In recent weeks, international motorsport has seen a fare few number of races on street circuits. Some of the tracks being modern such as the Baku GP. Others were timeless classics such as the Monaco Grand Prix, the Grand Prix de Pau and this week is the start of the Isle of Man TT.
After what I’m sure everyone can agree was a slightly “dull” race at Monaco, I’m wondering if these sorts of tracks should become a happy memory instead of a relationship turned sour.
Firstly, I would like to say that, in reality, the Monaco Grand Prix was an exciting race to the person who knows a lot about the sport and can analyse the different strategies at play. However, from the perspective of someone coming to the sport for the first time, it may have seemed like a stale-mate as in there was no on-track action.
Attraction of new fans is an issue motorsport deals with constantly, but even more so when races fail to provide the excitement one gets from a proper jostle for position. And this is where Monaco becomes more and more of a problem as Formula 1 cars are getting faster and wider. It’s not only Monaco which is having problems. This week is the start of running for the Isle of Man TT. In the first few days, there have already been multiple fatal accidents involving both Dan Kneen and Steve Mercer. This reinforces the fact that maybe, modern machinery is becoming too fast for these classic circuits.
This is where historic, or classic racing comes into play. In fact, if you take the example of Monaco. The ACM (Automobile Club de Monaco) also organises the Historic Monaco Grand Prix. This event ranges from old GT racing all the way through to classic F1 cars. The racing in all of the categories over the weekend is astonishingly good because the cars are slower. Slower vehicles also keep the racing as safe as possible. For example, at the Isle of Man TT, the slower bike races don’t see as many of the horrifying crashes we witness in the superbike races. This is down to one major element; the bikes aren’t going as fast as the “big boys” when they do eventual crash making it less dangerous for the riders.
On the flip side of the street circuit conversation. The more modern layouts are proving themselves as great tracks for close racing and even a little bit of carnage. Today’s new generation of street circuit are seeming to aim for more modern streets with more than two lanes and less flowing turns. As a result, you get tracks such as Singapore and Baku which constantly provide the best races of the Formula One season by creating an unpredictable result thanks to the possibility of overtakes and crashes. Even though these circuits aren’t as fun to drive as the typical Spa or Silverstone. The fact is that long flowing turns need downforce whereas start-stop 90-degree corners mostly only use a car’s mechanical grip. You can then get long trains of cars all able to squabble when they arrive on one of the many long, wide straights. Finally, with the barriers on either side of these tracks, drivers are bound to end up making slight mistakes and binning it causing safety car intervention. And the whole “procession” starts over again because cars that had previously managed to create gaps have now been forced back into the clutches of their rivals…
In conclusion, there are a few ways of getting out of this rut and making sure we don’t have a repeat of the monotonous Monaco GP. The FIA should either decide to get rid of the track from the F1 calendar leaving it for slower cars or change the layout to accommodate for the more modern cars.