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Persuasive Research Essay Petitioning Against Street Circuits on the F1 Race Calendar - Review

JDMoyer 1 / -  
May 12, 2024   #1
I'm primarily interested on feedback on content, clarity, flow, and structure. A big struggle for me in my writing is structuring my writing according to a standardized MEAL format as opposed to more free form info-dumping. Furthermore, I worry that I haven't provided enough citation for my essay. As I have a lot of familiarity with the subject, I aggregated information that I already knew in advance, and then compiled sources to support and supplement my existing knowledge. However, because of that, I worry that I may have presented that isn't attributed to a source that should. Lastly, I want to confirm that the tone and language that I use is appropriate for a collegiate paper.

Protect Permanent Pavement:
Petitioning Against the Proliferation of non-Permanent Racetracks Presented by the Pinnacle of Motorsport

Johnathan Moyer
ENG102 #10828
Rosanna Orta
11 May 2024

In early 2024, news broke in the Formula One sphere that a new track would be added to the race calendar from 2026 on. F1 will move from Spain's popular Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to a venue in the heart of Madrid, making use of public roads as the racing surface. This news has marked the latest datapoint in a rapid trend of temporary street circuits filling up the Formula One calendar. The officials of F1 publicly claim that street circuits are novel, exciting, and lucrative, but those claims are exaggerations and fabrications. Rather, for both fans of Formula One and for everybody else, the rapid increase in temporary street circuits is an unfortunate occurrence, and should be petitioned against and boycotted, for reasons of poor racecraft, safety concerns, logistical hurdles, and corporate greed.

Street circuits aren't inherently bad for the sport, and they have a rich legacy in the history of Formula One. Even the very first Formula One World Championship in 1950 hosted a race on closed off public streets, the legendary Monaco Grand Prix. For most of the late 20th century, street races had historically been something of a rare novelty, with only a couple of races taking place on city streets in any given year. Excluding Monaco, they also rarely had staying power, with most street circuits, such as the short-lived Phoenix Grand Prix, being unpopular, plagued with financial and technical woes, and worst of all, boring (Glick). Something changed in the late aughts, however. Formula One worked to expand into more than just an exciting race series, and spread the glitz of Monaco to the rest of the calendar, hosting lifestyle events. In 2008, Singapore first hosted a street race under the lights of Marina Bay, next door to the luxurious Sands hotel and iconic Supertree Grove. With A-list musicians performing all weekend and myriad luxury hotels and restaurants within walking distance, the Singapore Grand Prix became just as much of an arts and lifestyle festival as a race weekend. Singapore has been a staple of the F1 calendar since, and between 2008 and 2023, a half dozen other street circuits have been added to the F1 calendar. This year, in addition to Monaco and Singapore, F1 is hosting street races at Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Australia, Miami, and Las Vegas, meaning a full third of all races on the calendar are on street circuits, all vying for a shot at capturing the glamor of Monaco and Singapore, and the VIPs that come with it, damn the racing itself (Williams).

In many ways, street circuits are a wild departure from large, permanent racetracks. While permanent racetracks are built into swaths of hills and open fields with lots of elevation change and greenery flanking wide, heavily rubbered asphalt, poured with the sole purpose of clinging to high performance tires with a passion, street circuits are flanked with countless tall barriers mere millimeters from the racing line. The asphalt and turns are designed for everyday traffic first and foremost. The road is weathered and slippery, the corners are sharp and slow, and the most exciting, curvaceous surface streets are designed to barely accommodate two lanes of traffic (Williams). Races make fun travel destinations not just because of the racing, but because of the views. Permanent racetracks exploit natural geography in ways that turn the tracks themselves into national landmarks. For example, Belgium is home to the Legendary Spa-Francorchamps, most famous for a single corner section wherein the drivers cross the Eau Rouge River and ascend a harrowing, curvy, and blind hill, Raidillon, without ever letting off of the throttle. A race at Spa is often recommended to anyone interested in visiting Belgium (traveldrafts). Meanwhile, street circuits lack the instant recognizability and year-long appeal as landmarks themselves. They're dependent on adjacent landmarks that were already popular for tourists before the establishment of the race. At Monaco, the entire circuit is landmarked by the Casino de Monte Carlo, where drivers race up to the front foyer of before darting into a tunnel that runs underneath the casino. At Los Angeles' Long Beach Grand Prix circuit, the most memorable part of the track is a fountain marking the center of a roundabout, an art piece erected for the adjacent Aquarium of the Pacific. It can be said that people flock to these street races not to watch races, but to simply see these landmarks up close, and also be close to lots of other non-race activities, such as concerts hosted within the confines of the grandstands, or fine dining and entertainment just minutes away within the city center (Williams). For drivers and people wholly invested in the excitement of racing, street circuits offer novely because they promote a wildly different type of racing. The narrow streets force cars terrifyingly close together, sometimes barely allowing two cars to fit side by side. Drivers have to drive with precision measured in millimeters in order to extract perfect lap times. On permanent tracks, extending too much means lost time or maybe a spin. On street circuits, even overextending by a centimeter ends your race. There is a famous incident from the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix wherein Ayrton Senna hit a barrier and crashed out of the race on the last lap, later reported on by Raghav Budhiraja in his article, "Greatest F1 Story". When asked about the crash, Senna responded, "It's impossible I hit the wall. The wall moved". As it turns out, Senna wasn't being facetious or playing coy or overhyping himself. His interviewer, Pat Symonds, followed up and investigated the crash. He discovered that the wall had indeed moved:

"I did think he was talking bollocks but he needed to go and see it. So we walked out to where he'd hit the wall and do you know what? The wall had moved. It was made of the great big concrete blocks that they used to delineate the circuit, but what be happened was that someone had hit the far end of a block and pushed it, which made the leading edge come out a few millimeters. He was driving with such precision that those few millimeters, and I'm talking probably ten millimeters, were enough for him to hit the wall that time rather than just miss it"

On paper, a season of potential moments like a margin of 10 millimeters ending the race of one of the greatest drivers of all time seems like an exciting prospect, but novelty, by its very definition, cannot become the norm, and unfortunately, more often than not, the minimal margin for error just results in minimal risk taking, and that means that, for all of the VIP appeal that caused the surge in street circuit popularity, fans of good racing have been alienated.

In 2018, F1 Bytes calculated that the Monaco Grand Prix had, on average, only 12 overtakes, and that's accounting for wet weather conditions that tend to force mistakes. Sometimes there were no overtakes at all, like during the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, where the only positions gained were to cars failing to finish (F1 Results). Good racing is all about putting your car in a position that forces your opponent to take a compromised line or risk a slowdown due to a tire catching grass or gravel, or capitalizing on a separate, singular battle and overtaking multiple cars at once. But when there is no runoff, and cars can barely fit 2 abreast on a street circuit, the new race priority merely becomes, "Qualify as high as possible and don't take any risks during the race itself." This race philosophy has severely soured fans' opinion of F1 racing, and the addition of every street race feels dire. Keith Collantine, of Racefans.net, conducted a survey of Formula One viewers, and 81 percent of respondents said that there are currently too many street circuits on the calendar, with nearly two thirds of those respondents asserting that there are far too many street races on the F1 calendar. Aside from complaints about the quality of racecraft, race fans complain about the visual appeal of street circuits. Formula One race circuits are beholden to the FIA's standards for Grade One classification, which set rules for the safety and logistics of hosting the biggest races of all time. Within these guidelines, there are double standards in place for street circuits to accommodate the inherent restrictions that come with racing on public streets. For safety's sake, street circuits must be flanked with tall, high tech barriers, and runoff areas and escape roads are mere narrow alleys, rather than gravel pits (FIA). With so many tall barriers and so little variation between on-track and off-track sections, there's little visual appeal to the racing surfaces themselves. Furthermore, since public streets are designed for safe and uneventful commuting, most street circuits lack fast, sweeping corners, or any sort of meaningful elevation changes that add excitement and dramatic perspective for an audience. While tracks like Spa-Francorchamps or Red Bull Ring are famous for their trademark uphill and downhill sections, only Monaco and Baku are street circuits with significant elevation changes. For race fans, the last bit of salt in the wound is the fact that every street circuit that gets added displaces a permanent road course that could have been kept. There's a finite number of weeks a year that F1 can race, and the teams are already stretched incredibly thin (GPBlog). At the same time that so many street races have been added to the calendar, multiple beloved permanent tracks have been removed, such as Germany's Hockenheim (Bishop), and the fates of many others, such as Spa, are constantly in jeopardy due F1 and Liberty Media's increasing desire to expand to more lucrative tourist venues (Wilde). In all, race fans would ultimately much rather watch cars navigate turns through wide, rolling, grassy hills, hanging onto turns in excess of three g-forces, than watch cars barely able to squeeze through flat 90-degree corners for two hours at a time.

While street races have reduced appeal for fans of exciting racing, much more importantly, street races are harrowing for teams and drivers. Street races are wildly unsafe for such little reward. In addition to the previously noted concerns about the tall barriers and narrow tracks, street surfaces offer comparatively little grip, due to the massive amounts of wear on them and the amount of paint on them (Williams). Additionally, without off-track buffer, after any crash, cars have nowhere to go besides right back onto the track, where they're at the mercy of the rest of the cars in the race, that may or may not see the incident ahead, due to the amount of walled off blind corners. In the 2024 Australian Grand Prix, George Russell was crashed out onto one of the fastest blind corners of the track, upturned onto his side. Fortunately, nothing further happened, but Russel was desperate for the race to be stopped, as any impact to the underside of his car would likely have shattered the car's survival cell and taken Russell's life (Mitchell-Malm). Had there have been a sizable gravel trap or grass patch before the barriers, as is common with permanent racetracks, the risk to life would have been vastly reduced. Further safety concerns arise from the logistics in building a racetrack on a public road that can only be closed to the public for a bare minimum of time. There have been multiple incidents wherein F1 cars have caused damage to the local road infrastructure, and in turn caused damage to the cars. In 2019, George Russel's Williams sucked up a drain cover from the streets of Azerbaijan, destroying the car, causing Free Practice One to be ended, and prompting an investigation into the material condition of the rest of the track (F1 Highlights). This exact incident isn't isolated. Four years later, at the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, Free Practice 1 was cancelled a mere 8 minutes in after Carlos Sainz's Ferrari was destroyed by a displaced drain cover (Smith). These drain covers are supposed to be welded into place before any racing, but the construction of a temporary racetrack is such a time crunch that corners are inevitably cut and concessions are inevitably made, and as a result, safety suffers even more.

Beyond the concerns of Formula One fans and drivers, temporary racetrack construction is majorly disruptive to the locals of host cities. Despite the construction being rushed so often, setting up street circuits require localized road closures for weeks, even months in advance (Akers). These racetracks, due to the incessant demand for prolific scenery, tend to occur on the most major streets in the region. The Las Vegas Grand Prix shuts down the Strip itself, the most popular part of Las Vegas Boulevard (Velotta). The Azerbaijan Grand Prix cuts across Baku City's Government Building (Mee). Not only do these closures cause significant traffic displacement, but local businesses adjacent to the circuits lose out on patronage for months. Despite Formula 1's assertations that street circuits are valuable for local economies, only the largest international corporations such as hotels, caterers, and travel agencies get any significant financial boon from Formula One races (Velotta). When both local workers and local businesses squalor under the pressures of hosting Formula One races where cars have no business racing, it begs the question what truly drives this unsustainable push for street racing in Formula One.

Ultimately, the only valid reason for pushing for street circuits over permanent racetracks is a push to sell expensive ticket packages to big spending corporate clients interested in a high-class urban experience, rather than an exciting racing experience. The common cloth race fans are actively dissuaded from attending street races, with weekend ticket prices demanding multiple thousands of dollars for anyone with the gall to want to be able to sit (Elshebiny). People interested in attending street races are instead encouraged to pursue hospitality packages sponsored, hosted, and organized by luxury hotels who cater to VIPs and Celebrities. Race weekends, especially street race weekends, have become focused on the art and lifestyle, rather than the racing. As a personal anecdote, the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix was headlined like a music festival. Myriad ticketholders were more excited to watch performances by Kid Laroi, Marshmallow, Green Day, and Black-Eyed Peas, than to watch any of the many races happening that weekend. Catering to the demographic of fans who solely want to watch good racing simply isn't lucrative enough for an organization as financially motivated as Formula One. Likewise for race audiences, many race venues themselves aren't wealthy enough to be considered for Formula One. There is a large list of arbitrary standards for FIA Grade One Certification, which is a requirement in order to host an F1 race. Even getting the FIA to conduct an appraisal process for Grade One certification is costly, and the certification has an expiry date, meaning that a Grade One circuit that doesn't get F1 levels of income often can't afford to keep their certification (Motorsport).

It's critical for both racing fans and local populations to campaign against the proliferation of street circuits, as street circuits are socially and economically disruptive, unsafe, and simply boring. The sole motivator for this unfortunate trend is simply corporate greed from a corporation with the resources to stifle opposition and manipulate regulation according to its own interests. Therefore, the best way to inspire change within the F1 organization is to target its financial interests. Locals should campaign to their local tourism boards and highlight the struggles of workers and small business owners under the heavy logistical toll of a street race. There is realistically no economic benefit to a large city hosting an F1 race on its public streets, and lots of economic risk. F1 fans should boycott street race and encourage other race fans to do the same, for both races in person and broadcast. More importantly, Race fans should strive to patronize races held on established and beloved permanent racetracks, to both vitalize these race venues and demonstrate to Formula One Management that there is a strong demand for races at permanent tracks. A strong support for permanent racetracks will help keep beloved and historically significant venues alive. As these venues are revitalized, tourist money will be turned over to local businesses who actually are dependent on waves of revenue sources. Strong support for permanent tracks will ultimately improve the race experience for people who want an arts festival to go with their racing. Just like NASCAR ovals that host concerts, rural tracks could expand to host music stages, and performances can be held in beautiful locations like the hills of Spa, Belgium. In accordance with this campaign and protest plan, the future of Formula One, rather than being a dystopia of elitist commercialism and class struggle, could be a massive boon for all parties involved. Formula One Management could get their touristy arts festivals. Locals would directly benefit from the tourism dollars. Racetrack managers would get valuable revenue for maintenance variety, and full-time event hosting. Lastly, race fans would get fast, close, high thrills racing at well known and well loved racetracks.

Works Cited
Holt  Educational Consultant - / 14,919 4799  
May 17, 2024   #2
Personally, I believe that you have written this paper more for people who already have a background and knowledge of the races and how these are performed. You have forgotten that you may have some readers who are not equally familiar with the topic and as such, will need some help when it comes to understanding the technicalities and descriptions that you have in the paper. While I find the paper to be highly informative, I do have an understanding of the sport. You need to simplify it a bit for the potentially uninformed readers. That way you will be able to inform, educate, and familiarize your readers regarding the overall situation in a more friendly context.

Home / Research Papers / Persuasive Research Essay Petitioning Against Street Circuits on the F1 Race Calendar - Review
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