The difficulties in making Red Bull Ring safer for MotoGP

Safety at the Red Bull Ring has been called into question again for MotoGP after last weekend’s huge accident between Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco.

The difficulties in making Red Bull Ring safer for MotoGP
Listen to this article

The pair collided at the fast Turn 2 kink under braking for the uphill Turn 3 right-hander, with Zarco moving off-line and leaving Morbidelli with nowhere to go but into to the back of the Avintia Ducati at close to 200mph.

Zarco’s bike slammed into the air fence on the outside of Turn 3 and vaulted into the air, with the bike close to hitting Maverick Vinales’ head.

At the same moment, Morbidelli’s errant Petronas Yamaha slid straight up the track and only narrowly avoided wiping out Vinales and Valentino Rossi.

In response to two MotoGP bikes becoming essentially multi-million dollar bowling balls, MotoGP has moved to make safety changes at Turn 3 to at least not tempt fate again.

The barrier Zarco’s bike hit has now being extended further round the edge of the track at the top of the hill.

Over the past week, social media has been awash with comments on the nature of that section of track, with many questioning why only now a barrier is being put between riders at Turn 3 and potential disaster coming up the hill.

Footage of the 2002 crash during the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix when the track was known as the A1 Ring, in which Nick Heidfeld dropped his Sauber under braking for what was then Turn 2 and torpedoing Takuma Sato’s Jordan.

Both incidents are strikingly similar, from where the incident was triggered to the path the out of control machines travelled into unsighted oncoming traffic at the hairpin turn, and rightfully people have questioned why lessons were never learned from something that happened 18 years ago at a track that is basically unchanged in layout.

But extending the barrier would have caused its own problems for F1, in that an off at that point would have still resulted in a violent barrier impact

For bikes, that same risk exists, as LCR’s Cal Crutchlow explained last week.

"If you put a catch fence there, if you extend that catch fence, what happens if you run off track? The place is not safe.

"Unfortunately, there's no way around [the Turn 3 problem] because the riders would say [if] you extend that there and you make a mistake... imagine in the wet?

"Just running off the track there or something like that and you're alone in the practice, you can potentially go across the grass, go straight, whatever.

"But if you put something there you ride straight into it. We're in a no-win situation unfortunately in regards to that.”

Work on Turn 3

Work on Turn 3

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Now the barrier has been extended, Crutchlow’s fears may well be realised, but in the limited time the track and MotoGP had to implement changes, there was no avoiding it.

“As you approach [Turns] two and three on the right-hand side, the barrier, I don't know what you want to call it… they've extended that bit and they will put air fencing in front of [it],” Crutchlow told when asked for his views on the new barrier.

“I was on the track today riding my bicycle, so I was able to see it first-hand where it's going to.

“It blocks your vision a little bit in the last part of the corner to tip in, but it's safer than what we had last week in an extent of there was no barrier there, it stopped at a certain point where they've extended it as much as they can in in the safest way possible for this grand prix here.

“But I still believe that corner needs to be changed."

Read Also:

Extending the barrier at Turn 3 is a temporary solution, but it doesn’t address the real problem, which is the approach to the corner.

While Turn 2 won’t even register for an F1 driver, it is a seriously scary corner for MotoGP, with the approach touching 200mph when riders are having to brake with the bike at lean angle on the left side.

“You cannot imagine how difficult it is to do this corner at 300km/h, with a lot of downforce because of the winds, with many bikes in front of you,” Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro said of Turn 2.

“Every time you move from behind other riders, you have downforce, no downforce, downforce - the front is shaking, sometimes you have no brakes. It’s very, very difficult.”

And as we saw last Sunday, when it goes wrong at that corner, the results are horrifying.

“We will have to discuss it tomorrow in the Safety Commission, because apparently with the performance that MotoGP [bikes] are reaching lately, that corner and that area, that part of the track is becoming more and more dangerous,” Morbidelli said when asked by for his thoughts on what has to change at Turn 2.

During the week, doctored images of a potential track layout solution showing Turn 2 becoming a more pronounced corner – which would scrub off speed coming into Turn 3 – and Turn 3 a more open and longer bend.

The logistical and cost issues of doing something like that aside, altering the layout of Turn 3, where the approach would be slower but the exit quicker, would simply create another safety issue down at Turn 4.

When asked by about changing the layout of Turn 3, Crutchlow cautioned that MotoGP cannot gain anymore speed on the run to Turn 4 because it’s where “we all have braking problems”.

Indeed, last week his LCR teammate Takaaki Nakagami battled brake issues in the race, while Fabio Quartararo suffered issues with his brakes which left him last for the restart.

“I think we need to slow the speed down earlier, do something different, but one of the key things here is we cannot make the exit any faster,” Crutchlow warned.

“Because Turn 4 is where we all have braking problems, where the heat of the brakes is a problem.

“So, going down that hill, there's quite a steep downhill as well, we don't want to be going there any faster than what we're going now.

“We're absolutely on the limit of stopping and with brake temperatures, with the tyres, the bikes and the riders. We’re on limit.

“So we don't want to push the limit anymore just because they’ve altered Turn 3.

“It's a very difficult one, and I'm sure it will be discussed and I think Loris [Capirossi, MotoGP safety officer] and the guys understand, but it's not as easy as just saying, ‘okay, let's do this’.

“I think they have to look at the consequences for Turn 4 as well. And obviously they're not the only ones to make the decision.

Since it returned to the MotoGP calendar in 2016, safety issues have always been raised about the Red Bull Ring, with Turns 2 and 3 a constant point of concern as well the positioning of some of the barriers.

While alterations have been made to some of the problem areas, the real critical point remains, and last Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix incidents were a startling reminder of the dangers still present in motorsport.

Altering the layout of Turns 2 and 3 appear now to be a must, but doing so in such a way that won’t simply shift the danger to another part of the track will take some doing.

It could be argued that perhaps Red Bull Ring shouldn’t be on the calendar at all, but with the considerable backing Red Bull puts into the event and the new factor of legitimate Austrian success in the premier class courtesy of KTM, it’s hard to see the circuit losing its place on the calendar anytime soon.

But that hasn’t stopped MotoGP promoters Dorna Sports before from enforcing change on a venue when track safety is concerned, with Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya following Luis Salom’s tragic death and Silverstone after its poor asphalt caused the cancellation of the 2018 British GP.

Turn 3 overview

Turn 3 overview

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Styria MotoGP: Miller leads Ducati 1-2 in FP1
Previous article

Styria MotoGP: Miller leads Ducati 1-2 in FP1

Next article

Avintia: Brno clash set precedent for Zarco penalty

Avintia: Brno clash set precedent for Zarco penalty
Load comments
Injury, COVID, camels and redemption: Petrucci's Dakar odyssey Prime

Injury, COVID, camels and redemption: Petrucci's Dakar odyssey

Danilo Petrucci’s decision to switch to rallying at the conclusion of his time in MotoGP at the end of 2021 raised many eyebrows. Deciding to make his rally raid debut at the Dakar courted scepticism. With his debut almost over on several occasions before it began, Petrucci’s Dakar odyssey was a wild affair full of ups, downs and a run-in with a camel. He sat down with to reveal all

Why a difficult 2021 hasn't broken Pol Espargaro's resolve Prime

Why a difficult 2021 hasn't broken Pol Espargaro's resolve

Pol Espargaro’s switch to Honda for 2021 was one of MotoGP’s biggest rider market shocks. But a difficult bike coupled with various external factors led to a difficult first campaign. As a critical 2022 campaign for both Espargaro and Honda looms, his 2021 experience hasn’t dented his long-held resolve

Jan 17, 2022
Why KTM's latest young outcast is a cautionary tale for MotoGP Prime

Why KTM's latest young outcast is a cautionary tale for MotoGP

Iker Lecuona’s absence from the 2022 MotoGP grid after losing his KTM ride will likely pass most onlookers by. But after just 30 race starts in a MotoGP move he was sucked into by circumstance, the World Superbike-bound 21-year-old's story should act as a warning to KTM - and MotoGP as a whole - in regards to its future stars

Jan 4, 2022
How Ducati's expanded roster will threaten MotoGP's balance in 2022 Prime

How Ducati's expanded roster will threaten MotoGP's balance in 2022

That Ducati will compete with eight prototypes in MotoGP this year is nothing new, having already done so between 2016 and 2018. But the involvement and coverage of the Borgo Panigale company in its alliances is now much greater than in past years, which could have the effect of unbalancing the premier class

Jan 3, 2022
Ranking the top 10 MotoGP riders of 2021 Prime

Ranking the top 10 MotoGP riders of 2021

Although Fabio Quartararo wrapped up the 2021 MotoGP title with two rounds to go, the Yamaha rider had strong competition from the revitalised Ducati factory team and a revitalised Marc Marquez. Read on to see who makes our top 10 list.

Dec 23, 2021
How Quartararo cast aside prior doubts to become MotoGP's new king Prime

How Quartararo cast aside prior doubts to become MotoGP's new king

Doubts were cast over Yamaha’s French recruit after his disastrous end to the 2020 MotoGP season with Petronas SRT, but Fabio Quartararo answered them convincingly in 2021 to claim a MotoGP title that exhibited both his devastating speed and mental strength

Dec 7, 2021
The Rossi-less future MotoGP must now navigate Prime

The Rossi-less future MotoGP must now navigate

Motorcycle racing's greatest showman has left the stage, as Valentino Rossi calls time on his remarkable career on two wheels. But in his successors, all of whom were inspired by 'the Doctor', grand prix racing has vibrant new acts to keep us hooked

Dec 4, 2021
Valentino Rossi’s 10 greatest MotoGP races Prime

Valentino Rossi’s 10 greatest MotoGP races

As the Italian legend finally bows out and retires from MotoGP, it marks the end of one of the most incredible careers in motorsport history. Here is's pick of his best rides and the stories behind them

Dec 3, 2021