Mercedes and the case of the curious curb; Strange vibes, man

Share This Post

With four different constructors experiencing suspension failures when their drivers took a healthy bite of the curbs in Austria, it has some asking if there is a safety issue. The conventional wisdom is simply that the drivers shouldn’t take that much curb—a curbing system the consists of the initial rumble strip, then a sausage curb of greater height and then the big daddy of curbing called the negative curb—which sounds like some sort of cause of a rip in the space-time continuum which forces prickly 10 forward barkeep, Guinan, to intuit that Daniil Kvyat has secretly been replaced with the evil version of himself and taken, quite simply, too much curb. Not good enough, dammit! Not good enough!

Nico Rosberg’s tussle with the Gorn-like curbing saw his suspension shatter and caused gearbox damage which required a change which begat a penalty, of course, and Mercedes aren’t quite sure what the issue was but it certainly wasn’t the negative curbing:

“The strange thing is in the beginning it seemed like we had spikes of loads, but once we analysed the data there was not much load on the suspension,” said team boss Toto Wolff. “So it is some kind of strange frequency or oscillation on the tyre which makes the suspension break. It looks like it’s the red kerbs which triggers that.

“So no answers yet.”

Now that’s an interesting issue if you look at the vibrations in slow motion of Kvyat’s car. While he did run afoul of the negative curbing with his left rear tire, it was actually his right wheel assembly and suspension that broke and you could clearly see the massive movement from one side of the car to the opposite.

Are the serrations of the smaller sausage curbs too close or too far apart causing this oscillation? If so, one could change that relatively easily. Everything resonates and NBC’s Will Buxton mentioned the increased tire pressures on the broadcast. While no one picked up that bone when he threw it on the floor, I’m not so quick to discount it as the tire, air pressure, curb, serration distance, suspension geometry, spacing and resistance all combine to resonate at a frequency that perhaps the Mercedes design doesn’t like.

All of this may be for naught, however, because in order to test that, you would have to create a test sequence and then force negative results to ensure that the test was a proper one and who’s got time for that this weekend when the paddock is scrambling around trying to get evil Kvyat to simply stay the hell away from the curbs until such time as Captain Picard and Data can devise a plan to send the evil Danny back to his own dimension? No one, that’s who. Not even Guinan.

My hunch is that Ted’s qualifying notebook has a star by Pascal’s name and a large “E” by Daniil’s name because Ted, like Guinan, can see through dimensions…just look what he can do with a nice, warm Cornish Pasty!

Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Dennis OKeefe

i am an aero engineer and it looked like a “flutter” problem to me on kvyat’s car. flutter isn’t something you would expect but if the speed and frequency hit the right harmonic the forces go out of sight almost instantly. on an airplane it can rip the wings off, on a car it can break the suspension. i agree with the “instant analysis” that it’s the red ones…..


You don’t hear the walls at Monaco being called a safety issue. Just because these kerbs are lower doesn’t change the fact that, if they cause damage, stay away.


The footage of the failures on Rosberg and Kyvat’s cars were amazing. In both cases the proximate cause was the response of the car to the red kerbing. We’ve got used to seeing the cars batter those red kerbs without immediate damage, and as Paul C tells us ‘taking some kerb’ is the quickest way around any circuit (Even Monaco, Baku and Montreal where there are walls beyond the kerbs). So it sure is a safety issue, if the ‘normal’ driving behaviour results in extraordinary car failures.


I’d like to do away with the curbs altogether, and replace them with the 1980s solution – long grass right up to the edge of the track.


My question is: Why are there curbs at all?
If you’ve got a ribbon of asphalt and that defines the racing surface, why are artificial extensions needed.
It certainly seems to me that the solution isn’t to difficult to arrive at; cheaper too.


What would you have beyond the edge of the ribbon of tarmac?


A wall, a cliff edge, a deep drainage ditch, whatever the natural hazard was. Or if it is one of these new fangled airfield tracks, a picket fence and then standing spectators.


Come now Dave, have you forgotten the first rule if F1?
‘You can’t argue against safety’
Lol ;-)

Paul Riseborough

It caught the teams out this year, but with the amount of data they now have I would bet on them riding those red kerbs with impunity next time they race there.


Even quicker than that, they sorted it out in the race weekend. No signs of any drivers avoiding kerbs in the race and no suspension failures during the race.
The engineers in these teams are genius!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x