Does F1 need more high speed tracks, should there be an oval race ?

Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Mark Webber

I believe it was during Saturday’s Free Practice Live Blog that the debate turned to a lack of proper high speed tracks. As Keith from F1Fanatic mentioned, basically Monza is the only traditional high speed track left on the calendar. Some guys said that with the 305 km limit on the race distance the races on high speed tracks would be rather short (meaning higher speeds and same distance). Well exemptions are possible. We have slow track in Monaco where the race distance is only 260 km, we could as well have a high speed race over longer distance …

This short debate finally brought me to the post I had in mind for a while. Back in May, after the Indy 500 race, I started a thread at the F1Wolf Club forum on the possibility of having a Formula 1 race on a proper oval track. There are different opinions on the former F1 track at Indy but I always looked forward to that race. The sight of the F1 cars going around the final banked corner (see the photo above) and then charging down the long straight used to be one of the higlights of the season. (The rest of the track was boring but that is a different story). Now Indy F1 race is gone and the closest we get to banked corner is Turn 13 in Shanghai …


Me myself I am not really a fan of oval races but one of the reasons is that I do not follow the series that race on ovals that much. But I must say I would not mind seeing the Formula 1 cars once a year blasting full speed around the track. For better or worse it would definitely be a different race :-) .

Current F1 rules are not really oval friendly. Aero that prevents cars to get closer to each other, rev limiter kicking in when the extra revs may come handy (remember Alonso vs. Hamilton at Indy last year) and the grooved tyres … The rules are however about to change. The downforce will be significantly cut down, the slicks will very likely return next year and although the revs will remain limited to 19,000 rpm the KERS may provide some extra boost.

So should Formula 1 try to have a race on oval ? It may be risky of course but would that be any bigger risk than going for a night race without ever testing it ?

The cars would still require very different set up from any other race. But even now we have extremes on calendar – the minimum downforce Monza track one hand and the high downforce Monaco on the other. Would not oval be simply just another track for the engineers ?

Here is a selection of opinions posted in the thread at F1Wolf Club. The debate somehow turned into discussion why F1 cars could not run on ovals :-)

Jose:

i really don’t get why people enjoy a race in a circle hehe. i think that to truly appreciate it you have to be there and see the speed the cars are carrying through the oval.. which in a f1 car should be veeeeeery fast! …. wonder what speed does an f1 would get on that!!

Steve Robbo touched the issue of safety cars on ovals:

It seems that F1 has the best drivers in the world, and mostly inexperienced drivers brush the walls at Indy. The safety car periods ruined what promised to be a good race yesterday (that was Indy500).

Stew:

IRL is devoted to ovals and so the cars are upside down airplanes. If F1 were to get into oval racing the car would change drastically for those races and it would take a lot of time to adapt.

That said, Indy isn’t for the faint of heart. Yes some rookies ground the sides off their cars against the walls on Sunday, but there have been some superior races in the past (when it was CART) when guys like Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Rick Mears etc. smacked the walls too. The corners at Indy are the toughest there is at high speed. As Fittipaldi once said, entering the first turn into the short shoot, don’t blink your eyes or you’re into the wall at the next corner.

Cletus Van Horton on difference in set up for an oval race:

…So they just said “Well, if you’d just setup the car for the oval with all the luxuries F1 can afford, what type of speed would it do?”
The engineer replied that most teams would be able to beak the 250 mph barrier, but would require slicks for nothing more than safety concerns.

And our star commentator Kotenok:

It would be a pursuit to create a car which works in high speed ring but without heavy cornering and in difficult middle speed and high speed corners in usual circuits. Tremendous challenge which aren’t easy at all, because F1 cars mainly are designed to live about 1 hour and 20 min race, the races in ovals are much more longer and reach about 3 hours of race, well it’s difficult because the FIA banned these exotic materials which would in fact make it a little bit more possible to make the cars more long-lasting and safe in harder conditions.

(more in the the Oval Track thread at F1Wolf Club)

Photo: Williams/LAT

11 Comments Post a Comment
  1. KotenokNo Gravatar says:

    Where from comes that shinny star on me? :P HEHE Well, that was pretty nice to take part of our words and join them to a review for this article :)

    I begin to regret sometimes myself, and maybe it is easier than I thought that past moment… Although, I’m not a professional mechanic to know that much but know the damper would require specific setups. And yes, that could be another kind of track for the engineers, to build different parts for the car and design advances in the mechanical parts and aerodynamics, and thinking however how to optimize the grip by using power maps… Why not? That’s their hobby, why it shouldn’t be impossible? So hope to see some faster races with much more adrenaline on the overtaking maneuvers :) But ovals still aren’t my favorite ones, I’m not loving much the corners with high benching (car behaves with too much oversteer and that’s too easy…).

    I’d like something alike the V8 Supercars in Australian tracks with long straights and closed hairpins like Queensland Raceway, Eastern Creek Raceway, McNamara Park, and there are much more such great new places to try!! Or recover some circuits as the AVUS race track (difficult in that case because the track already doesn’t exist), Long Beach (exotic, isn’t it?), the great tPaul Ricard circuit (now the track is even much better than the original), or the fast fast fast Zeltweg (but from there we should kick away the Austrian army… They settled there their air force).

    But which fast tracks we have nowadays? Hockenheimring (if not cut the longer choice), Monza (if use more from the original it should be the fastest race track), Valencia street circuit (previews consider that track as one of the fastest in the season), Gilles-Villeneuve (that´s still pretty crazy that the teams sacrifice most of their aerodynamically developments for that race, but really cool :) ), and not the fastest but with a great straights are Montmeló, Sakhir, Sepang, Shanghai, and Spa-Francorchamps and maybe Fuji Speedway. So it looks like mostly in the calendar there is part of hight-speed :) But we wish more and more HEHE!!

    PS: Pictures of Williams always call my attention :P Wise man! HAHA!! Good post! Let’s look which circuits would like others to see in the F1 :) I imagine Watkins Glen, Imola, Adelaide, or Zandvoort will be there. And maybe also Indy :)

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      from current tracks I consider only Monza to be a really fast track. Montreal is not bad too and perhaps offers much more exciting racing but it is not the raw speed.

      I would somehow like to see at least once an F1 race where the cars go on full throttle almost non stop. no way for the engines to last more than one race but if all the drivers get 10 places penalty for next race for engine change, no harm will be done :-)

      Let’s see what Valencia will be like, getting close :-)

  2. BenNo Gravatar says:

    I would like to see a longer higher speed race, but I don’t like the idea of it being all oval I think thats boring. I don’t like the Nascar tracks that only cause you to have to turn in one direction thoughout all of the race.
    I think a race with a few fast curves in different directions, high-speed straight-aways and a few quick chicanes would be nice. I liked the Indianapolis race track as its not just oval.

    As I don’t like oval tracks I don’t wish for the F1 rules to be more “oval friendly”, but I do like fast tracks.

    Montreal is one of my favorite tracks, and Monza is a good change of pace to the rest of the callender. I like a season with a calender that offers a good variety of tracks.

    I may be one of the only F1 fans who don’t actually like the slow Monte Carlo race. I think its one of the least exiting races of the season (unless you have rain)

    I like tracks that challenge to make mistakes, and promote great over-taking maneuvres.

    To me the over-taking battles is what makes the races the most exiting, and the crashes too….though I would ofcause never wish for a driver to hurt himself :)

    • KotenokNo Gravatar says:

      “I like tracks that challenge to make mistakes, and promote great over-taking maneuvres.”

      That’s about Monte Carlo’s street circuit :P Only there you see stunning overtaking when it happens :) In such narrow track you only find one overtaking maneuver from Fernando Alonso in Merabeau in F1 history this year and in the same race such a mistake like hitting Heidfield and the problem of choosing the proper tires :P I think that of course is borring the tedious catwalk of famous people and their friends, but anyway, even if the race is slow, to see such fast cars in there allows us to notice how fast they’re.

  3. StewNo Gravatar says:

    That’s a good question. I do like a good high speed track, but unless they are ovals they don’t leave much opportunity to pass. We have enough of that already.

    If another high speed circuit would be entertained, I would choose an oval. The F1 race at Indy had the final corner, but that was only a tease. I would love to see F1 cars run at Michigan or La. They are the fastest ovals, but Indy has prestige and so is much more attractive to F1.

    It would be fun.

  4. cdNo Gravatar says:

    Maybe I’m speaking from the fact I can’t turn on a television without seeing cars on an oval, but the reason I like F1 is that it isn’t oval racing.

    I do miss true high speed tracks though, like the old Monza and Hockenheim.

    cds last blog post..Mosley wins in court

  5. F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

    As I said even in my post, I do find ovals boring. But I would still like to see how would a Formula 1 race on oval look. For sure totally different than anything we are used to :-)

    I would really like to see it :-) Even as a non-championship exhibition bloody fast race :-)

  6. benalfNo Gravatar says:

    Why not? We’ve so far, very slow circuits (monaco), Tilke, designed2pass (?) circuits, boring circuits (hungary, spain). The only exciting part of the USGP was watching the cars flat out on the banked last turn. May be not an oval but a 3-D (I mean, not flat) eight shape with, let’s say 6 high-speed turns, with a very exposed bridge where you can see cars going on both levels at the same time (a suzuka-improved version). An oval should not be a dangerous place, you don’t have to built concrete walls alonside and tarmac but a safety zone (flat) so if you leave the asphalt you’re gonna loose a lot of time getting back in the allowed zone. We need more circuit designer besides Tillke; it was a dissapointment to hear that Donington is gonna to hire him to extend the circuit(?). We don’t need standardization, we need variety. Let’s see what happen with Valencia and Singapore and see if we can start having options…

    • KotenokNo Gravatar says:

      From Tilke I do not think that bad, he had the aim to create things which were impossible to guess. Turn 8, at Istambul Park, turn 13 and 1-2 in Sepang, the entire track of Bahrain is a pursuit with some few opposite benches and level differences, Shanghai to me looks to be an attractive track, more fast straights and challenging corners with invisible apex , benched turn 13 is already a pursuit for the drivers :) Can look standard, but much more fan than a borring oval.
      I think you should purpose your design, and lets see how it betters the ones of Herman Tilke ;) But do not copy any Scalextric slot track!!! HEHE!

      For me Catalonian track means something, and I do not see it that boring, just step in the circuit for once during a race and you’ll feel many emotions there, specially the sound of the crowd, which can be higher than the formula ones. In TV that race looks different than sitting in a grandstand, there are many difficult turns, like 1-2 or the single turn 9, only mans with courage open wide, take the apex, and run on the kerbs at full speed.
      Although, Barcelona is a city with great attractive for visitors :) Not many circuits are located that near the cities, Albert Park, Gilles Villeneuve circuit, Interlagos, Monaco, Valencia street circuit and Singapore one. The other ones are located very far in the countryside, with few interesting spots surrounding the circuit. And also that does trouble to find where to stay (I guess Wolf could comment how comfortable is to arrive to a circuit with Tram in Melbourne).

  7. BenalfNo Gravatar says:

    You can find lots of good things in the new F1 circuits, like the ones Kotenok mentioned, not question about it, but the overall lap averages out the good things, with exceptions for sure. I don’t like the “chicane-zation” of classic circuits to “improve” safety. The first “turn” in Monza. the last chicane in Barcelona, the killing of Hockenheimring to mention a few. Try to keep the spirit of the classic tracks is as important as bringing fresh ideas in to add more variety, challenges worth to see and to test the new high-tech driver skills. I’d like to see new racetracks designed by different guys, people who thinks outside the “modern” F1 box. May be not an oval senso stricto but a very fast, challenging, safe circuit, in which if you make a mistake, you’re not gonna get killed, but you’re gonna loss time. I wonder what stuff exists between gravel traps and astroturf that keeps safety and race punishment worth to try…

  8. JackNo Gravatar says:

    You just don’t understand the speed at Indy and other IRL race tracks. Imagine 33 cars taking off and going into a left turn (not an Oval – It’s a left turn) at 220+mph This year 2009 is the closest field ever. The pole is 226+, last place is 221+. TV doesn’t do it justice unless you have HDTV . You have to be there to experience the speed, the garages, the drivers, the atmosphere of 300,000+ people. It’s amazing!

    The speeds are crazy but not even as high as they used to be. The track speed record is over 236 mph. If you think 220 is fast, try 236mph when you have to make a left turn. To average 226 mph around a track that is a rectangle, not an oval, they have to go nearly 235mph down the long front and back stretchs that are 3/4 mile long. And they don’t lift going into the left turns. For the track record they were driving over 245 down the main straight. This year is going to be something great! You have at least 15 driver/car combos that are capable of winning this race. It won’t be a runaway like last year.

    Hope you get to watch it. Better yet- come to Indy and see it LIVE!

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