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Michael: Improved circuit design would improve F1

Sam Michael insists that circuit design has a big part to play in a lack of overtaking in F1, arguing that car design isn't totally to blame
Williams F1 technical chief Sam Michael has argued that 'you can't keep blaming car design' when it comes discussions over ways to improve racing in F1.

The 2009 season saw F1 implement a series of new regulations with the aim of improving racing, and while the changes worked to an extent, there were also a number of races that saw a lack of action as drivers struggled to overtake.

While Michael insisted that the changes brought into play had made it easier for drivers to follow each other on track, he also argued that circuit design continues to play a big part in the action on track and insisted that changes needed to be made in order to improve the show.

The Catalunya circuit in Barcelona and the new Yas Marina venue in Abu Dhabi were singled out as two venues where improvements could be made; the latter having made a impression on fans and teams alike for its appearance even though the action on track left something to be desired.

“I think that clearly the changes made the cars easier to follow, however, there's a lot of work that still needs to be done,” Michael insisted. “One of the things that wasn't addressed in the 2009 rule changes was circuit design. If you look at tracks like Barcelona where no one overtakes and take exactly the same cars to tracks like Monza, Hockenheim etc, there's plenty of overtaking.

“The difference is circuit layout. Organisers need to look closer at creating slower speed corners which feed onto straights and at removing chicanes. If you look at somewhere like Abu Dhabi, there are some good aspects to the circuit, but there are fundamental mistakes. There wasn't good enough racing there and the organisers need to rectify that before next year. You can't keep blaming car design. The FIA are looking into this now and will hopefully solve the problem.”

Further regulation changes will come into play next season, including a ban on refuelling, and Michael admitted that those changes should improve overtaking opportunities, even without changes to circuit design.

“There will be three main changes: narrower front tyres, no refuelling and a ban on wheel farings,” he said. “Narrower front tyres will shift weight distribution rearwards slightly, which will affect the aerodynamics and set-up of the car because of where the tyres position the wake.

“With no refuelling permitted, all the fuel will have to be carried at the start of the race, so the driver will have to manage brakes and tyres more effectively than they've ever done. A ban on wheel farings should also improve the wake behind the car, so drivers can get closer to each other. That should help to improve overtaking opportunities.”

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