4 September 2014
F1 Italian Grand Prix: Drivers split on Parabolica changes
F1 drivers divided on changes to Monza's Parabolica corner
The changes made to Monza's famous Parabolica corner ahead of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix have been given a mixed reception by the drivers.
The FIA recently defended the alterations, which see the inner half of the gravel trap – about 35 per cent of it – replaced with an asphalt run-off area, noting it was done on safety grounds with the support of the drivers.
However, that support didn't seem so evident on Thursday in the countdown to opening practice.
Force India's Sergio Perez was especially vocal: “Personally, I am not really happy. The opinion I have is we were not at risk - the integrity of the driver was never at risk in Parabolica. It was more a driver error, you could lock the wheels and get a moment on the way in and then you are stuck in the gravel. I think that is a nice thing. Obviously Parabolica was iconic of Monza. It is a shame we lost it. I don't see the reason why we changed that,” he told reporters today.
“The only thing it changes is the confidence when you arrive there because if something went wrong [before], if you did a mistake in the past you knew that the gravel was waiting for you and if you get out you will lose quite a lot of seconds. Whereas now you get more space and you can afford a mistake and not lose so much.
“I think we should have places where if you do the error you go out and you are in the gravel. That is good and that is good for Formula 1, that is good for drivers and that is good for the fans. It is what it should be. It is what it was in the past. That is how it should be,” he continued.
Drivers in the Thursday press conference were quizzed on if they will now be able to take more risks.
“I do think we will be able to,” said McLaren's Kevin Magnussen. “Well we are not really taking more risks because it is safer and you just go off the track and come back again. Generally I am not a big fan of that.
“I think it adds to the experience of driving circuits if there is a little bit of a bigger consequence of going off the circuit. I am not saying we should compromise safety, but in my opinion I don't think we are making the track more unsafe by having gravel. But it is still an awesome circuit, I am sure and I am still going to really enjoy driving here. I haven't driven it yet [either], so we will see how it is.”
Williams' Valtteri Bottas and Marussia's Max Chilton echoed those views.
“I agree quite a lot with Kevin,” Bottas noted. “I really think last year was maybe a bit more challenging in a way because you were always in the exit going with the outside wheel just on the white line. You knew if you got a few centimetres too wide that is it, you go off. Now it doesn't matter if you go a bit over the white line. You just need to keep at least two wheels on the track and that is it. But it is still a good track. It is just one corner is less exciting.”
“I am not a huge fan of it,” Chilton continued. “I think it has allowed us to maybe go for slightly more risky overtakes. But I don't know why they needed to extend it quite so far around. It was a bit of spice the old corner. You use to run up it to the white line and if you went slightly too far - as Valtteri said - you would hit gravel and you knew it was over. Now to me it looks like you can kind of get away with it. But that is the way it is.”
Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, however, were more circumspect in their verdict, although the latter definitely seemed firmly in favour
“It was one of the more risky corners that we had in our calendar. It definitely makes things a lot safer and that is the right direction to go in,” Rosberg explained.
Hamilton seemed to sit more on the fence: “I think the FIA are very conscious of safety and that is nothing to shy away from. It is a very, very important issue. But I am old school. I like the old circuits back in the 1990s I guess when there were no tarmac run-off areas and it was grass.
“Even last year here when you went round the corner, and I experienced it in 2013, I went wide through a mistake and you paid for the mistake. But what is really important is if you do have an incident the tarmac does slow the car down better. It is a good move [in that sense], but you can't win both sides.”
Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso was asked which drivers actually said they wanted the changes and if the GPDA was consulted.
“As far as I know, I don't think so,” he replied, “and I don't know [which drivers were asked either]. There have been some discussions in the past for the entry, probably in case you have a brake failure or something to have the possibility to not go straight, just into the gravel and hit the tyres but probably from mid- to exit of the corner, that was probably a surprise for us also, which it still is I think.”
He doesn't think it will necessarily be easier, however: “Artificial grass on mid- to exit, which before probably we said that we can put two wheels out of the track and two inside and don't pay a big price, but I don't agree now. I think if you put two wheels now, you will go on that artificial grass and you have to back off because you have a snap on the car and you need to back off, so you still need to be a few centimetres from that artificial grass now to do a perfect corner,” he explained.
Jenson Button also thinks it could be just as challenging: “I haven't seen it actually. I don't want to have a look. Every time I drive past it I'm going to close my eyes, which is what I always do round Parabolica anyway!” he joked. “I understand the reason behind safety and asphalting run-off areas, and straight ahead at braking is a great idea.
“The exit I haven't had a look at yet. I've heard there's still astroturf so you can't put wheels on astroturf when you're laterally loaded at high speed anyway because it will spit you in to the inside barrier, so I'm sure it's no easier than it was before.”
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