Gravel Traps vs. Tarmac Run Off

Gravel traps or Tarmac run off? Which do you prefer?

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isn't dead.
Valued Member
Ah, yes. The debate of the 21st century starts here.

With the news that turns 6 and 8 at Montreal are to be tarmac'ed, I thought it was about time to ask members of CTA what they thought about the debate regarding designated run-off areas.

Should they be gravel, or tarmac?

Gravel traps
  • Punish mistakes more often
  • Can slow cars down when not in control
  • Er.. they look prettier?
Tarmac Run off
  • Provide better conditions for braking
  • Allow drivers to continue after mistakes
  • Gives space for sponsors
My own opinion is that tarmac run offs are talked about as being "modern", when I feel this is simply not the case, if anything, they are the opposite. Too often they are used to cut a part of a corner or to provide a place for drivers to effectively cheat (Kimi at La Source in 2008 AND 2009, for example), and even more often the drivers are not punished either by the track itself or the governing body. They also remove the sense of danger or excitement, you only have to look at qualifying laps in the early 2000s to see how close some drivers got to the gravel at Pouhon, knowing that if they step over the limit, they would spin and ruin their chances. Now, they can run wide there, knowing that they'll only lose a fraction of a second, possibly 0.2s or less. Do we really want to encourage mediocrity?

It's also ironic that so many slow speed corners are now being "tarmac'ed", given the upsurge in street tracks recently. Do turns 6 and 8 at Montreal really demand gravel traps? Only in very unlikely situations would they ever be used, let alone beached into.

I don't want to see drivers crash or get injured, but in my opinion the FIA has to realise that F1 is inherently dangerous, and that actually many drivers thrive, driving on the edge of the track, believing a mistake will cost them dearly. Where is the excitement for them or us if we all know that mistakes can be easily gotten back in terms of lap time?
I was going to go for the 'armco everywhere' option, but realised that that would get drivers killed, so went for gravel traps.

Although the reason that gravel traps were removed was that they could ping cars into the air, making accidents worse, iirc.
It's a tricky one.

With gravel traps the smallest of mistakes can be punished with the ultimate penalty - out of the race.
Whereas with tarmac, huge rookie errors can be committed lap after lap with only a slight increase in lap time the result.

I expect sponsors and therefore Bernie prefer tarmac as it keeps drivers in the race for longer.

Fans on the other hand probably prefer gravel as it makes the driver work harder knowing that they can't just cut a chicane or out-brake themselves.

The argument against gravel is cars can dig in and flip over.
On the other hand they do a good job of slowing cars down before they reach the barriers.

Tarmac on the other hand allows the driver to steer away from the barriers, assuming he still has control.

Put the question another way, would the 2007 season have been better if China didn't have that solitary, small gravel trap at the entrance to the pits? ;)
Brogan said:
Put the question another way, would the 2007 season have been better if China didn't have that solitary, small gravel trap at the entrance to the pits? ;)

Even as a fervent Hamilton fan, no. The season ended as it did, what happened in China was a "classic moment", if you like.

Also, was it you that put that little picture in the corner? It looks odd :/
It is a very tricky question indeed.

From a saftey point of view you'd want the ability to actually slow the car down without going for a hop skip and a jump as gravel so often does tend to do when a car hits it at high speed, or in the worst case it could dig in and roll, so i'd say tarmac on that basis.

But as has been said it is meant to be a dangerous sport and tbh pretty much all the danger has been taken out of it which is giving drivers the option to over extend their / the cars abilities for little punishment. there needs to be a common ground somewhere where drivers can be punished for mistakes.

So i went for the mix of tarmac / gravel option, tarmac at the end of high speed straights or corners like turn 8 in turkey where if you do go off you will lose signifcant time in the off and recovery, all other medium to low / chicanes should be gravel or a barrier.

Just my opinion.
One thing that came out of my Monaco poll is that respondants prized unforgivingness in a circuit, and I would agree that unforgivingness is a desirable quality in a circuit, so I believe in Gravel Traps.

I don't think the gravel trap is dangerous. I believe the devastating accident at Monza in 2000 has led to the Trap's gradual phasing out as much as Bandini's death killed the straw bale in 1967, but less justifiably. The biggest potential killers are the barriers, and the Trap stops them being hit at quite such force. I get the feeling that Felipe Massa, Luciano Burti and Michael Schumacher's accidents could have been much more severe if they had tarmac run-offs.

I want to see the drivers who can keep their cars on the black stuff win races, and that means sanctioning offs.

As for China, at a circuit with such a long history of wet racing, it seems bizarre that there is a Gravel Trap at the pit in of all places. However, I would rather see that there than the oceans of run off seen at places like Bore-hrain and [legard]Abberdabbi[/legard]. And I think anyone who sticks some gravel into the Valencia circuit should be knighted.
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teabagyokel said:
Enja said:
Felipe Massa's crash did have run-offs, as far as I remember.

I'm not 100% but I think there was gravel. I know MS in 1999 was gravel though.

Yeah Schumacher's definitely was gravel, no doubt.

Here's Massa's crash : ... re=related

It's kind of a dusty, beige coloured tarmac, not actually gravel though. It's interesting, the tarmac gave him the traction to be able to brake to slow down, but undoubtedly he was not slamming the brakes. Would gravel have slowed him down more in that situation?
Being "old school", I favor gravel, as errors should have consequences. Being able to pull a truly bone-headed move and yet continue on racing cheapens the end product to a remarkable degree (to me--but then I remember when drivers had to be able to use a clutch, and a missed shift could soften or even destroy your engine!).
It appears that Siffert Fan and I are on the same page. Much of the skill needed to drive an F1 car in the 60's, 70's and 80's has been removed with all the driver aids that have been bolted on over the years. At least ABS has been removed but I think the cars still have servo assist on the brakes (?) but the sequential/clutchless gearboxes mean that driving the cars is like being on a Playstation (admittedly a very fast, noisy and physically punishing Playstation that can't be paused while you go for a wizz LOL )

The real question here is safety. If run off areas are believed to make a safer circuit for the drivers then let's have them BUT if any driver, for whatever reason (perhaps with the exception of accident avoidance), puts all four wheels (or maybe two?) over the white lines that define the racing circuit they should have an instant drive through penalty. If the driver doesn't have enough talent to keep the car on the circuit for an entire race they deserve some form of punishment, I doubt very much that the FIA would be brave enough to bring in such a rule though.

One other point, isn't one of the major reasons why the consequences of accidents is so much lower these days down to the rather excellent tyre barriers in front of the armco's? Finally, I see there is not an option to put catch fencing back in. Anyone remember Geoff Lees being knocked unconscious by a catch fence post at Kyalami some years back and then the marshalls not being able to get him out as the car was tied up in the plastic fencing. Thank god someone saw the light.
If a car rolls in gravel, they tend to do a Pedro Diniz and dig in whereas tarmac causes them to bounce onto 4 wheels.

Bravery should be rewarded, mistakes punished at the F1 level. The drivers get away with fundamental errors, something that would make Fangio turn in his grave :mad: :mad:
if any driver, for whatever reason (perhaps with the exception of accident avoidance), puts all four wheels (or maybe two?) over the white lines that define the racing circuit they should have an instant drive through penalty.

Is GPS accurate enough to detect all four wheels being off the circuit? If so you could have the engine managment cut their power by say 10% for 5s for being off the circuit, allowing a following driver to make a move on'd give more overtaking at least...
Also I was thinking, at turn 6, what could go wrong?

Montreal is expected to be the hardest circuit on brakes this year with the 150kg of fuel onboard.

So what do we expect to go wrong? Brakes.

Where do you need brakes? Turn 6.

What's past the braking zone of turn 6? Tarmac.

How is tarmac going to help at turn 6 if someone has no brakes? :givemestrength:
I'm in favour of gravel traps, there should be more disadvantages to running wide or spinning.

Also, I'm in favour of covering the entire Valencia track in gravel, perhaps that way they might cancel the race and I can do something more fulfilling and entertaining like pulling my own finger nails out or jabbing needles in my eyes.
Idealy the punishment should fit the crime. Since motorsport is notoriously difficult to predict, the only thing to do is provide a mixture of both and in the right places. Some while ago F1 got into the habit of digging furrows in gravel traps which wasn't always good for F1 drivers and had absolutely horrendous consequences for motorcyclists, so F1, Bernie, the FIA and ourselves ideally should consider more than just our own needs.
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