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Formula 1 Austrian GP

F1 drivers suggest Austria track limits fixes after qualifying infringements

Max Verstappen reckons Formula 1 should widen the white lines at the Red Bull Ring to solve its ongoing track limits issue, while Charles Leclerc suggests returning to old kerb rules.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

For the second year in a row in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, a host of laps were deleted for drivers running too wide out of the final two corners – especially during the middle part of the session Verstappen eventually topped.

Afterwards he said the problem “almost looked like we were amateurs out there” – a suggestion he continued in the post-qualifying press conference.

There, Verstappen and Ferrari pair Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were asked what changes they would make to alleviate the problem in Austria.

“I mean, if you saw the amount of lap times that were getting deleted today by the amount of drivers, it’s clearly not that easy and I don’t think we’re all idiots out there, right?” said Verstappen, who faced no further action for an alleged impeding of Kevin Magnussen in Q1.

“Normally we’re all good on how to judge where the limit is.

“This track, because of the layout and the way the tyres operate, they overheat quite a bit through the lap. It is just very difficult.

“So, most tracks I think it’s fine how we operate it, but some tracks we might need to look into [changes]. At the moment, no real answers of how to do that.

“But, I think we’ve already tried on a few tracks to paint a bit of a wider white line, which I thought helped a bit because I think the white line in some places is quite narrow with the high speeds we are achieving in that particular corner.

“This is something we can look into.” 

Verstappen beat Leclerc and Sainz to pole position for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix

Verstappen beat Leclerc and Sainz to pole position for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Leclerc agreed that suggestion might be helpful at Austria’s Turn 4 long, downhill right where times can be lost even with a gravel trap close on the outside if drivers run too wide.

But he did not think a wider white line would help for the controversial Turns 9 and 10 double right sequence that ends the Red Bull Ring lap.

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“Turn 4 is one of those corners where if you are really close to the gravel by one or two centimetres you can be out, which this [solution] definitely makes sense [for],” Leclerc explained.

“I don’t know how much it would change for the last sector, because the last sector with the high speed there we need to find another solution.”

Leclerc highlighted visibility as the main problem through Turn 10, where he explained “the nature of the corner is that the car is getting lighter in the middle of the corner because there is this drop in the track”.

“Then, however the car is positioned there it has a big influence on the exit and from where we are so low in the car, we cannot see anything,” he added.

“The helmet cam is very representative of what we are seeing and we are not seeing the white lines at all.

“Hopefully in the future in tracks like this we can have a bit more margin and that they understand that from the car it’s just impossible to judge.”

Sainz suggested that to help the drivers with the visibility problem here, perhaps “if we could at least feel the white line [when] we are on top of it or not that could also help us with judgement”.

Controversial sausage kerbs were removed from the final corner after the 2019 race

Controversial sausage kerbs were removed from the final corner after the 2019 race

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Verstappen suggested the decision to remove the “stupid” small yellow sausage kerbs from the final corners ahead of the 2020 races in Austria had been a good idea as “that was just destroying the car”, even though they represented a physical deterrent to drivers pushing the track limits, which were then set on the kerbs behind the white lines.

He also lamented that even adding temporary gravel traps to the final turns here would likely be prohibitive on cost grounds, with permanent gravel at those corners not possible because “the bikes [MotoGP] don’t want that”.

“You also don’t want the promoters or the track in general that if they put gravel [temporarily] and then they have to take it away again, it’s costing a lot of money as well,” Verstappen added.

“So, it’s not really a good solution as well. It’s something we will talk about again in the drivers meeting and maybe we can find a solution.”

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Leclerc suggested that F1 going back to allowing the painted kerbs to define the track limit might be a solution at this track.

Since the start of 2022, the FIA has removed ambiguity and inconsistency in F1’s previous track limits debate by insisting the white line always defines the edge of the track at every circuit and that drivers cannot put all four wheels over that line even if kerbs run behind.

“My personal preference would be to use the red and white kerb [as the track limit],” said Leclerc.

“I think that’s what we did some years here and this worked well because at least we can feel where the limit of the track is wherever you are on that red and white kerb – you can feel that you’re on it.

“And this was a good reference. The white line is only visual and we cannot see it. So, it’s very easy to be 5cm out of the white line, whereas the kerb you can actually feel where you are and it’s a bit easier to judge.”

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