Tuesday, November 13, 2012
THE THRILL OF RACING
This is an article written by ex-F1 racer Christian Klien who now guest writes on www.pitpass.com. it is reproduced here in its entirety. The original article can be found here.
Christian Klien (born 7 February 1983) is an Austrian former Formula One racing driver. In total he has scored 14 points in 49 Formula One starts. Klien currently drives for Aston Martin Racing in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.
Over the Korean Grand Prix weekend I was at the Bathurst 1000 in Australia, an historic event that this year celebrated its fiftieth race. It's a narrow, old fashioned circuit that follows the landscape and when you come over the top of Mount Panorama you can't see the road as it winds its way back down.
I partnered Russell Ingall, a former V8 Supercar champion in his Holden Commodore. We started in twenty-fourth but managed to climb up to eighth by the finish, despite an extra stop for tyres. It was an exciting race on a great circuit which I really enjoyed.
It meant I missed the Korean Grand Prix, though I did see a replay of the race. I found it difficult to watch more than a few laps as the race was really over by the first pit stops. The Korean circuit is a great facility but it doesn't have the same thrills as some of the older style circuits, and I think that influences the racing.
Drivers love tracks which challenge us. In Korea, and a lot of the new tracks, there are some challenging corners but there's no real penalty if you get it wrong - you can go flat out without worrying because of the tarmac run offs. It's good because it's very safe and slows us down if we're out of control but it means the new circuits don't have the same thrill to drive as the old tracks.
Maybe the exception is Turkey, the elevation changes and blind corners meant all the drivers enjoyed that track while it was still very, very safe.
Elevation changes are important. If I think of all the really great tracks, aside from challenging corner, the one thing they usually have in common is elevation changes. They hug the landscape a bit, and because a lot a lot of the older circuits have the walls so close it adds to the thrill for a driver. We enjoy the challenge and like opportunities where we can make a difference more than the car. It's why drivers like Spa and Monza (but that's more for the speed), Bathurst and Monaco.
Monaco is maybe the most extreme circuit because there is no room for mistakes. Nelson Piquet famously described it like trying to fly a helicopter in your living room, and that's a perfect explanation. The cars these days are so fast and so powerful, they've really outgrown the circuit, but that's why it is so exciting. I can't imagine driving a 1000 horsepower turbo Formula One car around there in the wet like Nelson did!
Fans want to see drivers taking a little bit of a risk, and for us drivers it makes our job more rewarding. We don't want to go back to twenty or thirty years ago when the sport was much more dangerous but I don't think we should try to take all danger and risk out of racing. It needs to have a little bit of an edge, and maybe that's why I found it hard to watch more than the first few laps in Korea, and why I enjoyed racing at Bathurst so much.