Why the track surface fix seen in Jeddah F1 drivers want can’t be used in Vegas

Formula 1

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Despite two days of running at the new Las Vegas Strip Circuit, Formula 1 drivers remain concerned it offers too little grip for good racing.

The circuit is formed out of purpose-built sections of track in addition to local roads including the famed Las Vegas Strip, which was resurfaced for the event. However the overall grip level at the circuit is low.

Drivers have urged F1 to use grippier track surfaces such as that seen at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Saudi Arabia, according to George Russell. He said the grip levels are comparable to that seen at F1’s first race on the Miami International Autodrome last year.

“Jeddah’s the gold standard of track surfaces,” said Russell. “We’ve been saying this for many years now.

“We’ve been to a number of tracks where they’ve resurfaced, or new tracks, and the grip has been really poor and there’s only been one racing line. Whereas in Jeddah, on the whole width of the circuit it’s very good grip. They’ve done an exceptional job there, and that’s what we want.

“I think in Miami, in the first year at least, you couldn’t go off the racing line because there was no grip and that doesn’t offer any racing. But I think it’s been a challenge here in Vegas because we’ve been the only cars on track too.”

With no support races at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, F1’s five track sessions are the only opportunity for the track surface to improve to racing standards. Parts of the track formed from public roads are opened to local traffic in between F1’s activities, which reintroduces dust and dirt the racing cars clean off its surface.

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Fernando Alonso shares Russell’s concerns about the impact the “super-low grip” asphalt will have on the racing.

“I don’t know why they don’t copy the asphalt that we know that they work like in Saudi or some other circuits,” said the Aston Martin driver, “because that could maybe change the fun that we have behind the wheel and maybe the overtaking tomorrow and things like that.

“We will not be able to go off-line and this kind of thing, so it’s it’s sad.”

Formula 1’s official tyre supplier Pirelli nominated its softest available compounds for the race due to the low-grip surface. The company’s head of motorsport Mario Isola said he’d discussed the lack of grip at the track with the drivers.

However he pointed out it was not possible to improve the track’s surface for racing in Las Vegas the same way they did in Jeddah, as the Saudi Arabian circuit is not part of the local road network.

“In Jeddah they made this very aggressive treatment with high-pressure water. And obviously you really remove – it’s a sort of artificial ageing. The treatment they did in Jeddah is ageing the Tarmac by two, three, four years.”

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Blasting the track surface with water removes bitumen from its upper layer, increasing the grip it offers.

“If you remove the bitumen on top then it’s a completely different situation,” said Isola. “That cannot happen here because part of the track is open to a road circulation and obviously you have to respect some parameters that are for the normal street and some other parts are not open.”

As a result the Las Vegas circuit is “one of the lower grip” surfaces seen in F1 this year. “Maybe not the lowest, but it is in the lower range in terms of grip,” said Isola, ranking it alongside Monaco and Baku.

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Author information

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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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10 comments on “Why the track surface fix seen in Jeddah F1 drivers want can’t be used in Vegas”

  1. Is the Marina Bay used for normal public between sessions? Or Baku? That’d have been a better parameter than Miami or Jeddah. Would’ve loved a comparison with those.

  2. Perhaps F1 could take a peek in the drag strip preparation guide. Putting rubber down for quick times and better traction.

    “When Daniel Pharris set a new radial world 1/8th mile record of 3.578 seconds at 214 mph in 2019, it took 10 barrels of traction compound, four sets of rotator tires, two sets of skid rubbers and hundreds of man hours at a cost of $15,000. If you want to turn a street into a strip, that’s what it takes.”

    https://www.autoweek.com/racing/nhra/a32043886/how-experts-prepare-for-a-drag-race/

    Finally a use for all those used pirelle tires. Used to lay a new rubber surface on the circuit.

    1. I’ve thought about this before and it’s surprising they haven’t considered it.

      Would it work I don’t know but my thought was to use drift cars in-between sessions (or on a Thursday) to drift specific sections off line. Braking zones and outside corner etc.
      Of course using tyres made from the same compound as the F1 tyres.

      This could easily be monetised and made for fans a drift taxi can easily accommodate at least one or up to 3 passengers. Would also be extra action for fans.

      Your idea for tyres is great, as they could reuse tyres from previous weekends. The issue though would be that they would then have to somehow fit F1 tyres onto drift cars which wouldn’t be easy. The size alone is one thing but of course the wheel hub. It would require a lot of work..

      But if possible they could put an absurd amount of rubber down off line, overall greatly increasing grip.

  3. In before the cattle complain that a good track surface is sportswashing

  4. I don’t like the more modern trend of street tracks been resurfaced as regularly as some of them are with tarmac thats as smooth & grippy as what you find on most of the newer permanent circuits. And even with the permanent circuits starting to use the same sort of tarmac to eliminate bumps or just have higher/more consistent grip levels.

    It was just more interesting & more challenging when every circuit had different types of tarmac with different characteristics that helped give each circuit a bit of extra individual character that created it’s own set of challenges.

    And with street circuits in particular a huge part of the challenge that made them feel even more different & even more challenging than permanent circuits used to be how the normal road surface was dirtier, made up of different types of tarmac of different ages, How much less grip it produced compared to a permanent circuit and especially how much bumpier they tended to be.

    I remember before Miami last year they spoke about how they had spent a fortune doing all this research to create the perfect tarmac mix & i just rolled my eyes because that shouldn’t be the goal. Just lay down some standard tarmac & let them deal with however it ends up. If it’s dusty, less grippy or a bit bumpy then so be it, Dealing with such things is part of the challenge of the sport… Or at least it used to be.

    1. What is the point of having perfect tarmac when the tyres are designed to fall apart in a few minutes?

    2. I agree fully. I think the problem though is that these modern tyres are too special purpose with a narrow operating window which makes tarmac differences more pronounced than the tyres we drive daily with.

  5. Who would have thought a circuit designed specifically for hosting F1 races has more grip that a street circuit?

    The answer seems obvious to me.

    Street circuits shouldn’t be used for F1. No other top flight sporting competition uses a critical playing surface designed for something else entirely.

    It worked long before the cars were expected to perform at the level they do now.

  6. We’ve had what zero full crashes and a single major wall strike and there’s major concern? Just get on with it.

    You’d think the drivers and engineers wanted everything made easy and just run on identical surfaces and in identical conditions every single time. Which ever teams were most disadvantaged by these continuously identical surfaces and conditions would soon be voicing concerns over just that.

    I think most of us could agree on that if the event wasn’t so lame and the layout wasn’t so boring. We all know they’ll always find something to moan about.

  7. Long story short, the key difference is that Jeddah Corniche Circuit is only a semi-permanent temporary circuit rather than a full or majority street circuit, so more convenient.

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