Baku GP needs to curb track safety issue

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo sits in his damaged car after swiping a wall during a practice session for the European GP. The metal kerbs used at the Baku circuit have been criticised, with experts weighing in on safety concerns.
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo sits in his damaged car after swiping a wall during a practice session for the European GP. The metal kerbs used at the Baku circuit have been criticised, with experts weighing in on safety concerns.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BAKU (Azerbaijan) • There were safety concerns about the new European Grand Prix circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, yesterday after a number of tyres suffered cuts caused by kerbs during the opening free practice session for tomorrow's Formula One race.

Qualifying for the GP2 series was postponed after problems with kerbs around the city circuit and there were doubts for a while whether the second practice session could take place.

But it was given the go-ahead following an inspection by FIA authorities, including race director Charlie Whiting, reported the BBC.

Though there was only one major incident during the Q1 session, with Daniel Ricciardo swiping at the wall on the outside of turn 15, several teams complained about the kerbs around the new street venue afterwards.

Manufacturer Pirelli reported cuts in several tyres, seemingly caused by screws on the kerbing.

The kerbs at the notorious Turn 8 had already undergone work after GP2 practice, with the same issue seemingly affecting other areas of the tricky venue.

The left rear tyres were the most affected in the first session. It was not clear exactly which kerbs were causing the problems.

One team's senior engineer said the problem was down to the new street circuit using metal kerbs rather than the usual rubber.

However, there are also suggestions the problem may be caused by the bolts used to secure the kerbs, which some insiders have said could be too small.

According to Motorsport.com, the issue has been caused by the inserts, bolts and screws used to secure the kerbs in place, coming loose.

F1 track designer Hermann Tilke told the website: "The bolts came loose. It's the same design as Singapore and there is a hole that the bolts fit in."

He suggested it may have been caused by track vehicles, including buses and lorries, running over the kerbs ahead of track action.

"We had a problem that all the buses from the marshals went all over the kerbs this morning," the German said. "The kerbs are not built for that heavy weight."

On Thursday, drivers Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Jenson Button (McLaren), had expressed safety concerns about the circuit.

The pit lane entry and a lack of run-off areas represented the main worries. There are also some tight corners around ancient walls.

THE GUARDIAN

F1 EUROPEAN GP
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2016, with the headline 'Baku GP needs to curb track safety issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe