Sam Michael: It's the Circuit, Not the Car

Negative CamberCorrespondent INovember 9, 2009

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 02:  Williams Team Principal Sam Michael is seen following practice for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit on October 2, 2009 in Suzuka, Japan.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

According to Williams F1’s technical director Sam Michael, the lack of passing in F1 today is not just down to the cars. In an Autosport story Michael was quick to explain that while the Overtaking Working group has made improvements to the 2009 car from an aerodynamic standpoint, the real culprit may just lay in the actual circuit design.

“I think that clearly the changes made the cars easier to follow, however, there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done,” said Michael.

“One of the things that wasn’t addressed in the 2009 rule changes was circuit design. If you look at tracks like Barcelona where nobody overtakes, and take exactly the same cars to tracks like Monza, Hockenheim etc, there’s plenty of overtaking. The difference is circuit layout.

“Organisers need to look closer at creating slower speed corners which feed onto straights, and at removing chicanes.

“If you look at somewhere like Abu Dhabi, there are some good aspects to the circuit, but there are fundamental mistakes. There wasn’t good enough racing there and the organisers need to rectify that before next year. You can’t keep blaming car design.”

No question that F1 has been joined at the hip with Herman Tilke and his design group for many years and have relied on his expertise in providing practically all of the circuit design layout over the last decade. It also comes as no surprise that the importance of track amenities and commodities has taken a front seat to the actual track itself.

Tilke’s design have met with some criticism of late as they have seemingly accommodated the glitterati with opulent media centers, hospitality locations and facilities but the main goal to create exciting racing has taken a back seat.

Circuits like Spa Francorchamp, Monza, Silverstone, and Moncao still out rank all the new tracks in popularity and prestige.

Is it the circuit or the car?

The palatial and over-the-top opulence of Abu Dhabi’s maiden Grand Prix this year was a real testament of bling before zing. It gave our heads dizzying images but left our hearts bereft of real racing. I’ll take the musty, beer-stained old air base at Silverstone any day over Abu Dhabi.


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