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Fri 4 Feb 2011 08:44 AM

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F1 chief Gascoyne attacks Gulf’s ‘boring’ desert circuits

F1 tracks in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi are badly designed and create boring races, says Team Lotus’ Mike Gascoyne

F1 chief Gascoyne attacks Gulf’s ‘boring’ desert circuits
Team Lotus technical head Mike Gascoyne
F1 chief Gascoyne attacks Gulf’s ‘boring’ desert circuits
A pit stop during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakir last year (Getty Images)
F1 chief Gascoyne attacks Gulf’s ‘boring’ desert circuits
Michael Schumacher of Germany in action during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakir last year (Getty Images)
F1 chief Gascoyne attacks Gulf’s ‘boring’ desert circuits
Felipe Massa of Brazil and Scuderia Ferrari in action during the Formula 1 Pirelli Tyre Testing at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi last year (Getty Images)
F1 chief Gascoyne attacks Gulf’s ‘boring’ desert circuits
Jaime Alguersuari of Spain and Scuderia Toro Rosso in action during the Formula 1 Pirelli Tyre Testing at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi last year (Getty Images)

Formula One would see more overtaking if it addressed the problem of boring new circuits in the Middle East, according to Team Lotus technical head Mike Gascoyne.

The glamour sport has introduced a new driver-operated adjustable rear wing this year to try and increase the amount of passing but Gascoyne feared that could merely create a different set of problems.

Last season was one of the closest ever, with four drivers taking the title chase down to the wire, and widely hailed as a thriller.

It started with boredom in Bahrain though, triggering renewed calls for measures to encourage overtaking, and ended with a procession in Abu Dhabi.

"You can make an argument that says, 'we had a cracking season last year and why would you want to change anything?'," Gascoyne said at Spain's Valencia circuit amid pre-season testing.

"Then you could say, 'yes but we had three or four incredibly boring races'.

"If on certain circuits you have cracking races every year then why don't we stop going to boring racing circuits?" asked the Briton.

"The shame is that, Monaco apart, a lot of the races now that are really boring are the all purpose-designed tracks built in deserts where you could have done absolutely anything that you want.

"Bahrain and Abu Dhabi were the two most boring races [of 2010]," added Gascoyne.

"It's pretty disappointing that you've got two massively boring races on circuits where you had literally carte blanche to do anything you liked. You could have had elevation change or moved sand wherever you want it."

Bahrain will host this year's season-opener on March 13 while Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina, by far the most lavish facility in the 20-race championship, becomes the penultimate round.

Gascoyne made clear the jury was out on the moveable rear wing concept, which allows drivers to open a slot in the wing to give the car more straight-line speed when chasing a rival.

The device will be enabled via control electronics if the driver is less than one second behind the other at pre-determined positions on the circuit.

"I think the governing body has to be willing to change how it's implemented to ensure that it works in the way it's meant to," said former Renault and Toyota technical head Gascoyne.

"Very often we've done things like this and they've done more harm than good."

One fear is that drivers might ease off to ensure they are in second place, rather than leading into the last corner, so they can then push a button and surge past at the finish to take victory.

A safety concern is also that the drivers now have so many buttons to deal with on their steering wheels, with the return of the KERS energy recovery systems that are also designed to help passing by providing a short burst of extra power, that they lose concentration.

Gascoyne suggested there could be a quota allowing drivers to move the wing a limited number of times in the race to introduce another strategic element.

Some of the great memories of Formula One, he added, have also been provided by drivers holding off faster cars for lap after lap rather than overtaking.

Renault's Russian Vitaly Petrov did just that in Abu Dhabi last year when he thwarted Fernando Alonso's title hopes by keeping the Ferrari driver behind him for 40 laps.

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Ghazi 8 years ago

Monaco is more boring.

Bo Diddley 8 years ago

Gascoyne is right. Abu Dhabi is a stunning facility where no expenses were spared and then they come up with a race track layout where all you get is a funeral procession. It got so boring that people were switching to a football match on their radio headsets rather than following the race. The Prince concert afterwards was definitely more interesting!
It's a big turn-off for tv audiences too, and ultimately they pay for the sponsorships, one way or another.
Maybe there's room for alterations that can improve the tracks in Abu Dhabi and Doha, and if so then the owners should at least listen to the drivers and their Teams.

Hubert 8 years ago

Main reason for boring races was NO KERS, NO PIT STOP FOR REFUEL, NO MOVABLE REAR WING. This will change this year. But the race tracks designed my Tilke Aachen are the best in the world.

Abdel Baset 8 years ago

Monaco has glamour and prestige. It also doesn't forgive mistakes of drivers.
The point is that given all the money of Abu Dhabi, and all the available space, a better circuit design could have been possible.

Harry Barracuda 8 years ago

In other words "We can't design a car that's got the straight line speed to beat the big boys, so we need winding tracks with limited straights".

Perhaps they can't afford a wind tunnel.

His Excellency Dr Paul 8 years ago

Gascoigne is right. The very same cars produced fantastic races at some circuits, and very dull ones at others.

I was at Abu Dhabi last year, and the facilities and organization were first class in every respect.

But the track is very dull. Fast straights and tight chicanes.

The real spectacle of F1 cars is the way they handle fast bends, not flat out straights or very tight turns. That is why the drivers and fans love Spa, Silverstone and Suzuka. It also gives an opportunity for better cars to gain a small speed advantage before the straights, which helps them overtake - hence more passing.

To be fair, Malaysia, Singapore and China are also boring new circuits and are not in the middle east. But they have the prospect of rain to liven things up. Something there is little chance of in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.

Chef 8 years ago

Dear Friends,
Move the race to Dubai Autodrome. This is a international Accredited circuit and much more challenging than Abu Dhabi. This is not said by fans but by actual drivers who race on both cicuits.

Speed is nothing without control!