F1: Entertainment by design

After yet another thrilling race in Canada, the obvious question is why can’t we have more tracks like Montreal, that always seem to generate an interesting race for one reason or another?

It is a fair question. What is the answer?

It seems to be possible to construct a race track that is likely to generate good racing. Low grip, punishing run off areas, a few walls and multiple overtaking points; mix all of those, add a few spices and it’s done. With a modern simulator, a new track could be programmed and the effects of various options could be assessed. Why on earth do need to put up with all the new boring Tilkedromes?

Safety is probably one reason. F1 has become obsessed to reduce the risk of death or serious injury to such an extent that it has, consciously or uncousciouly, sacrificed some of the racing excitement. It is easy to criticise this choice until something goes wrong. In Montreal, this seems to happen every 10 years or so with Olivier Panis breaking both legs in 1997 and Robert Kubica lucky to survive a major impact in 2007. None of these accidents would have happened in Abu Dhabi or in the Buddha International Circuit and it’s a close call on whether having one serious accident every 10 years is an acceptable cost for a thrilling race every year. It can be argued that the perfect circuit simulator would allow for the best of both worlds as long as the supercomputer could solve a very complicated set of equations and constraints but in practice this may be difficult to achieve.

What other reasons are out there for the Boring Lookalikes? A viable conspiracy theory is that, whilst drivers and fans love circuits like Montreal, the bosses do not. They want a proper return on their investment and if they have a technical edge, predictable and safe racing may be a good way to bring home the bacon.

For the fans and the racers, the picture is less rosy. In 10 or 20 years time, it would be sad to see a World Championship full of Tilkedromes and circuits such as Spa, Montreal and Albert Park gone. Everyone should enjoy races like today’s while they can.


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