New gravel beds in Imola in key places: Formula 1 fight against track limits

Away with the asphalt, back with the gravel beds. This requirement has existed in Formula 1 for years now. Imola is one of the routes that have now joined this idea. In 2024 there will be gravel instead of asphalt at three critical points.

The renovations have been completed for some time now, and the World Endurance Championships used the gravel beds just a few weeks ago. At one point the asphalt was removed at the exit of the fast left-hander Piratella (Turn 9) at the top of the hill.

Furthermore, on the left at the exit of Acque Minerali, the second tight right-hand bend in the following dip (turn 12), the gravel at the exit has been moved closer to the track. And finally on the right at the exit of the slow variant Alta (turn 15), the narrow chicane, after it goes back up the mountain. All three places have in the past been inviting points to make use of the asphalt.

More gravel in Imola is exactly what the Formula 1 drivers wanted

This is exactly what drivers have repeatedly demanded in the past. On many race tracks, gravel or grass has been replaced with asphalt in such places to remove the natural limit. Makes sense in that these are curves that attract errors. Fernando Alonso describes driving through a gravel trap: “almost like a failure because you damage the car and are just very slow.”

However, the asphalt turned things around. “Nothing will happen to you if you brake if you risk something, if you slip out, you hardly lose anything,” says Pierre Gasly. This invites more risk, but makes qualifying a miserable prospect in some places due to the sheer volume of canceled laps.

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In the race, it allows for scenarios like in Miami, where a driver can attempt a risky overtaking maneuver off the track. The consequences of every maneuver of this kind are complaints on the radio that last for laps. “I think it’s great,” says Gasly, praising the Kies comeback. “If you go over the limit you get penalized, you can’t get away with it. This solves all these track limit problems.”

In addition to the changed gravel beds, there are also new double curbs at almost every vertex in Imola. But they don’t have a track limit background, they are rather standard innovations.

Drivers demand: Formula 1 needs that old school feeling

For the drivers, more of the old school feeling returns to Imola with the gravel beds. More precisely, even more old school feeling. Nowhere are the qualifying laps a better feeling for a Formula 1 driver, says Carlos Sainz: “One of the three best tracks in the world.”

“These routes are a little more intimidating, you can drive the new ones somewhere in the simulator,” defines Kevin Magnussen. More than ever, the drivers want classics like Imola on the calendar in a Formula 1 that is getting further and further away from it.

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