The opening race of the 2020 F1 season is upon us and it is held in Austria at the Red Bull Ring. This is a track well known for a top speed of 326 kph; a maximum G-Force of 4.6; being 4.318 km in length and being physically demanding on the F1 cars. There are already enough variables for drivers to consider this weekend whether they be physical exertion or mental barriers due to any anxiety the that may be felt at being asked to race during such a special period. As a result, anything that can be done to ease pressure on the teams must surely be welcomed. One such alteration, as announced today by FIA race director Michael Masi, is that the yellow exit kerbs at both Turn 9 and Turn 10 have been removed for this weekend, with timing loops being preferred as a way to police track limits.
In 2019, the notorious Turn 9 kerbs, at the Red Bull Ring, claimed many victims. One racer who found his running come to an end during FP1 was Nico Hulkenberg as his encounter with the kerbs and subsequent damage to his front wing, resulted in a red flag halting the proceedings.
On track running is crucial for drivers to literally get back up to speed and the last thing anyone wants is unnecessary red flags.
Another reason why this alteration to the track has been so well received comes from the financial implications that are the knock-on effect of any kerb damage. Renault was not the only team to suffer last year in Austria, as Christian Horner suggested at the time that his Red Bull Racing team suffered around £250,000 worth of damage in first practice alone with the damage the kerbs caused to their front wings.
When the team, which the track is named after, is known for having encountered such costly damage previously, it is little surprise that this decision to remove the Turn 9 and Turn 10 kerbs has been made.
Renault F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul, no doubt still recalling last year’s financial pain inflicted by the kerbs, commented to the media that the track "can be harsh for the cars, even if there has been some kerbs being removed” so clearly Abiteboul feels more could have been done but he did make clear that the team have plenty of spares with them.
During the crisis brought about by Covid-19 there have been many times when speculation was rife as to whether there would still be 10 teams on the grid by the time racing resumed. Thankfully, there is for now, but for how long that continues to be the case is anyone’s guess.
Formula One is about to embark on a triple header and the teams were very vocal in their concern for having to ensure a sufficient amount of spare parts to accompany their 2020 challenger on its travels. We already have pundits predicting first corner incidents and ‘rusty’ drivers and so this triple header could be very costly to teams indeed.
No racing fan likes to see racers tackling too easy a track, with excessive run off areas, so it is encouraging to know that track limits will still be monitored in Austria. However, we certainly have not waited 5 months to see a red flag brought out early on in proceedings and so I for one welcome this alteration and wonder what other changes may be…just around the corner.