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F1 setting up working group to look at track limits

Formula 1 teams are to continue pushing for better track limit rules in Formula 1, amid recent concerns about a lack of consistent application.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL35M, Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW43B, Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-21, and Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-21, chase the pack at the start

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL35M, Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW43B, Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-21, and Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-21, chase the pack at the start

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The controversy surrounding a run of penalties that Max Verstappen has suffered this year for track limit breaches had prompted calls from Red Bull in particular for there to be a change of approach.

The matter was discussed during F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali’s regular get together with team principals over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, who had been vocal about the problem after Verstappen lost a race win in Bahrain, and a pole position and the fastest lap in Portugal because of track limit rules, said the hope was that the FIA initiative to create a working group would result in a solution that worked for teams, drivers and fans.

"I think there's been some healthy discussion, and there's a working group being created," said Horner.

"We just need to come up with something that’s simple, clear and understandable for drivers, fans, and teams. It shouldn't be that difficult."

It is unclear who will be part of the new group that Horner has suggested, but the FIA has had its own long-running track limits working group, that reports to the FIA’s circuits commission, and is focused on coming up with solutions that work across all motorsport categories – including MotoGP through input from the FIM.

Sparks kick up from the rear of Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Sparks kick up from the rear of Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The issue of track limits has been a hot topic throughout the 2021 season, with Red Bull in particular being on the receiving end of a number of sanctions.

There have been attempts over the years to try to come up with a consistent framework for track limits to be judged on, but one of the difficulties is that the behaviour of cars can change year to year.

So while an approach works perfectly well one year, a tweak to the technical regulations can mean that drivers are extracting performance in a different way and then abuse track limits in different places.

That was especially true in Portugal, for example, where policing at Turn 14 was not needed in 2020 because drivers were not running wide out there, but became necessary this year because the reduction in downforce for 2021 was washing them out.

F1 race director Michael Masi said that coming up with a hard solution that worked for all tracks was very difficult.

"I think ideally, we would love to have a hard limit everywhere,” he said. “But it's hard with the circuits.

"It's been an ongoing evolution process. In Portimao, there's some places that are track limit issues one year, and aren't the next. And vice versa.

"So it's an ongoing evolution that we're working together with each of the circuits. It obviously requires significant investment from them from that perspective.

"In one sense it would be lovely to have walls everywhere, as we'll see in a couple of weeks' time in Monaco, or in Baku, but obviously we're racing at different types of circuits all the time.

"So when we look at everything from a safety perspective, we need to find the best balance of everything in each and every situation. Each corner is different, and each circuit is different.”

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GPDA director George Russell said from his perspective he felt that the FIA was in a tricky spot when it came to juggling the many demands placed on it.

"Talking purely on behalf of George Russell the driver, rather than the director of the GPDA, it is very difficult and I do have sympathy for the FIA because ultimately they are just trying to make the circuits safer," he explained.

"That is obviously the number one priority, but it has come at a consequence of track limits over the last few seasons.

"But I think it goes further than Formula 1. Formula 1 can manage it well with cameras and sensors but filtering down the junior categories, they do not have the resources to do that.

"Fundamentally something needs to change globally with all of these circuits. I don’t have the solution, so that is why I sympathise."

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