Following a number of incidents at races last year regarding track limits, new F1 race directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas have taken a stricter approach for 2022, defining the edge of the track as the white line and sanctioning any infringement accordingly.
The Red Bull Ring in Austria typically sees drivers racing wide around a number of corners due to its layout, including the two right-handers at turns 9 and 10 to complete the lap, which makes the track limits a point of attention.
In Sunday’s race, stewards scrapped a lap time after 43 separate track limit violations and imposed five-second time penalties on four drivers – Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris and Zhou Guanyu – for having exceeded the three permitted breaches.
But amid the debate over the consistency of race officiating, a number of drivers expressed frustration with how track limits had been handled over the weekend.
“The debate over track limits this weekend has been a bit of a joke, not just in F1 but in F2 and F3,” said the Red Bull driver. Max Verstappen.
“It’s easy to say from the outside, yes, but you just have to stay within the white lines. It sounds very easy, but it’s not, because when you go through a corner that fast and some of them are a little blind, you have a little more understeer, the tires wear out and it is easy to go past the white line.
“But are you saving time? Maybe yes maybe no. To be honest it’s only like two or three corners where you can go a bit further.
“I don’t think we should have that, ah you’ve gone over 1mm, it’s a penalty or whatever. Then just add a wall or bring some gravel back.”
Verstappen added that he thinks “it’s not good for the sport either” to clamp down on areas where riders would be “naturally penalized” for running wide.
Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22, Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-22, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18
Photo by: Andy Hone/ Motorsport pictures
Norris received his five-second penalty when he exceeded track limits after already receiving a black-and-white flag warning for his third violation.
The McLaren The driver said that while he could “completely understand” the reason for slashing the drivers for the last two corners, he was frustrated that the marshals were slashing the drivers for leaving Turn 1 where they would lose time to anyway.
“I had one in turn 1 or where my penalty was, turn 1, and I just locked up the front tire, hit the sausage [kerb]I lost like a second on the hill – and then I just get track limits for it,” Norris said.
“I was punished enough, because I lost a second. It’s kinda silly, some of them. And that’s life and it’s the same for everyone, and we want consistency and so on.
“We argued it, we also said we want it to be strict since last year, and we want it to be the same every time and so on. We drivers always want something different and better, and so on, we’ll see.
“It’s a tough track to judge boundaries so finely.”
Mick Schumacher acknowledged that track limits had been “a very big issue” during his time in Formula 2, but thought it was still “something to discuss” after Austria.
“It seems a bit silly if for going one centimeter of track you get a five-second penalty, and most of the time when you go you don’t gain lap time, which is worse,” said Schumacher.
“It’s something to discuss, something to see if we can improve it for the next event because I think at Paul Ricard in particular it will be a big concern.”
The day after the race, the FIA recalled that the use of the white line at the edge of the circuit “has been implemented following discussions with the drivers and teams to improve consistency and clarity for competitors and fans” regarding the limits of the track.
The FIA added: “The number of penalties today is proportional to the number of breaches of Article 33.3 of the Sporting Regulations, with drivers during the race receiving two ‘strikes’ for crossing the white line with all four wheels, followed by a black and white flag for the third offence, and referral to the stewards for each subsequent offence.
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