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Thursday Thoughts - Rip it all up and start again - Changes that should be made to Abu Dhabi, Valencia and more

Published by Turkey Machine

I got chastised by Christine for not writing a blog post about Thursday Thoughts when I wrote something down double-quick that was in my head, so Sidepodcast becomes my blog (and notepad) until I get mine sorted again.

The question: Which are your worst three circuits, and what would you do to fix them?

The answer: Not an easy one as there's so many ways of doing it. I picked Abu Dhabi, Valencia and Catalunya. Let's start with the middle-East.

Rip it up and start again

Architecture dominating the skyline
Architecture dominating the skylineCredit:

Abu Dhabi has a reputation for Absolutely Dire Racing, despite it being a decent track to drive on and a challenge for the drivers to get right 100% of the time. The last F1 race of 2010 produced zero overtaking at the end of the straight where you'd half-expect it, especially from a certain Mr. F. Alonso who found a little yellow car being driven by a young Russian particularly troublesome to pass, and waved "allons-y" to his chances of being champion. (OK, the puns will stop now, promise.)

The circuit owners have promised to listen to suggestions about the venue. I pray they'll take action on some of them. The one time there was overtaking was when Schumacher spun and people suddenly had to move. When that and pitstops generate the only overtaking in the race you know there is something fundamentally wrong with the circuit, particularly if a different 2.8 mile circuit on a manmade island in the St Lawrence River (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada, heaven on F1 earth) can generate oodles of passing at will. This suggests the person who's designing the circuits these days needs to not just take inspiration from these classic tracks but outright copy them!

Which leads me to Valencia...

Don't ever go harbourside

What possessed them not to use the purpose-built circuit which is a couple miles outside the town centre and use a round-the-houses-impossible-to-overtake-except-on-lap-1 track? I could design a better track with my dog and some bits of string. Valencia is a track to test the drivers and not produce overtaking, which is not the way it should be. I don't mind drivers tracks, but that's what Interlagos, Spa, Monza, Montreal, Suzuka and Silverstone are for. Those are drivers tracks, and ironically all produce great racing and promote overtaking. These are just flatout corners, long straights, chicanes in odd places (the end of those straights? You're kidding me, right? The only places that works, and even that's hit and miss, are Montreal and Spa) and unatmospheric surroundings.

Sure, the scenery may look pretty on TV, but that's what Grand Designs is for, to admire architecture of buildings. This is a Formula One race, not the Stirling Prize. Have a race at the circuit outside town. The 2.517 mile track is squashed into a lot less than the "street" circuit, and has an unofficial lap record held by Anthony Davidson of Honda of 1m08 seconds. The only purpose-built track in the last few years which has worked well for overtaking is Malaysia. The rest have been hit and very much miss.

Korea is an unknown quantity unfortunately, and we'll soon know what will happen given a couple of years.

Former glory

Catalunya used to be a very good and challenging circuit, but with the problem that the racing was very much a procession because it was tested upon so frequently that the teams had lots of data and setups dialled in. For the old circuit, it had a 15 second front straight, 30 seconds or so of full throttle (if you were brave and kept your foot in at the last corner), and a few long corners where you spent ages playing "wall of death" with the white lines and kerbs.

The GP2 race a couple of years ago had overtaking by one Sam Bird at T5 many times during that race, and it's the first real spot F1 cars can attempt to pass. Well, Kobayashi can attempt to pass, everybody else knows you can't overtake in F1 *chortle*.

The run up the hill beyond Campsa lends itself to one potential opportunity as the radius of the corner was tightened in 2003. But that's it for the rest of the lap unless you're on a motorbike (Rossi and the MotoGP race in 2009). If just a couple of the corners had their radii tightened then they may lend themselves to overtaking opportunities, but I'll admit it's a stretch for a circuit set in a dodgy-looking Montmeló industrial estate.

There is one thing we can do to sort circuits out once and for all. Stop using Hermann Tilke and use a toddler with a marker pen. Go nuts kids! Save F1's future.