to maintain, it’d be a novelty for five minutes then forgotten.

  2. This is what I’ve been pointing out the whole time. The short half-track length International and National layouts would indeed be better alternatives to changing the running direction. BTW, It’s across England, Switzerland, and Italy. No team has their factory in France, only the Renault engine-department facility, which isn’t the same as the team-factory in Enstone. Furthermore, only RP has its base in Silverstone, not the rest of the six England-based teams to be precise, and the corner above in the top image is actually Abbey, not Copse.

    1. @jerejj, Sure racing point may be the only team actually in the grounds of silverstone but the other 6 are nearby, MacLaren being the outlier, south of London.

      1. @hohum True, except for Mclaren based in Woking, they’re all quite close to the track with Mercedes in Brackley, RBR in Milton Keynes, Renault in Enstone, Williams in Grove, and Haas in Banbury.

  3. I still think it’s a silly idea, but the amount of work involved is overstated. Reprofiling access points needs a few piles of tyres and plastic barriers. Corners without run off need a chicane on the preceding straight, and so on.

    It’s mostly no big deal, but there’s no reason to th ink it’ll lead to good racing.

  4. Maybe the International or National circuit could be linked to the GP track at some point with some new tarmac. For sure having multiple GP’s at Silverstone would be a good idea. Also maybe use another UK track like Donington? And at Paul Ricard in France, multiple layouts are very easy to realize. It would make some GP’s possible in a relative short timeframe as the traveling is limited for most teams putting less stress on personnel.

    But first this Corona issue needs to be fully plunder control and I think that might take another 3 or 4 months at least..

    1. But first this Corona issue needs to be fully plunder control and I think that might take another 3 or 4 months at least.

      A smart orange guy in he USofA has found a medicine; we can all go back to normal life now.

      1. Right after we see pigs flying i think

  5. Running Silverstone in reverse was a 2017 April’s Fools day joke by the BRDC. They even made a video about it with Jason Plato, Jolyon Palmer and Rob Smedley playing along. Worth a google and a giggle.

    Obvious as it was back then, I wonder why people fell for it this time?

    1. I found the video at www . twitter . com/i/status/848066161509924864

  6. antony obrien
    6th April 2020, 10:33

    I agree, the reverse track looked amazing …because it was terrifying. Copse would probably have to be renamed ‘Corpse’ .

    It does get the conversation going though. I don’t know why we cant have the Saturday evening short race then a reverse grid on Sunday or some such innovation. Lets have some fun with it, 2020 is a right off and my guess is Silverstone wont happen but if it does, we can for once be unshackled by vested interests, political infighting and lets face it middle aged white men who don’t like change.

  7. antony obrien
    6th April 2020, 10:34

    Bart. Maybe they fell for it because they did it on April 2nd

    1. Well, the egg was laid on the 1st when motorsport . com posted a video of a F1 car doing Silverstone in reverse in F1 2019.
      www . motorsport . com/f1/video/reverse-silverstone-lap-in-f1-2019/463965/
      Published on April 1, 2020.

      1. antony obrien
        6th April 2020, 10:46

        No Press Release till the 2nd…Not an April fool joke. Anyway im not going to labour it further. The answer to your question is it wasn’t seen by the masses till 2nd April.

  8. Why not just run two races there – let’s forget all the silly gimmicks. If we need to run multiple races at a track then just run multiple races.

    1. @dbradock – indeed. I would not complain if we had two races – even on identical layouts – at the good tracks. It’d be twice the entertainment.

      1. antony obrien
        6th April 2020, 11:38

        And if the first one is at Paul Ricard levels of enjoyment?

        1. Well, we’ve had boring races at even the good venues in recent times. That’s a chance that must be taken. Even if the race isn’t exciting in racing terms, we can take some solace in seeing today’s high-downforce cars blasting through the fast sweepers.

    2. @dbradock To me, that would be the sensible idea.

      Use the last (or only, if there’s to be a 2-day event also) practise the qualifying event, run a half-length Grand Prix in the qualifying slot (for ease of TV) and the standard-length Grand Prix in the usual place and time. Bonus: the support paddock could continue to have their races with minimal alteration to the schedules – only changes compelled by any switch to a 2-day version would be necessary.

    3. I’d run 3 races on 3 subsequent days (or if that’s too much: Sun/Wed/Sun).
      Each race on a single tyre compound, no mandatory pit stops.
      This might eek out relative strengths and weaknesses on various cars.

  9. The reverse track idea is just one big red herring, changing the track is unnecessary, each race will be different anyway (even if LH wins them all). Expanding on my suggestion of 14 March, it would be best if races were run on the weekends of cancelled races, this would be the least disruptive for TV schedules and would more closely mimic the regular season, excitement and suspense building over the months. If they wanted to, F1 could even time shift the broadcasts to correspond to the local race time of the cancelled event.
    The proximity of the factories (and temporary bases for AR,AT,FER) together with the size and facilities of Silverstone are what make it possible to run races with minimal crew at the track.

  10. Keith Crossley
    6th April 2020, 13:35

    When I read “reverse race… Silverstone” my mind immediately went back to 1962 and an all Mini race with celebs and GP drivers. Before the start the announcer observed Graham Hill driving round the grid, speaking to the others. When the flag dropped the entire field took off – in reverse!

  11. Silverstone already has other track configurations available which F1 could use with potentially much less difficulty.

    Well, that sounds encouraging. I guess the next steps are to see how difficult “potentially much less difficult” really is, and what is the plan for a team?

    1. @drycrust You can see the other 2 layouts here, I don’t either are especially appealing & nor do I think they would be able to produce good racing.

      1. @stefmeister – well, that is underwhelming, and I agree with your opinion. It’s just the bigger layout split into two. And I was thinking until now that it would be some noticeably different layout.

  12. Another issue with running it in reverse would be a lack of overtaking opportunities.

    Right now overtaking is possible at Village, Brooklands, Copse, Stowe & Vale. And we also tend to see cars able to continue fighting down to the next corners.

    However in reverse overtaking becomes less possible as most of the corners at the end of the straights are now fast but fairly tight kinks where a dive up the inside wouldn’t be possible unless you were well alongside well before you get there. I think the only truly realistic spot would be into Luffield but given how fast Copse is & how easy to position the car defensively through woodcote would be getting close enough to be in a position to have a go would be a bit too hard perhaps.

    I think you would have similar issues on other circuits runs in reverse.

    1. In terms of running another configuration. Aside from been too short I don’t think either option is especially appealing. Both cut out the best sequence of corners & I don’t see the racing on either been especially good.


  13. Surely the biggest problem with a reverse race is that F1 cars don’t have a reverse gear?

  14. Stephen Higgins
    6th April 2020, 22:42

    Has anyone ever tried to INTENTIONALLY design a circuit that can be run in both directions ??

    1. Curious about this thing too

    2. @paeschli Kockhill & Slovakiaring are both designed to be run in either direction.

      1. Knockhill.

    3. There’s plenty of older circuits, or circuits with a lower grade of safety, that include reverse layouts. I recall a few South American ones.

      One particular one was Manfeild in New Zealand, which used to be licenced to run in reverse. Several national meetings were run that way; I vaguely remember one year both directions were used in the same season.

      But it’s not licenced for reverse running anymore because they upgraded things like barriers. If you look at the old clips of it being run in reverse (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7zfl60bY3E )there were a number of issues with it even then, but honestly the safety standards weren’t great even in the normal direction

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