Formula 1 drivers were among those who called for the installation of a tarmac run-off area at Monza's famed Parabolica according to FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting.
Expected to be one of the hottest topics at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, the replacing of the gravel trap with tarmac caused outrage among F1 fans when the first pictures of the change were posted on social media.
Another legendary corner ruined
While the decision was made on safety grounds, the outcry has highlighted once again how some of the sport's greatest challenges are being neutered by the installation of tarmac.
The Parabolica by itself is not a particularly dangerous corner, but the difficulty was always carrying as much speed as possible through the long radius right hander without running wide and into the gravel trap.
Now, with tarmac there, it is likely any error by the drivers will no longer be punished as they can run onto the run-off area and rejoin without losing much time.
Despite the unpopularity, there is some rational reasoning behind the change. Given the speeds at Monza, likely to be slightly higher in 2014, any car that suffers a failure along the straight can better slow the car down on tarmac, providing the brakes are working, and even if that is not the case the driver can manuveure the car with the steering wheel to potentially avoid a head-on collision at high speed.
There is also the issue of the gravel proving ineffective during a crash and potentially being more dangerous than tarmac, anyone who saw the huge GP3 crash in Spa can relate to that as a prime example.
What has to be questioned, in my opinion, is the ability for drivers to influence these kind of decisions.
While they are the best positioned to offer advice on any changes made to circuit designs, it also has to be considered that if anyone offered them to chance to make a corner easier, of course they would accept it.
One of the issues with the circuits designed in the last 15 years has been the vast amount of tarmac on the outside of corners which have not only made the venues far less attractive to look at, but have also taken away the fear factor for drivers who now, at several circuits, show little regard for the boundaries of the racetrack.
There have been various attempts at trying to combat the petulance of drivers running off the track, the most commonly used is Astroturf which gives very little grip, however, in my view the kerbs should be made a greater deterrent.
At Brazil's Interlagos circuit they have the best example of where kerbs can help and hinder as they gradually rise in height, take too much and it unsettles the car, use just enough and you gain the benefit in lap-time, this also benefits the drivers who are willing to attack the racetrack compared to the current rumble strips at most circuits that just shake the car about.
Another option for the wider run-off areas, that are now mostly tarmacked, is a spongier surface like those seen on playgrounds which can still slow the car down and would also punish a driver for running off the track.
In my view there certainly needs to be a greater compromise between optimising safety and maintaining a challenge of a racetrack.
The Parabolica now serves as perhaps the best example of where the thrill and advantage gained from getting it right has been taken away in the strive for safety and perhaps more worryingly looking at other circuits around the world, according to Charlie Whiting, who oversees the process of approving all new and current F1 venue, losing some of the best corners in the sport is "a price both the drivers and I believe is worth paying."
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