Start, Circuit of the Americas, 2021

Third US F1 race should be “further west” – Szafnauer

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In the round-up: Aston Martin CEO Otmar Szafnauer backs the idea of a third Formula 1 race in the USA.

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In brief

F1 should look west for third US F1 race – Szafnauer

Following the addition of a second American round on the 2022 F1 calendar, Szafnauer believes the series should spread itself as wide as it can geographically within America if it adds a third round of the world championship there.

“I think it would be a good thing,” he said. “Now we’re in Texas, we have one on the east coast of the United States in Florida. It would be good to have something a little bit further west if we can manage that.

“But three races in the United States would be great and I think the fan base in the country itself can absolutely sustain having three races.”

In addition to the race on the Circuit of the Americas road course, F1 will add a street track in Miami next year. Szafnauer says another temporary venue should only be added if it is in a major city.

“If it is a city race it’s nice to have a race where people could go for something other than just the race,” he said, “make it some kind of destination.”

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Comment of the day

Could F1 use disposable blocks to enforce track limits?

Big foam blocks strategically placed where track limits are likely to be abused. They can always add a few more at short notice between sessions. Hit one and it’s a five second stop-go, plus the risk of damage to the delicate aero parts. There’s no grey area for interpretation of the rules.

Psychologically, the drivers are averse to hitting things, so they won’t be as keen to explore the limits.

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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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35 comments on “Third US F1 race should be “further west” – Szafnauer”

  1. Absolutely agree with COTD. Formula E had a solution like this for the chicane at Monaco recently and I don’t understand why it wasn’t adopted for F1.

    I also think ‘drop-in pitch’ style surfaces could be a good solution. A 3 metre wide strip of grass or gravel in specific areas to prevent abuse of track limits for F1 cars that can be pulled up and replaced with astro-turf or asphalt for other categories / the rest of the year.

    This is the pinnacle of F1, this problem needs some real thought and investment.

    1. I think it just needs better policing. White lines are fine, provided they are consistently enforced and have a sufficient penalty attached for breaches.

      If anyone thinks ‘excessive’ penalties makes F1 look amateur, what do they suppose a track lined with styrene blocks would look like?
      Would look more like bumper bowling to me – and it still wouldn’t solve the problem. As soon as one is hit and explodes into a minor environmental disaster, there’s no longer a track limit and drivers will go back to breaching track limits without penalty.
      Either that, or they go into a SC or VSC to put a new one out. And then there’ll be constant moaning about how the race was ruined by the intervention.

      Just attach a decent penalty to breaching the (existing) white lines and follow through with the penalties. Consistently.
      Drivers aren’t so stupid that they’ll keep breaking the rules and racking up penalties for very long.

      1. How can you police an “s” rule? like aussie suggested, a little grass is always the solution.

        1. ‘A little grass’ at every circuit involves $Millions in alterations and lost revenue (time) for each circuit. Not really a practical solution, is it?
          But every circuit does already have white lines…. And what is it that F1’s sporting regs refer to as defining the track limit?
          If you don’t like the rule, then that is a separate issue. But the rule is currently in place, so therefore it must be enforced.

          It’s quite easy to police. See a car exceed track limits and decide who’s in the wrong (if there’s more than one competitor involved – could be both) and penalise accordingly. What’s so hard about that? That’s what stewards are there for. There are track workers, fixed CCTV and broadcast cameras all around the circuit, in addition to the in car cameras. Evidence is plentiful.
          It would even be self policing to a large extent once it has been enforced strongly for a short time. Teams and drivers won’t just keep racking up penalties for unnecessary infractions because it costs them event results and championship points.

          F1 keeps making it an issue when it needn’t be. Just enforce the rules consistently and there’s no problem.

          1. I love the rule S, I have no problem with it, but I love grass more and grass is not that expensive.

      2. The problem with enforcement is that they’re unwilling to do so because there’s always one driver or another complaining they got forced off track and others sayin they’re not gaining any advantage.

        I agree enforcement is the answer though and that it needs to be enforced consistently with no “special circumstances”

        The only other alternative is to put tech pro barriers in if they can put kerbs in and then remove them, they could put barriers in and remove them after F1 has HD their event. Strangely enough, drivers seem to be able to avoid barriers when they are there, so why not put them there. That’d solve the enforcement conundrum.

        1. That’s a pretty accurate statement – F1 is unwilling to enforce the rules properly because doing so upsets the competitors who now have too much power and control over the series.

          It’s quite clear that F1 is happier sending the message that they are above trivial things such as rules and penalties, than they are in sending the message that the competitors are unwilling and unable to compete fairly within those rules.

          If they really are the pinnacle of motorsport as some suggest, then the competitors should have no trouble staying within the (mostly clearly defined) rules.

      3. The main problem I have with the ‘just enforce the white lines’ approach (even if it could be policed consistently and fairly which is harder than it sounds) is that it only solves the sporting side of the equation.

        There still remains the visceral side, the excitement of watching drivers kick up dust or gravel… flirt with grass or an armco barrier. The sport thrives on this sort of imagery and that’s because it’s exciting. Watching a race around painted white lines, however well it is policed, is a much duller proposition.

        1. It’s very easy to spot when a car is out most of the time, so it’s equally easy to apply a penalty. It’s also usually pretty easy to understand why a car goes out and who is at fault, and so who deserves said penalty.
          If it isn’t clear or can’t be determined, then no penalty – that’s the default position. There’s no need to make a big fuss about it.
          Ultimately, the umpire/referee/steward’s decision should be final – but the most important thing they should be doing is applying the rules as they are written. Not as they are privately selected and interpreted, least of all when the competitors are involved in that process.
          If the rule isn’t written for the intention, then the rule needs to be re-written. But they must apply whatever rules are in place currently until they are changed.

          As for the visuals – sure crashes, spins, fire and dust clouds are pretty but they aren’t ultimately what many people tune in for, are they? That’s NASCAR’s speciality. Or ‘Crash and Bash’ night at the dirt speedway.
          Perhaps you are right @aussierod – having neutered the aural experience of F1 and made all the cars effectively the same, maybe all that’s left to appeal to the 8 years olds is some gravel dust flicking up occasionally.
          My, how F1’s standards have dropped…

        2. I think, if the penalty is sufficiently small, but every cut is penalised it not hurts racing too much.
          For example for a cut that gives a gain of 0.6seconds, I would give an 1.2 seconds penalty. So 2x of the gain as a starting point, but enforced everywhere.

          Imo based on a certain driver’s average valid laptimes before the incident, the gain is calculatable. Likely with a very high accuracy, as the sensora in the cars are likely have a very high polling or reporting rate (naively I think above 1000hz, but I think they could come up with much faster sensors than that.) So with GPS and telemetry data, with sensors into the wheel nuts, I think the calculation can be done accurately and quickly.

          If the penalty is sufficiently small, that will not be a deterrent from pushing hard. No matter where the track limits are, they will push hard, and some dust will be kicked up anyways :)

          So imo the gain is calculatable, but the real problem is, that many of these cuts are happening in wheel to wheel racing, and it would be much harder to calculate whether one really was forced offtrack, or just dived for a penalty like the best primadonnas of football. Solving this (incidents coming from being bothered by another competitor) is a much harder problem, it is a good task and challenge for AI. But is not Amazon a main sponsor of F1 currently, are not they having almost everything to do AI develpoment? So yes, I would like to see efforts like this, instead of sowhing, that they are no just capable of writing the name and speed of the driver ahead at some onboard camera footages, but they can draw square brackets under the car as a fancy feature? [car] hehe, we did this in real time. The name and the speed I’m ok with, but why was the brackets, imo that just clutter. Although as if I have not seen the bracket or slot under the car at an onboard at the last race, probably they have alreay realised this.

    2. Disposable blocks will soon disintegrate and not be effective through the session.

      A plate flush with the tarmac with electronic triggers should be the easiest and most reliable. That would then trigger the car to disable battery or DRS for the following lap or whatever is suitable.

    3. There is plenty to think about these kind of solutions. If someone hits the foam block and destroys it, it should be replaced right away to keep enforcing the rule during the remaining session, which mean more safety car periods during races. The same goes for astroturf patches specifically added for a GP weekend, cars tend to destroy them as they are not as robust as a permanent installation tested over the years.

      1. As we are heading into the future, let’s replace the foam blocks with 3D holograms (if it can be safely done).
        visible deterrent ✔️
        no problems with wrecking and replacing the visible deterrent ✔️

        Although it is likely hard at a sunny day at outdoors at a lot of corners and for a long duration :)

        1. Although if someone crashes out and stops in the runoff hidden by the hologram it is just bad.

          1. Just turn off the hologram if a car goes fully past it.

  2. Szafnauer is basically saying he wants a Las Vegas race without saying in so few words.

    1. Sounds that way.

      The problem is the very limited weather window (maybe 4 months) you can hold a F1 race in Vegas and would heavily conflict time wise with the races in the Arabian region that has the same weather window issue.
      I would think Vegas as a destination over Bahrain or Saudi Arabia would be a no brainer for most race fans.

      Los Angeles would be make a good F1 race destination (and income stream) and has a significantly better year around weather window (whole season) to work in a flexible calendar but there’s no viable land to have a decent grade 1 F1 track. Visiting race fans can go to a F1 race and mix in Hollywood, Malibu, a Lakers game and Disneyland all in one trip.

      1. PS> Another west coast location that could work is San Fransisco. They could (if possible) build/develop a very nice and impressive F1 race course on the old abandoned Naval Air Station on Alameda on SF Bay (google it), it’s still undeveloped with beautiful views of the city and golden gate & bay bridges. Has two super long opposing runways that are both 2.15km long, has all kinds of other taxiways and a 1.25km long straight (airport) apron that would work well for a start/finish location and has a ton of other open spaces and facilities; the place is impressive.
        Stay in downtown SF, take ferry over to F1 race, get some wine tasting in Napa and 19 holes at Pebble Beach; it’s all doable and could be a very easy sell for the GF/wife.

        1. some racing fan
          31st October 2021, 6:51

          Or they could just update Sonoma to F1 standards. That is only a 40 minute drive from SF and even less from Berkeley.

          1. Sonoma race track is currently a very minimal, bare bones facility race track that couldn’t even really handle Nascar or handle large fan base. It only has a permit of 47,000 seating capacity.

            But it could work, there looks to be enough land around the existing race track but the whole site would need to be redeveloped and new track installed and incoming roads improved to handle the traffic numbers. They could extend the track more north, giving it the characteristic and elevation changes of Spa-Francorchamps (just less tress). More housing close by will be needed for the teams.

  3. Third US F1 race should be “further west” – Szafnauer

    How about further NORTH? The US is a big place, and it doesn’t make sense to have every race right along the southern border. Indianapolis would touch a more different part of the country than Vegas or Long Beach.

    1. some racing fan
      31st October 2021, 6:48

      Further west because the West Coast of the USA is somewhat disconnected from the more eastern parts of the country- and it covers a portion of the North American market that includes a state (California) that by itself has an economy the size of France’s, and is a far more appropriate place than Las Vegas to stage an F1 GP.

    2. Further north, like Road America! No of course not, not an option. Detroit could work, and the city is preparing to resurrect the old F1 Street circuit for Indycar.

      In the depths of my memory there was a real possibility that F1 and Long Beach were going to reunite. But Long Beach stuck with Indycar.

      1. @exediron

        @unicron2002 Correct, Long Beach is not a recent option or considered due to it not being able to meet Grade 1 specs but it was a while back. Neither is the current Indy road race track as many in F1 have given the opinion of it being undesirable and not wanting to go back there which is too bad but I can understand it.

        The reality now a days for F1’s needs for acceptable race tracks is that they don’t really exist in the states and especially at destination markets that works for them and F1 wants. Pretty much have to build a new track or complete redesign & develop an existing track to meet all of the criteria’s that F1 is looking for. Maybe Chicago could work?
        Like you said, Road America is truly an awesome race track but it would never work for the F1 circus.
        F1 wants monster tracks and massive facilities that 99.9% of motor racing doesn’t need nor can afford. There’s no easy solution for a long term solution for F1 tracks in the US (for that matter, anywhere else in the the world).

  4. “If it is a city race it’s nice to have a race where people could go for something other than just the race,” he said, “make it some kind of destination.”

    You don’t live in the US of A Mr. Szafnauer. Shut down a whole city for … however many days with track construction to put on an event like F1? Try that in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego and good luck. Get real, only in Las Vegas, which sucks as an actual real place. Went there once and only wanted to leave ASAP with my finger down my throat.

    1. Totally agree about shutting down enough streets in a city that meets the size of an F1 track and can pass for grade 1, it would never be accepted in the cities you mentioned; it will never happen.
      I for one never need nor desire to go to Vegas ever again but it is a massive draw for many tourist, especially from many other parts of the world and they bring big money with them when they go there. I will say 30 mins outside of Vegas has some very beautiful scenic nature hiking at Red Rock Canyon National Park but that doesn’t matter to most people who go to the city of lights :)

      I don’t think most people understand the scale, facilities and width needed for a current F1 grade 1 track, it doesn’t work for most cities (popular ones) unless you take over some of it’s major boulevards, highways or freeways for over a week? That would not go over well just to appease some motor heads.

  5. Preferably east or eastwards because of time differences to Europe unless an LV race started at 13:00 local time.
    This would mean the same as in European zones as 14:00 at COTA. 12:00 for the most west zone.

    Another race in Mexico? I doubt, although if this ever happened, this probably wouldn’t be a near-future thing anyway.

    Sunset time is 18:00, so the AusGP will probably start at 15:00, the latest possible that allows for the three-hour window.

    Bahrain’s solution is far better than this suggestion, the most effective & safest option for TL enforcement.

    1. Always the euro centric rhetoric!

  6. The trend towards making F1 races about the “destination” rather than the racing itself is damaging to the sport in the long run. It feels like plenty of places around the world are trying to recapture the magic of Monaco with poorly-designed street circuits among iconic buildings. Obviously we already have Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Baku, with Jeddah and Miami due to join the party – is there really a need for any more?

    It’s particularly galling in the case of the USA, where there are a plethora of high-quality permanent circuits in exactly the region they’re now talking about. I doubt we’ll ever see F1 cars racing in anger around Laguna Seca, but there are quite a few venues in the south-western USA that could conceivably be brought up to FIA Grade 1 standards without having to build an awful new street circuit somewhere.

    1. @red-andy I agree about not creating awful street circuits somewhere.

      Sadly, the image and draw of destinations spots work very well for the income stream for the media, sponsors, ticket sales and Liberty and for all the F1 teams who get much bigger prize money from all of that. Miami race completely sold out in 40 mins with cheapest ticket being $400 and all of the $2500 ticket sold.

      Tracks like Road America will never see the F1 circus because of this.

  7. Give us something different then, give us – Alaskan GP. That should counter all those Middle East races and hit a nice average temp.

  8. Laguna Seca it is

    1. If only!

  9. As for track limit enforcement, force the cars to have a reverse DRS where the wing goes up for a lap if track limits are exceeded.

  10. Yes, Hawaii. Racing around a volcano.

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