Thoughts on corner names and numbers
My thanks to Raymond Umbara (@Raymondu999) for pointing out a mistake in my Korean GP report (http://gpweek.com). I described Seb Vettel brilliantly taking the lead from Lewis Hamilton at “Turn 3” when I should have said “Turn 4”.
As ever with these things, I wondered why I had made that basic error. And, as ever, I began to appreciate that there was more to the issue than I first realized, for my subconscious had driven me in a certain direction.
Turn 1 in Korea is basically a left-hander that takes the cars onto the “back” straight. The FIA decree this to be two corners – two left-handers joined by a short straight – but in reality this raises the question of “when is a corner not a corner?”. For example: the first corner at Suzuka was for many years known as exactly that. If you wanted to get down to detail, you could sub-divide into into “1A and 1B”, which in my view perfectly captured the tightening-radius nature of the zone. Today, the second part of the first corner is officially known as “Turn 2” – which begs the question of where “Turn 1” begins and ends. For me, it is a similar situation in Korea at the end of the pit straight. You brake for the first corner – and if you get that right the second part more or less follows in sequence. If a driver messes up the entry into “Turn 1”, and spears off to the outside of the short straight, has he in reality gone off at “Turn 1” or on the approach to “Turn 2”?
All this confusion would be obviated by reverting to the traditional corner naming system. I understand that commercial corner names – “Kodak Curve” or “Vodafone Viaduct” – would cause unnecessary friction within the F1 Economic Community, but natural corner names provide a perfect platform for race promoters – particularly the owners of expensive circuits built in new-frontier countries with no racing heritage. Is there a better way to record the names of local towns and geography, important people behind the circuit and famous landmarks? I wouldn’t have heard of “Lavant” village but for Goodwood – and nor would I be aware of Stowe school but for Silverstone. If Korea’s Turn 1 and Turn 2, for example, were collectively known as “MacArthur Corner” we’d all have a bit of a chuckle every time they hit the brakes.
A final couple of thoughts. Since when has a corner been a “turn”, anyway? And would Eau Rouge be as dramatic if it was known, annoyingly, as “Turns TwoThreeandFour”? Paddock Bend at Brands Hatch always was – and still is – a great corner. I shudder at the thought that one day it could be known simply as “Turn One”.