Why Jeddah changes could test F1 track limits rules

Formula 1 drivers have indicated that track limits could become an issue over the Saudi Arabian GP weekend following the changes to the circuit since last year's race.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team, walks the track with Pedro de la Rosa, Team Ambassador, Aston Martin F1 Team

In several places, the walls have been moved back, while kerbs have been made less aggressive.

In contrast to previous years, the work has created the potential for drivers to explore track limits in some corners, which means that they could potentially fall foul of FIA race director Niels Wittich.

His regular pre-event notes to teams for each race clarify the current interpretation thus: "The white lines define the track edges. During qualifying and the race, each time a driver fails to negotiate [within] the track limits, this will result in that lap time being invalidated by the stewards."

Drivers expect to learn about the impact of the Jeddah track changes during Friday's practice.

"There's a few places that yes, it can have you over, obviously with extended walls compared to the track edge," said Valtteri Bottas when asked by Autosport about the potential for track limit abuse.

"There's opportunities to benefit, but I think they're pretty well policed nowadays.

"So I think like any other track where there's opportunities to go wide, I don't personally see a big issue. Just need to be careful."

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"Last year the kerbs were quite tricky and dangerous and they have done a good job to go around that," Williams driver Alex Albon said.

"It may open it up to track limits now, but we will see. I think there's a lot of exploration.

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo F1 Team,

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo F1 Team,

Photo by: Motorsport Images

"Some corners I think almost will be too quick to do it. As I said, I think generally the circuit is better. That's the main thing we should be focusing on."

Like Bottas, Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg expects the potential for a penalty to act as a deterrent.

"I think the FIA has a firm stand there since a year or so, the white line," said the German.

"And actually in Bahrain, we talked about it again in the drivers' meeting, white line, and you can't cross.

"It's often obviously fine margins, especially in quali, you sit low, and it's a judgement call of a few millimetres. It's tough to see from inside the car sometimes. But we'll work with it, and hopefully, be on the good side of it."

Track rookie Nyck de Vries admitted that he will be careful as he gets up to speed while acknowledging that it's now easier to use the kerbs.

"I'll leave others to try and explore that area first!" said the AlphaTauri driver.

"I need the track time. So I'm going to build up into my rhythm.

"On all the exit kerbs basically the tarmac is running into the kerb. You can still bottom out, but not like that your wheels drop behind the kerb, effectively."

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