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Track Limits Issues in F1

Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Alexandra Campos


Credit: XPB Images

Track limits are very much an issue in the modern era of racing, because we have data to show whether a car has extended or cut a corner, and gained an advantage because of it. It’s in this new modern era of technology that we have VAR (video assistant referee) in football, and we really are perhaps over-policing sport. But that is a topic for another day.


Track limits have posed a large issue because they are different at each track. They also are corner dependent, as well as car or bike dependent. For example, GT World Challenge Europe raced in Paul Ricard, France a little while ago and they were legally allowed to extend the turn eight, 90 degree corner mainly because it is the first corner to come after a massively long back straight. Chances are that people would extend it anyways, because of the overspeed they would potentially carry into the corner.


This made the corner look like an absolute joke, and not to mention the fact it actually would ruin the kerb work, because the cars are constantly running over it so this would furthermore increase the cost for the track itself, to repair any damages caused by these cars.


Credit: Clive Rose

Of course, Formula 1 when it reaches Paul Ricard, is a different story, and they make sure (generally) to enforce the idea that the white lines are the track limits.


However, historically, some Motorsport categories say that the kerb is actually where the track limits are, like Paul Ricard did with the GTWC.


Formula 1 arrived to Austria, and there were 43 track limit extensions, and the FIA even decided to give four drivers penalties for these incidents. The rules work as follows: you exceed track limits in a minor way, you get a warning, if you do it once more, then you are given a second warning. After this, if the driver exceeds again, even in a minor way then they are referred to the stewards to make a decision on whether to penalise a driver.


The problem is that these track limit extensions have been so minor, and yet drivers are hit with five-second penalties, which greatly impact their finishing position.


Max Verstappen said something on this matter, “It sounds very easy, but it’s not. When you go that quick through a corner and some of them are a bit blind, you have a bit more understeer, tyres are wearing, and it’s easy to go over the white line”.


Therefore, when your reigning World Champion is saying that it is difficult to keep the car in the white lines because of the tyre wear, and the car becoming lighter at the end of the race due to the fuel load being reduced throughout, it becomes quite clear that drivers have had enough of this.


When four drivers are being penalised, and 43 cases of track extending have happened, surely the FIA would rethink their approach to track limit policing.


Of course it is important to enforce rules and regulations in sport, but a little bit of common sense would allow drivers to actually race each other, with nothing held back rather than have to consider how much they can push into a corner. Perhaps more tracks should introduce gravel, so that there are physical limitations for the driver, and so that they can actually make sure they don’t overstep the mark when it comes to track limits.


Of course, if they abolish track limits, then you have other problems, like when Michael Schumacher extended the first corner, again in Austria 2003, to get pole position


And this isn’t even just an issue for car racing, but for bikes too. Currently, and for a long time as well, Ducati have had the quickest bike in the straights, which makes it more difficult for them to hit an apex for a corner. With bikes, the tyres are also much thinner and as a result, the margin for error is even smaller.


However when drivers are being penalised for going the slightest little bit off the white line, and when it is multiple drivers - you know something is potentially wrong with the system.


5 comments

5 Comments


Guest
Jul 26, 2022

Given they know the gain or loss at a corner they monitor with cameras, wouldn't racing be better served by adding the actual time gained, to the overall race time? Let the teams know live, as it happens so they can plan around it?

If lots of it went on then by all means warn and give the five second penalty.

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Guest
Jul 26, 2022
Replying to

I think you might struggle to know what the actual gain in time is... it can't be measured by eye, if you took a lap time or sector time that is suceptible to other factors, corners, slipstreams etc etc. Also, the real issue here is I think, if you hand someone a like for like time penalty then it isn't really a penalty or anything meaningful to wiswade it happening again ! Usually in any sport or walk of life, a break in rules comes with a penalty most often in excess of any perceived gain....thats how you try and stamp it out. If you add perceived time gained then I am not sure you set a tone that is…

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Guest
Jul 26, 2022

Do you think the FIA could come up with some form of sensors on track and in the car, like the jumpstart sensors they utilise ? If the car goes outside a given boundary (white line, kerb etc etc) the sensor for that car pings and a mandatory 'long lap' has to be taken like moto gp use for penalties - so a real in race penalty is paid too rather than 5 secs to race time. Or, just line all the circuit boundaries with armco... because no one quibbles about track limits at Monaco, because there aren't really any... maybe just those going 3ft or more over the pavement at Portier !! Yes, Looking at you Mr's Leclerc.and Alonso....…

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Replying to

I do like the idea of these penalties in the race, rather than added race time, or pit stop time as well. we had that entire issue with Sebastian Vettel back in the Canadian GP in 2019, and because he had a 5 second penalty, it meant Lewis could just relax a few seconds back, and take the Win without having to put much effort in to overtake Vettel. so perhaps a long lap, as you mentioned - they do in MotoGP, that would be very good. they of course do a somewhat similar thing in Formula E, with Attack Mode, where you go wider out of a particular corner, so this is something which might actually work. of course,…

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