FIA wanted Red Bull Ring to install gravel traps to avoid F1 track limits problem

Formula 1 race director Niels Wittich specifically advised the Red Bull Ring that gravel traps should be added to the final corners this year to help avoid track limits problems. 

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23

However, that recommendation made immediately after the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix, was rejected by circuit bosses who elected instead to keep the same configuration of kerbs and run off. 

As F1 chiefs begin an investigation into the near-farce at the Austrian GP where more than 1200 tracks limits offences left the result of the race hanging in the air until five hours after the race as positions were shuffled around, questions have been asked about whether the chaos could have been avoided and what can be done now. 

While the FIA found itself having to handle what it labelled an ‘unprecedented’ situation, it has emerged that matters could have been headed off if Red Bull Ring bosses had followed the FIA’s advice in the first place.

Dealing with the track limits has always been a tricky thing at the Red Bull Ring because of the nature of the layout, and previous attempts to use sausage kerbs have been long abandoned because of safety concerns following a number of accidents. 

But amid F1’s more recent adoption of a strict stance that white lines define track limits, it has made the issue more critical than ever in Austria because of the design of the final two right handers that are downhill and tempt cars wide. 

In light of issues at the 2022 Austrian GP, it has emerged that, as part of the FIA’s formal post-race report that evaluates each grand prix, Wittich wrote to Red Bull Ring chiefs to suggest that tweaks be made to the design of Turn 9 and Turn 10. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

In the report he made a recommendation that small gravel traps should be added at those corners to help act as a natural deterrent that would avoid any major track limits problem. 

That request did not get followed through, however, because of the complications that such a design change would have made for MotoGP – which has long preferred asphalt run-off areas. 

However, in light of the trouble last weekend, the FIA will almost certainly ramp up the pressure on the Red Bull Ring to follow through on this recommendation for 2024 and ask that it finds a solution that works for both F1 and motorbike racing.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said F1 had made itself look “amateurish” with so many penalties handed out, and concurs that gravel appears to be the best solution. 

“I think a strip of gravel or something as a deterrent to run out there [is needed],” he said.  

“The problem is it is very difficult as drivers, because they cannot see the white lines in the car, so you are purely doing it on feel.  

“The circuit invites you to go there. It is something that needs to be looked at for next year perhaps - add more of a deterrent for the drivers to be drawn on to that part of the circuit.” 

While acknowledging the issue of finding a solution that works for MotoGP, Horner said it was essential a better answer was delivered for F1.   

“The argument is always MotoGP, but I think you’ve got to have something that is flexible and useful for Formula 1.” 

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said that grand prix racing’s bosses had to find a better solution after what unfolded on Sunday. 

“Surely for the fans and spectators, and for the teams the drivers, it's super frustrating to keep those penalties coming,” he said.

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“There's only two solutions: either you come back to sausage kerbs and break the drivers and the cars, but then no one should complain. Or just remove them overall and you let them race the fastest line. This is what Niki Lauda always said, and you may come close to some of the rails. 

“But we need to find a solution for the interests of the track and all the stakeholders, because we want to achieve the same: a spectacular race that is not influenced by penalties that are given for the right reasons because the rules exist.” 

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