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Formula 1 Qatar GP

How FIA doubling its track limits policing meant no post-Qatar GP penalties saga

Recent refinements to the FIA’s track limits policing systems meant Formula 1’s Qatar Grand Prix did not feature the slew of post-race track limits penalties that occurred in Austria.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, battles with Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

At July’s Austrian Grand Prix, eight drivers were penalised (Alpine’s Esteban Ocon four separate times) post-race after the FIA had sifted through 1200 potential track limits transgressions. 

Although the Qatar event included a similar heavy focus on the number of track limits infractions the drivers were accruing in the event won by Max Verstappen, the need for post-race investigations did not occur after the FIA had worked to improve its football VAR-like system. 

As was the case for the Austria race, Autosport understands that a team of officials was manning screens in the FIA's Remote Operations Centre (ROC) that showed only the corners of the Losail track where track limits were a particular problem all weekend. 

Back in July, each time a driver went off track, these officials had to zoom in on a possible offence clocked by automated systems within the cameras monitoring certain corners, to then flag it to another official working in race control. 

The second official then assessed whether a penalty, either one of the allowed ‘strikes’ or the sanctions that followed drivers exhausting that tolerance, was necessary for where the car in question was positioned.  

This led to lengthy delays between drivers even being flagged for going over track limits at the Red Bull Ring and teams being unable to warn them they were close to risking penalties, which then built up significantly as the race wore on and dragged on once the event had concluded. 

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

For the Qatar race, the system was refined so that the ROC officials only had to quickly flag that a possible violation had been detected by the automated systems, with that information then being assessed by a larger team of track limits-focused officials in race control – understood to be twice the total number working on this element for the Austrian event.

In total, the FIA estimated that the majority of track limits violations in the Qatar race were assessed within a lap of the offence occurring.  

 

The governing body had also built in a contingency policy in time for the Qatar event that would have informed the teams it was behind on assessing track limits incidents via F1’s official timing pages, which then would have allowed the teams to warn their drivers generally to stop abusing track limits further. 

In total, 51 laps were deleted in the Qatar race, following 83 in Austria.

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