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Robin Miller: MotoGP and Formula One’s bumpy path

MotoGP and Formula One will stage 38 races between them this season. Only five circuits will be shared and next year it will be four -  but only if Silverstone remains on the calendar. This weekend could prove crucial for the Northamptonshire circuit and it's not just about money.

F1 is causing problems for circuits wishing to run both. The recent Austrian GP saw many crashes and subsequent complaints from riders and teams because of its uneven surface to the extent that it might have to be resurfaced, or at least patched, for MotoGP next season.

But that is not a problem for the owner, Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz, who also happens to control 49 per cent of Red Bull and is its CEO. And the fact that MotoGP attracts a bigger crowd than F1.


The cause? Downforce.

This is not a new problem. F1 cars have historically rippled tracks - like a dog trying to stop on a rug which has a wood floor underneath it - but the issue has really been brought to the fore in 2017. After regulation changes, F1 cars are now creating more downforce - which makes them heavier - stopping in much less distance due to wider tyres. This causes heat. They are also entering corners faster, thus creating increased lateral g and the resulting forces through the car as they turn.

The result is a softening of the track surface causing ripples. Difficult to handle on a MotoGP bike that sometimes has a tyre contact patch equivalent to half a credit card.

This weekend will be an interesting test safety officer and ex-racer Franco Uncini and his team because it is unlikely that the Silverstone circuit will have escaped totally unscathed. It is equally unlikely that it will threaten the event this year but it is possible that the Safety Commission will have some comments/demands to make for the future.

Unfortunately, the British Racing Drivers  Club - unlike the billionaire owner of the Red Bull Ring - does not have the money to resurface the track even if it wanted to. Donington, the only other contender to host MotoGP, would also have to spend.

Not so much on the track, although a recent truck race can't have done it much good, but on paddock facilities which would probably be stretched by such a monster event. However, as it is now in the hands of MSVR - owners of the other big four outside Silverstone - whose stated intent is to make big improvements, then all things are possible.

Tracks currently running both MotoGP and F1 are Silverstone, Red Bull Ring (Austria), Barcelona (Spain), Sepang (Malaysia )and Circuit of the Americas (USA). Sepang will not run F1 next year and Barcelona is scheduled to get a new top this winter after complaints from riders.

Going back in time when both championships were almost totally European many great circuits, such as Spa, Nurburgring, Monza, Hockenheim, were shared but the introduction of Armco barriers and other safety measures made it more difficult.

However, it is surely without doubt that tracks from Philip Island to Jerez to Mugello to Assen to Sachsenring to Misano and finally to Valencia don’t have what F1 requires. Long may it continue.

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