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Stay off the kerbs! Drivers split on merits of new kerbs after four suspension breaks

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Stay off the kerbs! Drivers split on merits of new kerbs after four suspension breaks
Jul 2, 2016, 4:49 PM

The controversial new approach to enforcing track limits with kerbs at the Red Bull Ring, Austria, led to further suspension breakages in qualifyin...

The controversial new approach to enforcing track limits with kerbs at the Red Bull Ring, Austria, led to further suspension breakages in qualifying for Daniil Kvyat and Sergio Perez, to add to those of Max Verstappen and Nico Rosberg earlier in the weekend.

As we flagged up ahead of the weekend, this simple nine turn Red Bull Ring layout has always been critical for track limits and the revised kerbs this weekend, to make the competitors respect the limits, have received a mixed response from the drivers.

Drivers who exceed the track limits get penalised, but some are asking whether the fact that four cars have suffered suspension failure is a step too far towards unacceptable danger.

F1 kerbs Austria

Lewis Hamilton voiced such concerns after taking pole position today, "Those yellow kerbs are quite dangerous," he said. "We’ve now seen a couple of incidents already. I don’t know how many more of those it’s going to take before a car ends up in the wall and perhaps someone gets hurt. I’m sure Charlie [Whiting, FIA Race Director] and the FIA are looking at it but that’s definitely an area we can improve.

"The idea is good, because they definitely don’t want us running wide and using the outside of the circuit but perhaps another solution is going to be needed."

Charlie Whiting

In contrast, perhaps defending the track as it is owned by his employers Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo said that he has been avoiding them,

“I’m honestly treating it like a wall, I know that if I hit it [the yellow kerbs] I’m going to damage my car,” he said. “It’s not a bullying scenario, I’m not laughing at ..anyone that’s crashed, for me I like it that’s black and white.

“At so many modern circuits us drivers complain that you can run off and not pay a price, so this weekend we are paying a price. Sure, the damage to the cars is quite severe, but it’s the same if you hit a wall on a street circuit – I tore the rear off my car in Baku.

Daniel Ricciardo

“They’re visible, it’s not like we can’t see them. I honestly think they’re doing a good job, and I think it’s a good compromise to keep us on the track limits.”

This is all linked to a wider move from the grassroots upwards within the FIA Drivers Commission, led by Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro. The idea is to get young drivers to change their behaviour.

They have evolved their driving behaviour to take liberties due to the huge run off areas present at most tracks today and the move towards tarmac run off areas, rather then gravel traps, to improve the safety of the race tracks. It has led to a mentality among younger drivers at F4 and F3 level where they know they can fly into corners with impunity as they will simply be able to drive back on circuit from the tarmac run-off areas if they get it wrong with no penalty. As a result driving standards are falling and this is not a good trend for the sport and especially not for tomorrow's F1 drivers.

So there is a move to try to redress the balance and at the same time address the question of how much danger is acceptable in modern motor sport, given that it is a fundamental part of the appeal to competitors and fans alike.

Balancing the drive for safety with the need for the sport, the idea is for the sport to retain its 'edge' and to challenge the drivers, raise standards of precision and to reward the better drivers. It's difficulty because most modern international circuits today are built to host not only F1, but MotoGP, Superbikes, WEC and other categories with their safety requirements.

"For sure yeah, need to stay off them," said Rosberg, who has already had one suspension failure this weekend. "I even stayed off them in qualifying now most of the time, except for when it really counted."

Clearly there is still some work to be done..

What do you think? Should F1 stick with this approach and just tell the drivers to stay off the kerbs? Leave your comment below
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