I am always bemused when an article about F1 that complains about the lack of action in modern races goes on to suggest more city street circuits as the solution.
Now there are some advantages city street circuits.
1 – They’re easier to get to for spectators. By their very nature, racing circuits need lots of space, and it’s easier to get that in the middle of nowhere. Middle of nowhere never has good transport links. (It’s not much fun for the locals either. I have two friends from near Silverstone and they both loathe having the Grand Prix on their doorstep.) Street circuits are in the middle of cities or near them. Cities have much better transport links.
2 – Things do happen in street races. If the drivers make a mistake, there’s a good chance their race ends in a barrier. If that happens, there will be a safety car, and with a lot of the present drivers, you can’t trust them not to mess that up, or the start after it, be the car virtual or Mercedes-AMG GT3. But that’s a demolition derby, not racing.
And that’s the problem. Street circuits don’t offer much opportunity for racing. There’s not enough space for overtaking; at best, you can line up behind someone and press the DRS zoom button along the start-finish straight to get past them. With the strength of the top cars, if that happens, there’s no way, even with brilliant defensive driving, that anyone can stop that overtake (legally).
The drivers know that, and they also know that overtaking at other points is risky. So I’m not going to blame them for waiting for the DRS zones and then pressing the go-faster button.
So you get a race that’s basically processional, with positioning reflecting qualifying, unless someone in one of the top 3 teams had a nightmare, in which case we have to wait up to 20 laps for them to resume their normal position by pressing the button in the DRS zones. The only time it’s not like that is if there is some shunt, but even then there’s little overtaking, just cars being unable to continue.
There’s only two ways to get more overtaking:
1 – make the cars smaller, which can’t be done without major rule changes. The size of the cars is dictated by the size of the engines, the ERS system and the safety features associated with them. That leaves option 2.
2 – use circuits wide enough to allow more overtaking. And that’s something that street circuits just don’t offer. They can’t get any wider.
Using more street circuits doesn’t solve the problem of a lack of racing due to a lack of overtaking opportunities. It also doesn’t really solve the problem of boring races. In most races on street circuits, for most of the laps, nothing happens. When there’s an incident, there’s a flurry of panic but it settles down again very quickly. It’s a solution that doesn’t solve the problem.
Just say no to more street circuits.