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F1 drivers call for permanent track limits fix

Formula 1 drivers are urging the FIA to devise a permanent track limits fix to guarantee consistency after an overnight “compromise” was required for the 2023 United States Grand Prix.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri AT04, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43, at the start

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri AT04, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43, at the start

Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Seventy-six laps were deleted in FP1 in Austin as drivers strayed beyond the painted while lines defining the edge of the track with all four wheels.

This led to concerns that track limits would be a major talking point for the second round in a row, with the Qatar weekend dogged by laps being deleted in qualifying and penalties dished out in the GP.

Amid pressure from competitors during the Friday night drivers’ briefing in the USA, the FIA significantly widened the lines at Turns 9, 12 and 19 to allow for “extra margin”, per the governing body.

In the 19-lap sprint race, 17 laps were deleted. This reduction left drivers to praise the quick response but they were insistent that a longer-term solution needed to be introduced.

Asked by Autosport for his verdict, Valtteri Bottas said: “It makes it slightly easier. There's just a bit more flexibility on the line.

“But still, the issue is it is a track that there's multiple corners where if you go wide, you gain an advantage, and everyone is pushing the limit. So there needs to be a hard limit, whether it's a gravel strip, or whether it's a sausage kerb. It’s the issue with the track.”

Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Mark Sutton

Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

While the refined white lines were seen as a pragmatic quick fix to temporarily quash the issue, it allows for criticism that a previous hard and fast rule can be negotiated when drivers should just be more disciplined.

Bottas’ response to this was: “That's been a big discussion point and was in the drivers’ meeting.

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“For now, the FIA stands firm for the white line rule that is everywhere. [The new line is] still a white line.

“In the end, there needs to be a hard limit - for example in Austria, where they added gavel [after 1200 possible track limit breaches were identified during the 2023 GP], It just fixes the issue.”

Alpine racer Pierre Gasly, added: “Long term, we've got to find a solution because it was never so great. But we are all working on it, trying to improve it for next year.

“[Readjusting for] today was good because, rather than making the track more narrow, they made it wider so you can carry more speed and have a bit more freedom and it just feels nicer to drive.”

But Red Bull’s Sergio Perez reckons drivers were still getting away unpunished for exceeding the new track limits to leave the championship lacking consistency.

He said: “Still I saw just briefly a few occasions where drivers should be punished and they didn't.

“Still we are not able to find any consistency there... whatever I say is not going to change anything.”

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