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Track limits issues down to circuits


Following another weekend of track limits embarrassment for the sport, FIA president, Mohammed ben Sulayem warns circuits to get their act together.

It wasn't just the sheer number of penalties that were handed out over the Qatar weekend but in many cases the lack of speed in which they were dealt with.

Following Friday's qualifying session, Lando Norris had his best time deleted and as a result Oscar Piastri attended the trackside interviews, which came as a surprise to the Sky presenter.

However, in a further twist the Australian then had his time deleted which promoted Lewis Hamilton to third, just in time for the official press conference.

Thankfully, at the end of Sunday's Grand Prix we didn't witness the shambles seen previously in Austria, with only Sergio Perez being demoted as a result of a late penalty.

Nonetheless, the whole thing left fans, teams and drivers frustrated and the sport looking amateur. Again.

Keen to avoid any repeat, not least because it puts the FIA in a bad light, Mohammed Ben Sulayem is calling on the circuits to get their act together in terms of the track limits that have proved particularly haphazard this season.

"We had the same issue in Austria," he said, "it was 1200 (violations). And I have to say, congratulations to the stewards because they spotted it.

"But is that the solution? No," he continued. "The solution is to improve the track itself.

"I know some are resistant to it," he admitted, "but to tell you the truth, if they don't, there is no race. It is as simple as this. We can't afford this."

Adding to the embarrassment of Qatar was the issue with the kerbs that saw the FIA, in conjunction with Pirelli, revise the track limits at two corners, hold a special familiarisation session on Saturday morning and mandate a limit on how many laps the tyres could be used for, thereby enforcing a minimum three-stop strategy on all drivers.

"We have to work on a solution," said Ben Sulayem. "One of the solutions is to make it slippery when they go off. Nobody can stop the drivers except the drivers themselves.

"We can think of the height," he said if the kerbs. Does it damage the cars? Or maybe there is a possibility of putting some gravel, but with gravel, we have to be very careful. How deep is the gravel? Because you don't want anyone to get stuck. And how big is the gravel? because you don't want the car to be damaged. It is a balance.

"But I believe now it's not a matter of 'Do we do it? We have to do it. And we have to listen to the drivers mainly, to the feedback from them.

"I will have to make it urgently because it has to be implemented for next year. We cannot afford for it to continue, especially where we see it all the time."

Asked about the use of technology, Ben Sulayem claims that the FIA simply doesn't have the money.

"The use of technology should be there," he said. "It is being used in a lot of areas, but the FIA needs more resources to invest back into the sport.

"I'm not hiding here," he insisted, "we need more resources. I mean, it's a $20bn operation here and we cannot run it on a shoestring."

Of course, the $20bn was a reference to the valuation F1 claimed had been put on the sport earlier this year, a figure which Ben Sulayem disputed, and which in turn led to a legal warning from the sport's owners.

With that figure in mind, the FIA president suggested a re-evaluation of the financial agreement the sport's governing body has with its owners.

"Our agreement has to be better," he said. "You have to remember one thing, we own the championship. I represent the landlord, and we lease it. Our mission is different to Liberty but we are in the same boat. We should not be running this big responsibility with a shoestring.

"We are transparent," he added. "We tell people this is what it costs. People are bragging about how much each F1 team is worth, but the FIA should be free and have the resources to run it in the best way. Every time we are better, we make the teams better and we make the sport better."


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1. Posted by kenji, 16/10/2023 1:21

"Having just finished watching the MotoGP at Mandelika circuit it was interesting to once again witness the handling of infringements quickly and decisively by using the 'long lap' solution. Clever and cheaper than some suggestions. Time the FIA did something similar as drive through penalties seem to have disappeared from the rules book."

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2. Posted by kenji, 12/10/2023 0:00

"Too much hoo har on this subject. The answer is quite simple....maintain the status quo. Put all four wheels over the 'white line' and you're in deep merde. These cars are 2 metres wide and if all four wheels are off then that is a substantial amount...and they are deemed to be the best in world? Sooner rather than later these drivers who continuously attract penalties will get the message. In Monaco drivers can race with precision sometimes just mere mm's from the walls....continuously and now we are discussing 2 metres!!!"

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3. Posted by Pawsche, 11/10/2023 19:10

"I was under the impression that all this "track limits" nonsense (ie draconian penalties being handed out on a whim) only started with UK club racing because Jonathon Palmer was starting to complain about the cost of re-turfing the outsides of many of the corners at Brands Hatch...

IMHO for F1 it's silly and creates even more artificiality - just let the b*ggers race. If it's deemed necessary to stop chancers using an "extra-wide line" then make mods to the track to make running wide counter-productive - gravel, sand or whatever.

The present "nit-picking" is spoiling "the show" and making real competitive racing a secondary priority (if it isn't already!).

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4. Posted by Burton, 11/10/2023 18:53

"Tracks have to accommodate a series of events, changing only for F1's sake is wishful thinking.

It's a matter of priorities. CVC/Bernie made the most of raking in the cash for minimum investment, Liberty maintains a bit of that approach (well, they do spend but on stuff that should be secondary.) Between FOM and FIA they could easily solve it.
If they don't want to spend, just change the wording of the race notes. I might be in a minority, but they accommodate the drivers too much, nothing gets done when they routinely shove opponents off-track, for instance, so I wouldn't mind them start handing out warnings when a driver has two wheels off track. "

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5. Posted by Mad Matt, 11/10/2023 13:21

"Perhaps I'm misremembering because I sadly haven't had time to watch much BTCC this year but I think a lot of the tracks they go to already have sensors so the recording of track limits violations are pretty much automated. I find it hard to see why F1 couldn't afford to do the same, at least at a financial level.

On the other hand I much prefer natural consequences, so I'd prefer any money to be spent on that as a solution wherever possible."

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6. Posted by Spindoctor, 11/10/2023 13:06

"Seems Mr ben Sulayem has made some reasonable points. This issue seems highly track-specific with TL not being a major issue at most circuits.
Assuming we want drivers to race one another, there have to be opportunities to out-brake or out-accelerate in addition to simply blasting past on DRS. If most, or even many drivers can't achieve that in this gen lardy cars with some current track layouts, maybe the layouts could be revised to ensure they can?

Naturally there are some places where TL are perfectly reasonable & sensible. At the risk of doing my broken record thang: MotoGP manages to police track limits offences in near real-time using, I believe, sensors in the track. High grade GPS would also permit accuracy within 10's of cm, so we have (as they say) the technology, but F1 seems to lack the will. That leads to all the aggro & complaints which go with a more subjective system.

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