May 23, 2007

Tracks! Duck tracks!

Another duck with ducklings out in the yard today. At least I hope it was a different one, because this time there were five ducklings. If it was the same duck, it means she's lost two already.

Of course, ducks can be pretty fast. Some of them really zoom. (Rocket power, you know.) Our own Wonderduck likes racing; he's a big fan of Formula 1. This coming weekend is Monaco, apparently the granddaddy race of them all. Reading about it, I got curious and did some searching. Here's an online map of the course.

That has maps of all the courses. Monaco is run on city streets, which is part of the charm I gather. The US F1 race is held on a purpose-built course in Indianapolis. So I was looking at some of the others.

Sheesh; the Canadian course sure looks uninspired! Was that the best they could do? Compare it to the Chinese course; now that one looks like it really tests the drivers! But the worst one has to be Italy. Jeeze... you don't even need a driver for that one. Just send the car out on its own.

The US course seems about middling in terms of difficulty; curvy enough so the drivers won't go to sleep, but straight enough to permit them to really hit top speed a lot.

What I don't get is what a "speed trap" is. Every course has got one. Does that mean what it usually means? A place where speed is measured, and those who are going too fast get penalized? That seems counter to the entire idea of road racing as a sport, which is to go as fast as possible.

A different point: from the numbering of the sectors and from the photos, it looks like some of the courses are run clockwise (Monaco, US) and some are counterclockwise (Brazil). It also looks like nearly all of them run on purpose-built tracks. Is Monaco the only one run on city streets anymore?

UPDATE: So I looked through them all, and Brazil and Turkey are the only ones run counterclockwise. Monaco is the only one on city streets. I think the Japanese track looks like one of the best ones. It's straight enough to permit the drivers to build up some speed, but curvy enough to be challenging. Turns 10-16 the drivers are going to do a whole lot of gear shifting.

UPDATE below the fold.

Wonderduck answers some of my questions, and has some interesting commentary on the American F1 track, at Indianapolis. He mentioned that one turn of it is banked, because it's part of the big oval -- and that got me to wondering. How did they include a part of the big oval in the F1 track? Does it go outside?

Actually, it goes inside.

There's a lot of space inside of the big oval, and they put the F1 track in there (along with part of a neighboring golf course). They leave the big oval at turn 1, and return to it at turn 12. So turn 13 is a banked turn from the oval.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Daily Life at 10:58 AM | Comments (24) | Add Comment
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I'm at work, so I can't give you a rundown on all your comments, but the purpose of the speed trap is to have a regular place on the track for the measuring of cars' speed, which is then recorded and sent out to the various destinations (broadcasters, the other teams, etc etc etc).

That's all; just a standard measurement place.

And yes, currently Monaco is the only track run on city streets, though Australia runs on roads in a park... not exactly the same thing, but close.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 23, 2007 12:38 PM (svIB9)


Monaco is one of my favorite tracks. I got pretty good at running it in Gran Turismo 3 and 4. The Fuji Speedway looks like it's been modified a bit for Formula 1.

Am I reading right that turn 6 of the France race hits 3.9 lateral G's? My spine aches just thinking about it.

Posted by: Will at May 23, 2007 01:02 PM (SOx9v)

3 I've been known to goose Wonderduck about F1 racing on occasion, but let's not turn this thread into a discussion of the merits of F1 versus other kinds of racing. OK?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 23, 2007 01:14 PM (+rSRq)

4 I liked the Suzuka.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at May 23, 2007 01:58 PM (9imyF)


I gather that the Italian course isn't exactly the easiest one: while the wide corners look easy, they are taken at high speed and that means severe transversal acceleration.

In fact, F1 pilots do a lot of exercise to strengthen their neck against that - appatrently they can lift up to 90 kg (roughly 200 lbs, for the Metrically Challenged Persons) with their neck muscles alone (using a system of pulleys).

A bit of trivia: I've heard the shape of the China course is based on the glyph shan, which is part of the name of Shanghai and also means "mountain".

Posted by: FabioC. at May 23, 2007 02:06 PM (Lx9ty)

6 A few years back, Washington, D.C. tried its hand at F1 racing, and set up a course that ran through the streets of the eastern part of the city.  People raised such a stink about noise, though, that it hasn't been attempted since.  This is probably one reason why Monaco is currently the only course on this circuit actually using city streets.

Posted by: Joe at May 23, 2007 02:18 PM (jPO02)


Up until a few years ago (well, probably 10 or 15 by now) Detroit used to have a Formula race too.  It was on the city streets as well, and if I remember right, it actually crossed over to Belle Isle and back over some old bridges.  Roger Penske used to be in charge of making sure the course was ready, kind of like how he did for the Super Bowl when it was in town.  Maybe Wonderduck would know where one can find a map of the course.  A shame they stopped doing it; car culture in metro Detroit is something you have to see to believe.

Off topic for just a sec if I may; thanks for putting the blog into a 'standard format.'  Sending links from Chizumatic to anime-interested friends used to be a 'non-trivial challenge,' if you catch my drift.

Posted by: Rich at May 23, 2007 03:04 PM (Bf0Jo)

8 Hi Steven,

Can I get a beta key from you?  I would like to sign up...


Posted by: Jayde at May 23, 2007 08:33 PM (h58on)

9 You don't get it from me. You get it from Pixy. Each user's key is different.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 23, 2007 08:53 PM (+rSRq)

10 Email me at beta -at- if you'd like a key.  We'll be going live some time next week, so this is your last chance!

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 23, 2007 09:46 PM (PiXy!)

11 It turned out to be too long for just a comment, so my discussion on F1 tracks is HERE. Short version: has LOUSY maps!

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 23, 2007 10:28 PM (6YRS5)

Short version: has LOUSY maps!
I dunno.  I kinda like the bit where the cars are driving on water.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 24, 2007 02:39 AM (PiXy!)

13 WRT the Detroit F1 race:

The Detroit Grand Prix, as it was called, passed away in the late 1980's amid discussions about changes in the course. Later, the Detroit Indy Grand Prix was inaugurated, but it's not F1 racing...

Some maps are available <a href="">here</a>. Apparently, the course would either utilize the downtown streets around the Renaissance Center, or the Belle Isle circuit, but not parts of both.

(You're right, car culture in MoTown has to be seen to be believed. One of the big manifestations of it is a weekend late in the summer called the Woodward Dream Cruise. Muscle cars, classic muscle cars, souped-up muscle cars, special-paint-jobbed muscle cars...and more souped-up muscle cars, all of them bumper to bumper on Woodward Avenue, all afternoon Friday and most of Saturday. It's a fun event to visit.)

Posted by: karrde at May 24, 2007 04:12 PM (ssFgp)


If you have other questions about the tracks, let me know... I'm always up for talking about them. 

I'll admit, I assumed that it was general knowledge that the Indy F1 track was inside the oval.  It took about two years to build the inner section, as well as the improved pit facilities required for F1, the new "pagoda" tower and what I call the 'Hotel' (which is the light gray structure just to the left of the tower in your picture...).  The National Geographic Channel occasionally runs a show about the immense amount of effort it took to put it all together in time.

Of course, it helps that the Indy Motor Speedway is so immense; there was plenty of room to do all of this.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 24, 2007 04:38 PM (GpR+s)


Oh, forgot to say: for a while there, the Indy 500 itself was a point-scoring event for Formula 1.  Which is pretty cool, actually... I'd almost like to see that happen again; seeing Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen, not to mention Ferrari or McLaren,  going 250mph around the oval would be ridiculously neat.

There's no question the F1 cars would dominate the race if they were allowed to run against the Indy cars; what would make it interesting is if they could last for 500 miles (that's somewhere between two and two-and-a-half times the usual distance they run).  My guess is no, not without major modifications to the engines, which would have the effect of slowing the cars down, perhaps to the point where they'd be unable to compete.  Indy cars are FAST, and built for their jobs.

Drop an Indy car on your average F1 course, though, and they'd be awful.  A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a ChampCar (a parallel league with IndyCar, with very similar car types) race at the Montreal course, which also hosts a F1 race.  The polesitter for the ChampCar race would have been dead last on the grid for the F1 race... by a couple of seconds.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 24, 2007 04:51 PM (GpR+s)


A lot of Indy cars don't finish the 500, either. That's one of the reasons the race is a tough one.

When I was in high school, there was a man in our church who was involved in car racing, and at that time he generally would enter two cars in the Indianapolis 500 every year. He never won, but usually it was the case that both of his cars finished the race -- which is itself quite an achievement. (This would have been about 1968; I don't remember his name, but I probably could find it online. I'll look around.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 24, 2007 05:04 PM (+rSRq)

17 Well, maybe not. It's not too hard to find a complete list of drivers for 1968, but a list of car builders is not as easy to locate. Oh, well.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 24, 2007 05:11 PM (+rSRq)


I just did the calculation, and the Japanese F1 is going to be 192 miles. A 500 mile race is a lot more grueling, on the cars and on the drivers.

Another thing, too: I wonder whether an F1 car entered in the Indy 500 would finish, based on fuel usage. IIRC there's a rule about how much gas they're permitted to use, and if they run out then they coast to a stop. That's been known to happen, and not just because someone decided to skip a pit-stop late in the race. A car which guzzles too much gas won't finish. Any idea whether F1 cars would get better or worse mileage than an Indy car?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 24, 2007 05:21 PM (+rSRq)


I'm not sure the comparison is valid (I'll explain in a second), but F1 cars get between 3 and 4 miles per gallon (depending on the track), and Indy cars get between 3 and 3.5/gallon... pretty comparable.

The difference is what fuel the cars use.  F1 uses ordinary gasoline (I can't find what the octane level is, even in the F1 Technical Regulations, though drivers have been 'excluded' from races for having too high an octane number).  The Indy Racing League uses pure ethanol. 

Further, F1 engines run at 19000 rpms; IRL limits their engines to 10000 rpms.  Lower the rpms for the F1 car, and the mileage should go up; conversely, if you raise the rpms for the IRL car, the mileage would go down.

Again, I'd assume the F1 cars would have their engines lowered to a more sedate rpm setting, so as to survive the 500 miles... that would probably not be as big a disadvantage as it sounds, as it'd allow them to go longer on a tank of fuel.

As if that wasn't enough, the mileage is over different types of tracks.  The IRL cars get their scores going around an oval at full speed, F1 cars are accelerating and decelerating constantly around a road course. 

So who knows what the exact fuel mileage would be?  Lets just say they've got similar consumption rates and leave it at that... my head hurts now.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 24, 2007 06:52 PM (GpR+s)


Oh, and Will asks "Am I reading right that turn 6 of the France race hits 3.9 lateral G's? My spine aches just thinking about it."

On most F1 tracks, there's usually one or two turns that put at least 3.9 lateral Gs on the driver.  The amazing part is that F1 brakes are strong enough to bring a car going 180mph to a dead stop in 4 seconds, without skidding or loss of control.  How does 5.2 Gs grab you? 

A few years back, NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon took a few laps on the Indy F1 course in a Team Williams car.  I'm paraphrasing here, but I remember his comments being along the lines of "it felt like my eyeballs were coming out every time I touched the brakes."  From the camera shots, it looked like his helmet was disappearing beneath the edge of the cockpit when he got on the brakes (Jeff Gordon is not a tall man).

Generally, the braking is the hardest part for a new F1 driver to get used to.  At 5.2Gs, I'm not shocked by this.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 24, 2007 07:07 PM (GpR+s)

21 Funny you've mentioned the paint swapping event... I remember how Montoya was at loss of words trying to say something positive about NASCAR hardware. Eventually he managed, "very strong engine". It actually is a very impressive engine, for a pushrod architecture. Lots of low end grunt, naturally. Brakes are quite bad though. Montoya commented "this thing would go a lot faster if they put real brakes on it", and Gordon quipped, "This is what I tell them every week!"

Monty does not seem doing all that well recently. Keeps finishing below 20.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at May 24, 2007 07:43 PM (9imyF)


The Pope (Juan Pablo Montoya) is having his problems keeping out of accidents... he might be too aggressive, even for NASCAR.

I thought the 'Trading Paint' show was great, and JPM is right: NASCAR brakes are rubbish in comparison to F1's.  Of course, most brakes are rubbish in comparison to F1's carbon discs.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 24, 2007 09:27 PM (GpR+s)

23 Carbon Disks are partially responsible for the boring races you see lately. If all F-1 cars were relegated to traditional steel brakes, braking would require more time going into each turn thereby allowing time for more skilled drivers to "outbreak" and pass.

Posted by: madmike at May 29, 2007 08:11 AM (NL0wN)


Sorry, Mike, I'm going to have to disagree with you.  It ain't the brakes that are the problem, it's the aerodynamics.  When Car A can't come within two car lengths of Car B because the 'dirty air' coming off of Car B's wings makes Car A dance like it's on ice, then you know you have a big problem.

Skilled drivers (and unskilled ones, for that matter) can still outbrake another car if they're close enough.  They just can't get close enough.  The unskilled ones (Yuji Ide, please pick up the courtesy phone) still try, though, and end up in the pits for a new nose, or out of the race entirely.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 29, 2007 03:39 PM (GpR+s)

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