Remove chicane at Catalunya to improve races – Russell

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 should stop using the chicane at the Circuit de Catalunya to improve races at the track, according to new Grand Prix Drivers Association director George Russell.

The Williams driver wants to use his GPDA role to improve racing in Formula 1.

“Good races attract more fans,” he told RaceFans in an exclusive interview. “It shows F1 in its best light.

“The racing probably hasn’t been good enough as a whole over the past probably 20 years to be honest. Maybe not pure enough either.

“The times we see good racing is when there’s a big tyre delta between the cars, otherwise you just can’t overtake or race. [We’re] trying to find a way that we can propose and put forward almost like a target letter towards F1, towards Pirelli, say this is what we need from the cars, this is what we need from the tyres, this is what we need from the circuits to promote good racing.”

Circuit de Catalunya track map, 2019
Circuit de Catalunya track map
A tight chicane was added prior to the final corner at the home of the Spanish Grand Prix in 2007. The original section of track still exists and is used by other racing series.

Russell believes F1 should revert to the previous sequence to make it easier for drivers to follow each other closely.

“The circuit offers pretty poor racing and the races there are always pretty dull,” he said. “On the whole, we think that if the circuit were to return to the last two corners that there were 15 years ago, the two fast corners, you’d actually be able to follow slightly closer, you’d be coming onto the straight at a higher speed, the slipstream effect will be greater all the way down to turn one.

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Turn 10, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Feature: Catalunya’s new turn 10 has more gravel run-off and “historical” shape
“For the fans, you’re seeing the cars a much higher speed. For the drivers, you’re going round an incredibly quick corner, which is exciting. It’s a win-win. And that’s an easy fix to a circuit that is pretty poor.”

The sequence was originally changed following an FIA request to reduce the speed of the cars as they arrived on the pit straight on safety grounds. Removing the chicane would have “safety implications”, Russell acknowledged.

The current configuration of the circuit is homologated by the FIA for use by F1 and any revised version would have to be re-inspected.

“It’s not quite as simple as saying ‘right, let’s change this circuit and revert’,” said Russell. “But this is something that could be done as of next year.”

The track is due to hold the Spanish Grand Prix on May 9th. The circuit’s turn 10 has been revised for this year’s race, bringing it closer in design to the original version of the corner, before it was tightened.

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60 comments on “Remove chicane at Catalunya to improve races – Russell”

  1. Hi there!

    Hasn’t turn 10 changed for this year’s race?

    1. (the track map of the article is just a bit outdated).

      BTW, I totally agree with the GPDA. The chicane effectively reduced last turn speed, but was back in the day when there was no DRS nor KERS.

      Today’s cars might not need that chicane to be able to prepare an overtake in the main straight.

  2. Hard to disagree with the logic. I don’t recall, but wasn’t the section changed on safety grounds? Hard to justify undoing it, if it was.

    1. @sham I recall it was to try and improve overtaking.

      1. @sham @jerejj Yes I think it was to help overtaking as this track had worse statistics than Monaco, which means it was in reality the worst track of all (of history?).

        1. @balue Monaco is definitely the hardest for overtaking on paper. The other temporary tracks, Circuit de Catalunya, Hungaroring, Sochi Autodrom, Yas Marina Circuit, etc., have all better passing opportunities, even if only a single proper one at some.

          1. @jerejj This was before DRS. I think Monaco had more overtakes than Catalunya pre-chicane. It was a disaster. Almost didn’t bother to watch races then. Even with DRS overtakes is still rare now.

    2. Usually the safety argument is used after the original argument (improve racing) didn’t work. It is a very nasty, tight chicane with no flow whatsoever.

    3. I think both. The real question is, what are Russell’s intentions?

  3. Maybe the revised turn 10 should incite drivers to go for a move on the outside lines of the corner cause that would mean the inside lines for the next corner… But long sweeping corners are the type of corners where the dirty air effect is at the highest.

  4. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    23rd April 2021, 8:00

    Time for more drastic action I think

    My Circuit Redesign. Click me

    1. You’ve kept the chicane in!

      I like the concept though – the flat-out run down to what is currently turn 10 would be terrifyingly good fun – and I don’t think you’d even need to demolish any grandstands.

    2. I think the issue you’ll have is bypassing so many spectator zones. This was one of the issues with bypassing the Mistral chicane @ Paul Ricard.

      1. @ecwdanselby Not an issue in Circuit de Catalunya’s S3 as people on the surrounding stands would still get (and got pre-2007) enough time for car viewing.
        The Mistral straight, yes, using its entire length would have this effect. Eric Boullier used this specific argument against skipping chicane, albeit an alternative chicane version is possible.

    3. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk No offense, but just looks like a ‘mickey mouse’ section with no overtaking fix.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        24th April 2021, 6:08

        No offence taken!

        I just thought the old turn 10 would be a better overtaking opportunity arriving there faster. A slower turn one would have the same effect. Yes the first section is a bit mickey mouse, but that was about using as much of the old track as possible.

        Whether the chicane is used or not would have little effect on overtaking.

        It won’t happen, but all good fun.

  5. That chicane should never have been designed.

  6. Remove every artificially added chicane that was added to remove speed.
    Imola, monza, Spa without the chicanes could be incredibly spectacular.
    And then while they are at it remove Casio Triangle at Suzuka, that’s one horrible chicane breaking the flow of the track.

    Reply moderated
    1. Remove Bottas from Mercedes and improve races – Russell

  7. “It’s not quite as simple as saying ‘right, let’s change this circuit and revert’,” said Russell. “But this is something that could be done as of next year.”

    I don’t get it. Not that simple, let’s do it anyway!

    1. How could it be more easy? The Motogp guys use the ‘old’ corner. It is already there!

    2. I think TecPro generally appears to be the answer.

    3. As long as Baku holds a Grade 1 license i am unable to see the safety issue

    4. someone or something
      23rd April 2021, 13:20

      @skipgamer
      What’s there not to get? He’s just saying it’s not quite feasible on a whim, because a homologation would be required (and that probably costs money and a bit of time). But if there was an appetite for that change, there’d be nothing preventing it from happening in time for the 2022 race.

  8. F1 shouldn’t be racing there to start with. The real issue with the track is that it’s being used by cars and motorcycles, which causes some problems regarding safety. What’s safe for cars, isn’t necessarily safe for motorcycles and vice versa (tarmac run-off vs gravel).
    Whoever has been to Circuit de Catalunya before, knows very well that just skipping the chicane takes a lot of work to make the final two corners safe. The problem is the limited space for run-off in those corners, because behind the current run-off are the support roads, a couple of meters behind them are the roads that spectators walk to the grandstands and take them around the whole track, behind them is a little bit of wood, followed by public roads.
    I just can’t see how they could get it safe enough to race without the chicane.

    1. @srga91 Yes, the run-off and room outside track boundaries are limited, but F1 survived pre-2007. Every Spanish GP until 2006.

    2. Looking at T5 in Melbourne (260 kph at apex) I can’t see the issue here.

  9. Completely agree, I have to say I think it’s the worse bit of circuit on the whole calendar, it does nothing, isn’t challenging, offers no overtaking opportunity. The dirty air argument doesn’t really hold true, it’s easier to hold someone behind through such a tight chicane as they can’t put the power down until you do, the long sweeping corner means that any approaching car can chase the car in front for 1.5km on near full throttle. We have many such corners throughout the year that are considered safe enough.

    1. @bernasaurus The dirty air thing, of course, does have a big impact because of what types of corners this track has.

      1. @jerejj Catalunya is arguably the worst for dirty air. But when two cars are right up to each other, that chicane acts like a safety car restart. The lead car decides when we start going again, and there is nothing the car behind can do (nobody ever loses the race lead after a safety car restart). The horrible lateral movement trying to follow a car in ‘dirty air’ through those two last corners I think is preferable to a pedestrian tiny wiggle through that chicane.

        1. Giggles in Montoya

  10. I’m not sure if following (and subsequently overtaking into T1) would be any easier without the chicane, as staying close is generally harder through high-speed corners than slower ones. Otherwise, I agree with getting rid of the chicane. The lap flow would improve.
    I’d also use the Mistral straight in its entirety or at least a shorter chicane alternative. The T1-T2 option with the slightest steering angle too.
    I’d ease certain turning angles at other tracks as well, but these are the primary examples.

    1. Yes but you don’t have the consatina effect nearly as bad as the slow chicane. So you end up being closer earlier on the straight overall. Mugello proved this last year

      1. Coventry Climax
        24th April 2021, 0:27

        May I suggest you read this? If not to understand the origin of the word’s use, then at least to get your spelling right? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concertina

  11. So he can take out another car while traveling at nearly max speed? :) After that last race doubt anyone will be taking his suggestions or comments seriously at least not any time soon.

    1. Yes, that is exactly what F1 fans want. More crashes, did you not hear what Daniel Ricciardo said? (Just kidding)

    2. someone or something
      23rd April 2021, 13:22

      After that last race doubt anyone will be taking his suggestions or comments seriously at least not any time soon.

      Just a quick reality check: You’re not speaking for everyone, possibly not even for a majority.

  12. Broccoliface
    23rd April 2021, 9:46

    Isn’t he meant to be generally risk-averse as the head of the GPDA? Or does it cover more aspects than just driver safety? I can’t remember if the drivers association has waded into any other raceability issues.

    Did the FIA have Russell’s GPDA predecessor’s backing for the chicane’s implementation, or was it unilateral?

  13. Andrea Montermini’s feet might disagree with the idea that going faster around the last corner is a good idea. Yeah, I know that was 1994 & it stayed for 13 more years, but how can cars failing to follow each other in fast corners ever help overtaking?

    I know George is a director of the GPDA, but risk assessment & post-accident analysis haven’t been his strongest points in the last week. Nice idea trying to change the subject though.

    1. risk assessment & post-accident analysis haven’t been his strongest points in the last week

      yeah lol

  14. I agree with him & it’s an argument i’ve been making since the chicane was built. I remember pointing out after the 1st race with it in 2007 that it was stringing the cars out a lot more than the original layout of the final corners was. It’s just always seemed to me that corners that are that tight & only have a single line through them always tend to create that sort of accordion effect that strings cars out on the exit rather than help bring them closer together.

    Additionally it gives a car ahead to use the defensive tactic in over-slowing the car into the corner & delaying getting on the throttle on the exit which also allows them to pull a bit more of a gap onto the straight.

    The theory usually is that slow corners onto a straight allow cars to run closer & helps with overtaking & that theory is right but the slow corner can’t be too slow or tight. The best one’s for that theory in my view are corners that are a bit more open on the exit & have more than 1 line through them.

    Sticking with that line of thought for a moment. I’ve always felt that the biggest hindrance for overtaking at Monaco isn’t simply how narrow it is, But more how the corners heading into the more possible overtaking spots are overly tight & single line. I think you may be able to make overtaking a bit more possible if you opened up Portier, The exit of the 2nd swimming pool & Antony Noghes. Wouldn’t make it easy of course but I do wonder if those changes would at least make it a little more possible.

    1. @stefmeister Pretty much nothing could make overtaking easier in Monaco. Opening up corners would be easier said than done because they’re public roads, after all, and have limited space in the immediate surroundings.
      Monaco will always be the hardest for overtaking, predominantly because of its narrowness + short full-throttle sections. Regardless of cars, aero, tyres, anything.

      1. @jerejj Then it’s time they drop that event. Is that what you’re saying?
        I totally agree ;)
        Monaco is only mildly interesting when it rains. Dry, it is worthless.

        1. @S Not necessarily, but yes, I wouldn’t mind getting rid of Monaco for good, albeit some dry races have had exciting phases too, like 2016, 2018, ’19 at the front.

  15. I think it’s the same issue as at Tamburello and say the last chicane at Suzuka. Without the chicane the next corner would be flat or nearly flat and there is no land to increase the run off due to what’s on the other side. Maybe they could re think the last section so you have a sharper kink coming down the hill, and then a more obtuse angled corner leading on the to straight, so people can follow, while mitigating the possible impact angles on the last corner. Or we can just have extra races at Brazil.

  16. So many comments blaming the chicane – so few recognising how unsuitable the cars have become.
    There are many, many things they could do to improve the racing here – and only some of them involve the circuit.

    1. The cars are changing next year so what’s the point in criticising them until we know the impacts of those regulations. Seems fair that the focus is better placed on the track at present.

      1. @slowmo Can we not criticise until we’ve seem something in action?
        There’s been plenty of criticism here about reverse grid/sprint races – haven’t had any of those yet.

        There is no track that F1 visits that consistently puts on great races. The common element at every venue is always the cars – F1 cars simply aren’t designed for great racing, and I’m confident that they’ll still be sub-par next year.
        If F1 were confident, they’d have thrown DRS in the bin.

        So I maintain that while Barcelona (and most other tracks) could do with some alterations, the overriding factor is – and always will be – the cars.

        1. @S Indeed. Cars, and how they’re designed aerodynamically, are the main culprit, not the tracks themselves.

        2. There is no track that F1 visits that consistently puts on great races.

          Not so……Interlagos usually delivers a cracker year after year!

  17. Close the big mouth Russellado. You should respect f1 history first after calling the circuit poor, when it’s been in f1 from more than 20 years.
    Rusellado again with his big mouth, ignorance of f1 history, and his full unieyebrows.

    1. You close your big mouth first! Everyone’s getting sick of your behaviour. You’re the new Rott.

    2. CLosE thE Big mOuTH ruSseLl. You shoulD rEspEcT f1 hIstOry FiRST AFTeR CalLinG the CIRcuIt pooR, wHeN IT’s BeEN In f1 FROM MOrE ThAN 20 YeArS.
      RuSELL agAin WITh his biG moUtH, iGnOrAncE oF f1 hisTORY, anD HIS Full uniEyEBRoWS.

      You close your big mouth, punk. You’re an enemy, you’re damaging this site, GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW OR YOU WILL BE REASONED WITH.

    3. WILLIAMS WON 9-0 AGAINST YOU, WHAT A VICTORY! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    4. clOsE The Big moutH rUSsElL. YOU SHould reSpEct f1 hiStORY FiRST aFTER cAlliNG tHe cIRCUIt poOr, wHEn IT’s BeeN In f1 fRom MOre thAn 20 yEarS.
      rusell agaIN wITH HIS BIG mOUTH, ignOrANce oF f1 hIsTorY, And hIs FULL UnIEyEBRoWs.

      Close your big mouth enemy alex. I won’t stop killing you, eh?

    5. Daily reminder: I killed you for these comments.

  18. Hey guys, I just recently created my very own re-design of the Circuit de Catalunya in “Cities:Skylines”.

    Check it out: https://youtu.be/d7kdMS_MHi0
    (Unfortunately for you guys, my voice-over is in German)

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