“Don’t we have the world’s top 20 drivers?”
Contrary to this belief, given the vast pool of talent in other motorsport categories, that isn’t necessarily true. If you found yourself shouting such sentiments after the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix Formula 1 qualifying, then the problem lies with you, not the rules or the drivers.
The FIA modified the track limits rules at the beginning of 2022, leading to significant controversies at the final two corners of the Red Bull Ring. Prior inconsistencies in rule enforcement concerning car placement on kerbs have now given way to definitive regulations.
During last year’s Austria qualifying, 16 drivers had times invalidated, a rise from eight in two qualifying sessions at the Red Bull Ring in 2021. In 2023, this number soared to 47, thanks to the upgraded ride platforms teams are working on to eradicate porpoising. This figure, however, was a decrease from the 165 laps erased during Friday’s practice. By Q3, only three times were disqualified.
After securing pole, Max Verstappen remarked that the multitude of invalidated laps made them look like “amateurs,” an observation that fueled outrage on social media and among TV pundits.
However, the key point is being overlooked, one that Verstappen himself highlighted in the post-qualifying press conference. He noted the difficulty of staying within track limits due to tires heating up and losing grip in the fast-paced layout. He also pointed out how minor errors can result in understeering and crossing the white line.
Complaints about ‘how things used to be’ and how ‘this isn’t a problem in Monaco’ are irrelevant distractions. Instead, the focus should be on how challenging it is to maintain within the track limits in Austria.
Take Charles Leclerc’s final lap in Q3 for example. His daring cornering could have won him the pole position, but a minor slip cost him. These efforts and near successes should be lauded, rather than criticized.
Those drivers who pushed the limits and had their laps invalidated aren’t “idiots” – they were simply pushing their abilities to the limit, as demonstrated by Verstappen, who managed to post a faster time after having one disqualified for crossing the line.
The key takeaway from this discussion is that pushing to the limit is part of the game, and drivers shouldn’t be discouraged from doing so because of the fear of looking like “amateurs”.
Regarding concerns about track limits, Verstappen’s argument against the installation of temporary gravel traps due to cost and safety considerations for MotoGP is valid. Similarly, drivers’ suggestions for wider white lines or tactile feedback in the cockpit are unnecessary.
The FIA’s 2022 rule change has improved the situation, making the white line definition clear and ending debates about track limits at many circuits.
Despite the difficulty of staying within track limits in Austria, it adds to the spectacle and challenge of the sport. It forces drivers to push their limits, knowing that crossing the line will result in clear sanctions.
This challenge was evident ahead of sprint qualifying, where wet track conditions meant drivers would likely avoid pushing track limits due to the increased risk of spinning.
The issue lies not with the drivers or the rules, but with external complaints about track limits. These complaints influence the drivers’ attitudes towards the matter.
The situation in Austria should remain as it is, allowing everyone to appreciate the challenge of Formula 1 racing.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about F1 track limits debate
What is the primary issue surrounding the F1 track limits?
The primary issue is not the rules or the drivers, but the debate and complaints about track limits that have become a distraction and influence the drivers’ approach to racing.
How did the FIA change the track limits rules in 2022?
The FIA made the track limits rules more definitive. Where previously there was some inconsistency in the application of the rules regarding car placement on kerbs, the situation has now been clarified.
What was Max Verstappen’s take on the track limit controversy?
Max Verstappen voiced concerns over the number of invalidated laps, saying it made them look like “amateurs”. However, he also pointed out the difficulty of maintaining track limits due to tire grip and the fast-paced layout of the track.
How many drivers had their lap times invalidated during the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix qualifying?
During the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix qualifying, 47 drivers had their lap times invalidated due to crossing track limits.
What has been suggested as a solution to the track limit issue?
Suggestions from drivers have included widening the white lines or implementing tactile feedback in the cockpit. However, these are deemed unnecessary as the 2022 FIA rule change has provided a clear definition of track limits.
How did Charles Leclerc handle the track limit challenge in the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix qualifying?
Charles Leclerc showed daring maneuvers during his final lap in Q3. Despite a minor slip costing him the pole position, his effort was praised as he pushed the limits and almost succeeded in beating faster cars.