Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Hockenheim, 2012

F1 finally cracks down on track limits abuse

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Hockenheim, 2012The FIA appears to have finally woken up to the necessity of preventing drivers from abusing the limits of the track.

Sebastian Vettel’s penalty for passing Jenson Button on a stretch of run-off was an encouraging sign that the FIA have finally taken notice of the problem.

While the advantage gained by cutting the inside of a corner is self-evident – it makes the track shorter – the potential benefit of going off on the outside of a corner has sometimes been underestimated.

In the days when circuits were bordered by grass and gravel drivers rarely considered going off the track deliberately. But the increasing use of tarmac run-off has presented drivers with opportunities to use the outside of corners to dodge around rivals who are defending their position on the track.

Hockenheim was one of the first tracks to adopt extensive tarmac run-off when it was remodelled in 2002 and, unsurprisingly, it didn’t take drivers long to start exploiting them.

Michael Schumacher used the tarmac border to get past Jarno Trulli’s Renault during the 2003 race:

The move went unpunished and so did a string of similar moves by others in the years that followed.

The 2007 renovations at Spa added more off-track tarmac and in 2009 there were two particularly blatant examples of it being abused: Kimi Raikkonen passed at least two cars on the first lap using it (which provoked much debate in the comments) and Adrian Sutil took Luca Badoer at the exit of Pouhon also by going onto the tarmac outside the corner.

The first race of last season saw another two examples of drivers going off on the outside of a corner to overtake a rival. I wrote a comment piece at the time arguing that the stewards had a blind spot for drivers gaining an advantage in this way.

Encouragingly, they now appear to be tackling the problem. As reported here, FIA race director Charlie Whiting addressed the subject prior to the race in a letter to competitors and stewards, saying the latter should “use their discretion in cases where it is not entirely clear whether or not a driver has gained any direct or immediate advantage”.

The same document stated: “Any driver leaving the track, (i.e. no part of his car remains in contact with the track in accordance with the current regulations), may re-join the track but without gaining an advantage.”

Vettel’s subsequent move on Button may have been a near carbon-copy of Schumacher’s on Trulli nine years earlier, but this time the stewards did not turn a blind eye. They handed him a post-race penalty which cost him three places.

He will be ruing not taking the opportunity to hand the position back to Button on the track and having another go at overtaking him properly. And other drivers will have taken notice of the precedent.

However overdue it may be, it is encouraging to see the stewards are finally cracking down on F1 drivers abusing the track limits to gain an unfair advantage, even on the outside of corners. It is not hard to see how the input of the recently-introduced drivers stewards may have been of benefit here.

But we should also question why some tracks offer such opportunities for drivers in the first place.

Tarmac may be a suitable surface for run-offs on the outside of fast corners – unlike gravel, cars will not dig into it and flip at speed. But it is surely not necessary, even on safety grounds, for the acceleration zone at the exit of a slow hairpin to be bordered by tarmac?


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117 comments on “F1 finally cracks down on track limits abuse”

  1. Alonso would have been no where near as fast at Hockenheim if he wasn’t allowed to use the outside of the track on the last corner.

    1. you know that for sure? maybe he would have been faster.

    2. I’m assuming you’re referring to him running onto the drag strip between turns 16 and 17? I just had a quick scan through the world feed and spotted Alonso going through the final corner 14 times (laps 30, 33, 37, 37, 38, 39, 47, 48, 49, 52, 54, 56, 60 and 67 – you can see him on other laps but not clearly), of which I would say he was out at most three times.

      That doesn’t seem particularly excessive – I saw other drivers taking a wide line there at times as well. I see @hotbottoms watched a different feed and spotted the Caterhams doing it quite a lot.

      Perhaps Alonso’s onboard shows him doing it many times which weren’t shown in the world feed but I find that hard to believe. I also doubt two world champions like Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel would sit behind him watching him do it for lap after lap without either complaining about it or copying him.

      Ultimately, this comes back to my complaint at the end of the article: inadequate boundaries around the tracks. If there’s tarmac there, of course drivers are going to use it. In the case of Hockenheim, there’s a drag strip at that part of track, and before the race weekend began they were pulling up the rubber that had been laid on it to stop drivers from gaining even more grip. But really they need some low-grip surface between the F1 track and the drag strip.

      1. Perhaps he means in his quali lap?

        In the race Vettel was running wide a lot, although I don’t know that he was gaining an advantage. He appeared to be driving at 11 tenths, but it was causing him to run wide a lot, especially in the nordkurve and the final turn.

        1. His qualifying lap yes. I reacted to this as well during qualifying and even more so when I saw Vettel got a penalty. Why not Alonso?

      2. Ultimately, this comes back to my complaint at the end of the article: inadequate boundaries around the tracks. If there’s tarmac there, of course drivers are going to use it

        Precisely. They should stick gravel traps right next to the corners. Really punish drivers for their mistakes or their attempts to gain an advantage.

        1. Why not make the run off areas velcro, and have the floor of the car in velcro too, so that when someone runs wide, the two areas come into contact because of the low ride height and the cars get stuck to the road :) slows them down and discourages from running wide… simples.

        2. Or a dyke. LOL!

        3. Agreed 100%

        4. Exactly…. surely its not beyond the realms of the clever people in F1 to come up with a material that could be used off track that slows the cars down without the cars getting stuck like they would in gravel…. this would give two advantages:
          – would improve safety
          – would deter drivers from using it

          Something like the surface they use on childrens playgrounds perhaps ?

        5. Tarmack is the modern safe equivelant to tarmack bud… attempt to prevent cars flipping over thru digging in at speed.

        6. Not on the outside of a fast corner. Honestly, I don’t think it’s a problem….

          The outside exit of the hairpin however, should be gravel.

          1. How about just grass? Cars can get beached in gravel, or else they can bring it all over the track. Grass is ideal for locations where cars going off at speed is not a threat.

      3. Different feed, as in, the view from the stands :)

        1. @hotbottoms Ah, even better!

      4. Yes I was sitting on the last corner and both of the Caterhams were going near the drag strip on every lap. They had all four wheels off the track while all of the other cars would just run two wheels on the run off area. ie: take the racing line

        1. Nick.UK (@)
          25th July 2012, 13:07

          I think in this Pirelli tyre age, forget putting in gravel or low grip run off. Layer it with sand paper or another highly abrassive surface, then see who is still silly enough to try and use it!

          1. Make it a spike strip lined with millions of pillows and stuffed animals.

          2. Why cant 2m of grass be used?

        2. By the regs you can have two wheels outside the bounds of the track (which is defined by the white lines “for the avoidance of doubt”). 4 Wheels is a big no no though.

      5. xeroxpt (@)
        26th July 2012, 5:35

        I don’t think it had anything to do with the tarmac on the other side, i think it was just a better way of making the corner especially if driving with understeer, i dont know perhaps they were just trying to square off the corner, alonso had also a wide entry to the hairpin, he often used the kerb to get an wider angle, Vettel wanst as extreme at the harpin and Button was much tighter at the hairpin and especially at the last corner were he was nowhere near the white line, in my opinion those are evidences of different setups rather than straightforward “cheesing”.

    3. xeroxpt (@)
      26th July 2012, 5:17

      Beautiful line by the way, and yes his car was setup to do precisely that.

      1. His car was setup to run outside the track? Wonder what that setting is.

  2. But it is surely not necessary, even on safety grounds, for the acceleration zone at the exit of a slow hairpin to be bordered by tarmac?

    It may be designed to be a slow hairpin, but all you need is a brake failure for a car to crash into the barriers there at high speed.

    That said, they should look at other materials that could provide the flip protection that tarmac gives, while still forcing a vast reduction in grip (like gravel or grass). Easier said than done, though.

    1. @journeyer I don’t dispute it’s necessary to have it on the approach to the corner for exactly the reasons you explain.

      But I don’t see how at the exit of the corner, at the point Vettel chose to go off the track, it would make any difference on safety grounds.

      1. On safety grounds no it may not be needed in certain areas, however that extra paved area allows for more uses of the track such as this event from Silverstone that makes generous use of the paved run-off.

        Those other events are what ultimately provides the money that the track needs to afford an F1 race so the more area tracks have to host a wider variety of things the better in my opinion.

      2. @keithcollantine – Isn’t there a drag strip at Hockenheim? I’m sure there’s one that starts in the stadium section and goes east. I admit that I don’t know much about drag racing at all, though, so maybe the strip ends before the hairpin.

        1. the dragstrip is close to the stadium section (although you can see it from the grandstands at the hairpin as well)

        2. @prisoner-monkeys The drag strip finishes before the Spitzkehre – you can see it on the aerial map here:

          Hockenheimring circuit information

        3. PJ (@pjtierney)
          25th July 2012, 10:16

          It’s only a quarter-mile (400m) strip. It’d go from the final corner to the stadium entrance. At most it’d end at the point where there’s a [3|191] marker in this map.

          1. But for safety reasons drag strips need tons of run-off room at the end because well when you don’t have enough run-off room people die.

          2. It doesn’t need that tiny little bit of run-off though. If you look at the mad you can see just how inconsequential that bit is for the drag strip. If it did need run-ff there, it would be a huge area long before that bit- the cars have grass and fences to pass before that. And assuming the cars have stayed completely straight anyway, by that point the run-off for the drag strip is already 1000 feet longer than at your fatal example.

    2. In the case of a brake failure going into the Hockenheim hairpin, I would have thought a gravel trap would slow a car down more than flat, smooth tarmac, which won’t kill off any speed.

      1. Brake failure is less likely than a genuine driver mistake or crash. F1 cars have secondary brake cylinders, servos and lines in case of main system failures. The caliper/pad/disc would have to fail which is highly unlikely.

        1. No they don’t. They have two master cylinders, one for the rear and one for the front. If one fails the brake balance bar applies pressure to the remaining master cylinder, giving some brake pressure to the non-failed circuit. I know from personal experience, however, that the braking is MUCH reduced and the pedal travels pretty far. Not fun. There are no duplicate brake lines, only the single set to each caliper. I don’t know what you mean by ‘servos’.

      2. Gravel is much less reliable. Sometimes it will work perfectly. But if you hit it sideways at speed you are liable to flip. If it’s not perfectly flat a car will take off — in MSC’s 1999 accident at Silverstone, his car bounced three times between the track and the wall, so it was literally in the air most of the way. On tarmac the tyres never leave the road, and so the cars will slow down better.

    3. It may be designed to be a slow hairpin, but all you need is a brake failure for a car to crash into the barriers there at high speed.

      thats why there’s a big runoff area at the tip of the hairpin. But that argument surely does not go for the exit of the corner, where no one can even be going fast because they have just come to a “standstill” when turning the hairpin (or they went wide because of not braking before that) @journeyer

    4. That said, they should look at other materials that could provide the flip protection that tarmac gives, while still forcing a vast reduction in grip (like gravel or grass). Easier said than done, though.

      Can’t be beyond the clever people in F1 to come up with something…. how about the material they use in childrens playgrounds ? Soft, pliable but firm and sticky.

      1. I believe that that particular substance is shredded and reformed tyres. A use for discarded bits of Pirellii’s….?

    5. Just have 1.5, 2 or 2.5m wide strip of refrigerated ICE on the crucial parts:D No but seriously, technically I don’t see it being much more difficult to install than curbs for example(although slightly more difficult because of wiring or tubing and such), if the units are produced in a standard way. And during times when not necessary the liquid can be replaced with blocks of concrete(that would revert the tracks back to the solution we have now) , to save on energy costs and so on.
      And the liquid itself can be some some chemical mix with water that freezes at lets say 10C, this saves some energy in refrigeration and prevents rain water from freezing over and ruining the flat surface.

      This solution would not make the tarmac runoffs less safe, but would discourage drivers from going over the track limits, because by doing so they might spin, have a major slide, or interruption in acceleration by wheel spin, basically they would be slowed down massively instead of gaining an advantage.

      I would like for this sort of solution to be tested, and installed with some special effects like pressure triggered LEDs or something, but with no one willing to make some serious effort, never mind spend money, I feel I’am dreaming at the moment. But if I were to design a track I would definitely include this idea.

  3. Are they gonna cover the corner exits with gravel and spikes? no, I thought not…

    1. Spikes like they use to stop pigeons sitting on ledges of buildings? At least they sure would stop drivers from running wide :P

  4. A brake failure on the exit of a slow hairpin isn’t going to cause any grief, you don’t need tarmac runoff there.

    Although how is more tarmac going to stop a car with no brakes? Gravel would work much better.

    1. A brake failure on the exit of a slow hairpin isn’t going to cause any grief

      You’re not going to have a brake failure coming out of a hairpin, because you’re not using the brakes. You’re going to have a brake failure when you hit the brakes.

      Gravel would work much better.

      If the car hits the gravel at an angle, it can flip very easily. That’s why more and more run-off areas are tarmac.

    2. If a car goes head-first into the gravel I don’t see how it could flip over. Perhaps after a little tarmac on the outside of the hairpin the rest should be gravel up to the barrier?

    3. @ ajokay: If I remember correctly gravel traps came into question when Schumacher broke his leg after the gravel trap at Silverstone did nothing to stop his Ferrari that was going straight on… I think since then the idea has been tarmac closer to the track so cars can use their brakes there, but at least some gravel closer to the barriers if the car is sliding / spinning – no point in it all being gravel as gravel won’t help much for a car going straight on

      1. Gravel is really bad at high speeds…. and when it is damp… the cars bounce across the top and there were too many cases of cars being launched.

  5. But doesnt that mean the schumacher move would still be legal?

  6. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend)
    25th July 2012, 9:38

    @jouurneyerits clear tht Keith is talking about the acceleration zone on the EXIT of the hairpin. You definitely don’t need a Tarmac run off there. I think a patch of grass would be enough to stop drivers taking advantage of that spot. Same thing on the last corner leading to the home straight.

    1. PJ (@pjtierney)
      25th July 2012, 9:43

      It can’t be done on the final corner as there’s a drag strip there (Europe’s most popular drag strip in fact).

      1. You’re thinking of the penultimate rather than the final corner.

      2. Temporary astroturf then.

  7. It would have been much easier to make the tracks wide enough, right? :)

  8. why have tarmac run-offs? I can understand tarmac runoff on a street circuit, but why have it in tracks? How does tarmac run-off improve safety? Gravel traps are more safer

    1. @malleshmagdum See the final paragraph.

    2. @malleshmagdum

      Gravel traps are more safer

      No, they’re not. If a car hits a gravel trap at an angle, it can flip very easily.

      1. It isn’t really the flipping itself that is the problem, but the danger of the roll bar digging into the gravel causing the drivers head to hit the ground.
        This brings me to the question of why they don’t make the gravel traps shallower. Say a layer of asphalt with 5 to 10 cm of gravel/sand on top of it. This would prevent the cars from digging far enough to do harm to the driver. Or wouldn’t that allow the car to slow down (sort of like driving on marbles)?

        1. MSC’s 1999 accident was blamed on a gravel trap that was too thin. His car basically just bounced straight across it — if you look at the replay, you can identify three bounces before he slammed the wall; in other words, his car wasn’t touching the ground for most of the accident. Tarmac is much more reliable by comparison.

  9. Can they not just replace the strip of astro turf with real grass, and maybe make the strip a little fatter? Currently you can get away with relatively big mistakes without being punished.

    As Vettel was being dropped by Button (before he started gaining again), he was running wide at the majority of corners for a few laps. I don’t want him to be penalised for that in an official time penalty sense, but in the old days if you ran wide and put the power down you’d spin off surely?

    1. I was thinking the same.

  10. remember the battle massa and kubica had at fuji… plenty off offtrack action there including massa finally beating kubica in the last turn by going off track

  11. I don’t know if they showed it in TV, but the Caterhams used the outside of the second last corner on almost every lap of the race. Kovalainen started it and Petrov (who was behind the Finn) soon followed. Their driving line was thus completely different from every other driver. It must’ve been faster for them since they didn’t even try to stay on track.

    Of course no one cares since they weren’t fighting against anyone, but it still seemed wrong. I think they should’ve been warned and then penalized if they continued to systematically use the outside of the track.

  12. It’s great news that they are doing something about it at last.

    This also highlights how absolutely useless the FIA are at dealing with things that are talked about for years and years. I remember the 2009 comments on Kimi’s first corner driving. Also Vettel’s pass on Button got similar responses where simple common sense seemed to be lacking yet again. All they had to do was watch a re-run of the race with a critical eye.

    All I can say is if the FIA employed people such as Keith, the sporting regs would be under control. Whether he would take a job or not there is another matter entirely!!

    1. Yeah, its good that they are starting to act on this, but its something that has been long overdue, and track design does not help discourage drivers to go beyond the limits of the actual race track either.

  13. I can give one reason for preferring tarmac strips next to the curbs instead of immediately going to (artificial)grass or kittylitter:

    Motorcycles. I’ve been on the artificial grass when coming out of a fast corner at Assen once, it’s *very* difficult to not crash on that stuff on two wheels when you still have some lean-angle.

    That said, I agree with the penalty, it should not be used to gain an advantage. If you run off track and overtake someone, the position should be given back.

    1. @pluisje I don’t claim to know much about bikes but apparently their governing body prefers run-offs to be mostly gravel:

      The FIM’s requirements are very much on sight, on drawings and having run-offs that are 70% gravel and 30% asphalt as a rule of thumb. But that just doesn’t work when it comes to F1. It doesn’t slow the car down as effectively.

      From: Silverstone’s architects on making F1 circuits challenging but safe (Part 2)

      1. True, I was only talking about a small strip of tarmac directly after the curbstones :)

  14. It’s difficult for us to decide whether these tarmac run-off areas are better tahn ye olde gravel traps. We know for sure that gravel traps encourage cars to initiate a roll because the car kind of digs itself into the gravel: this can be prevented by using gravel. For a car with a brake failure, both surfaces do not sufficiently slow a car down (tarmac is obvious, on gravel cars may skid over it’s surface and thus the car will not slow down). A better material would be the stuff used on run-off areas in Paul Ricard, that increase tyre grip and minimizes braking distance.

    That aside, I believe most circuits have too much tarmac run-offs, especially on places where it is not necessary like the inside of a corner, along straights and so on. This turns beautiful tracks into parking lots, in my view not a good thing.

    1. this can be prevented by using -/-gravel-/- tarmac.

  15. Drop Valencia!
    25th July 2012, 10:32

    They could paint a 1 meter wide strip of solid-slip-kote-paint on the outside of these corners, or a flat teflon ripple strip, I guarantee drivers will avoid it, and it will send cars into the runoff if they try, it could be removed easily after the race.

    1. You can’t put measures in place which are designed to cause the cars to skid! That’s ridiculous and very dangerous. What if a driver is forced off track and it ends with a fatality?

      1. It doesn’t have to be dangerously slippery. It just needs to have less grip than the track. To discourage drivers from going there creating a disadvantage.

      2. Drop Valencia!
        25th July 2012, 14:01

        Only putting it in a place where they would put themselves into an unadvantageous run off area, these places are very safe, it’s like wet grass but durable.

    2. How is the FIA, an orginasition with a reputation for making F1 as safe as possible, ever going to explain slippery/dangerous tarmac??

      1. Drop Valencia!
        25th July 2012, 14:03

        Well I think Bernie would like the idea!

  16. I wonder if tihs is going to change the way drivers appraoch Monza. They’re generally allow to leave the limits of the circuit going through the Variante Ascari, because it is considered to be lengthening the circuit; by going outside the white line, they travel further over the course of a lap than they would if they stayed within the lines. I suppose that’s why the FIA has been slow to react in the past – when Raikkonen deliberarely ran wide at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix, he would have travelled further than if he had taken La Source properly. Never mind that he was able to take the corner faster and pass two cars because of it; it was deemed okay because it was a longer lap than it would have otherwise been. It was something the FIA should have cracked down on then, because it arguably put Raikkonen in a position to win the race, which would not have happened if he had stayed within the limits of the circuit.

    1. PJ (@pjtierney)
      25th July 2012, 17:27

      Put it this way: If the drivers didn’t see taking “the Kimi line” as an advantage, would they do it?

      The reason they do so is that lengthening the track and going flat out is faster than easing off and staying between the lines.

  17. Perhaps there should be a strip of (artificial) grass right outside the track’s edges of, say, 2 to 5 meters wide, followed by the tarmac run-off. That would cut out any advantage gained by running outside the track limits.

    1. This is the most obvious, easiest and best solution.

    2. That’s a very clever idea actually.

      Personally I fail to see the reason for tarmac run-offs in any other places than quick arcs, like Pouhon or Copse, to run wide. As for slowing the cars down, it hardly does a better job than gravel, unless one is capable of braking hard without any steering angle (and even that is questionable – Massa would know). Yet the only place where one would need to brake hard without any steering angle is at the end of long straights – hence the argument for tarmac run-offs at hairpins. Wouldn’t it be better to simply have a relatively narrow strip of gravel followed by tarmac in the braking zones, so to punish outbraking oneself but providing enough safety if one goes straight on (in the case of a brake failure tarmac would be useless on its own), and a strip of grass in any sort of arcs followed by tarmac? Needless to say that acceleration zones don’t need any tarmac.

      It’s frustrating to see drivers abusing the tracks limits, never mind to see mistakes not getting punished. Tarmac run-offs, while it has some safety benefits, in my opinion, is worse than gravel in certain situations.

    3. @lustigson I fail to see why the strip of grass – or some Ricard style run-off – immediately adjacent to the track hasn’t already been put in place.

      It keeps the safety and the integrity of the racetrack at the same time

  18. Speaking if abusing limits, I think that the FIA should have a three strikes and you are out approach to teams that continually abuse the tech rules. Twice this year Red Bull have been allowed to race with a car that has an unfair advantage. I am sure that some will disagree with me on the term unfair, but if it wasn’t the FIA would not have made sure the infractions were removed or changed by the following race.

    1. The trouble is they are generally in the “grey” area between legal and illegal.
      It normally requires a rule change or revision to actually allow the FIA to ban the part.

      That effectively means at the time the car was legal. As good as the FIA are at making tech regs (or not) the engineers are far better at bending them.

      1. I agree with you that we are talking about grey areas, getting off on a technicality or exploiting a loophole. But teams are suppossed to act within the spirit of the rules and if you are found to be in the “grey” area too many times you are clearly not doing that.

        1. As Paddy Lowe said not too long ago, in F1 “[t]here’s no such thing as the spirit of the rules.” There’s only the text of the rules and how effectively you can argue that you’re technically operating within them.

          1. @aka_robyn I thought it was Adrian Newey who said? Maybe it was both of them. Anyway, whoever said it, they’re right.

            Let’s get a little American Dad on this one:


          2. @keithcollantine I’ll bet every technical person in F1 has said something like that at one time or another, but Lowe definitely said it in the interview I linked to in my comment (regarding the Mercedes double DRS controversy).

            Hahaha — perfect American Dad clip! :-D

    2. @ben73

      Twice this year Red Bull have been allowed to race with a car that has an unfair advantage.

      Yet on all those occasions the car met the letter of the rules, which is the only standard you can hold them to.

      You can’t have a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy based on how often a team annoys Jo Bauer without actually doing anything wrong.

      1. I stand corrected and am still chuckling about the clip!

      2. The only consequence of repeatedly being caught with your hand hovering over the cookie jar is that Jo and his people will be watching you hawk-style henceforth. Repeat run-ins with rule enforcers is a signal to the rules police and rivals alike, that one has things to hide. People who have things to hide get extra scrutiny and negative presumptions. Extra scrutiny is not desireable if you want to innovate freely.

        But Newey of course probably assumes that lesser minds like Bauer only catch him in small fraction of his rule-torturing innovations and probably miss the most eggregious examples all together. (Anyone remember the ride-height and wing-lowering issues? People just gave up trying to bust RBR but those mysteries remain.) For Newey it’s like donig a magic show for toddlers—occaisionally you slip up and a kid sees the card up your sleeve but it’s almost part of the show.

        By the way, something I’ve been wondering is why RBR put a wall of mechanics behind its car on the grid. If’s an ECU program issue, the TV cameras wont be able to tell anything about it. Something tells me there is more to this issue than a questionable reflash.

    3. what about stopping Red Bull from disguising team orders as gearbox changes on Webbers car….always starts after he’s signed for the next year. Vettel must have cried at uncle Marko

  19. Dimitris 1395 (@)
    25th July 2012, 11:03

    The certain thing is that if there was a gravel trap or grass, Vettel wouldn’t have abused the track limits. Personally, I believe that every time a driver uses a run-off area must be taken into consideration very carefully. Every battle for an overtake is different and every aspect of the battle must be carefully observed. Asking for the drivers’ opinion is a way to go if the action is not clear to the stewards. Is not clever to look at past examples and is much better to have a proper guideline and not apply a penalty every time a driver uses the run-off areas.

  20. Why not simply have a device by which only, say, 30% throttle can be applied when a car has gone outside of the track limits? No reason why it couldn’t be easily implemented, and wouldn’t hurt safety since you wouldn’t be pressing the throttle anyway if you were having an accident.

    Or, and I acknowledge this is a bit of a crazy notion, we could just trust the best drivers in the world to drive within the track limits, and have some sort of penalty system for anyone who seems to be pushing the limit a bit far. I know it’s easy to look at the lack of gravel traps and say that there’s not enough of a disadvantage to running off the track, but really I don’t see that we need anything other than consistency and transparency in how the track margins (and breaches thereof) are policed.

    1. I think because if there is a guy behind, slightly offset with two wheels still on the circuit, he is going to get a nasty surprise when the guy in front steps of the throttle.

      You need to give the drivers control, just like you wouldn’t want limiting to 70 on the motorway because sometimes you may need to go a little bit faster to get out of danger (or for other reasons!).

      Your second suggestion is bang on in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong so long as the rules are enforced.

    2. @mazdachris Similar devices are in use in MotoGP – engine management based on position that gives full power on straights and less in tight chicanes.
      There have been multiple instances of this device playing up and making a bike ‘unridable’ – most recently Lorenzo in qualifying the other week

      Would the FIA risk a race being ruined by faulty software that will limit engine output in error?
      Not likely

  21. You can’t blame the drivers for trying to get round the track in the fastest possible time. The problem is the FIA and Stewards not enforcing the rules. Charlie Whiting made it clear that if people ran wide at turn one they would be punished, during quali a few drivers had that lap taken away when they did. Then we got to the race where Vettel and others ran wide there every other lap and nothing was done.

    The FIA and Charlie Whiting are scared of the teams imo and therefore do not have the guts to enforce their own rules. Maybe this will change once all of them have signed the new concorde agreement.

  22. Tarmac run-off is way safer than gravel in most situations, if it wasn’t then it woudn’t be used.

    also consider that its not just f1 which runs at these circuits, some of the lower categories flip much easier on gravel, formula ford cars in particular flip extremely easily upon hitting gravel.

    also consider that on several occasions in recent years cars driving over grass have managed to launch & in some cases cause back injuries upon landing.
    a gp3 driver suffered a back injury at hockenheim last weekend due to going on the grass just off the exit of turn 1. justin wilson suffered a back injury in an indycar race last year after the car got a bit of air on the grass.

    in terms og grass/gravel slowing cars, i remember reading something about burti’s big crash at spa in 2001 in which it was noted that the grass/gravel made the accident worse as the car wasn’t able to slow down on the wet grass & all the gravel did was break the suspension & brake lines while the car skipped over it.

    likewise mcnish’s crash at suzuka in 2002 at 130r, teh gravel/grass launched the car & he hit the wall having lost no speed, with tarmac in that situation he woudn’t have hit the wall as hard as he did because the car woudn’t have left the ground & he’d have been able to scrub off speed.

    finally, people blame the fia for the tarmac run-off, however it was actually the drivers via the gpda that began asking for it.

  23. I still think those little speed bumps they use on the chicanes at Monza could be used much more widely to prevent these kinds of shenanigans.

  24. If I recall, didn’t Snetterton use long stalks of corn as a means of slowing the cars down when they go flying off the track?

  25. Is the solution not to have a strip of grass a few meters wide next to the track to punsh mistakes and then have the tarmac run off areas after that, much like the currently used track-astro/grasscrete/tarmac runoff solution that most tracks use thesedays?

  26. Something does need to be done. If you run off the track under your own volition then you should rejoin where you left in relation to the other drivers, or yield at the earliest opportunity. For me there is no difference between cutting a corner or running off around the outside. You leave the track, you’re no longer racing.

  27. spankythewondermonkey (@spankythewondermonkey)
    25th July 2012, 14:17

    the solution, as maxthecat and chris goldsmith have already alluded to is to do nothing to the track but have a consistent and effective punishment put into place. a stop go penalty for gaining an advantage and not rectifying oneself. rack up 3 of these and you get dq’d from the race.

    not rectifying oneself….. this means if you overtake, you give the position back. if an overtake is not involved and you subsequently set a lap time that is within 1 sec (or a %age) of your fastest thus far, then the running wide will be deemed to have given an advantage and attract the same penalty.

  28. Hamilton get past Nico this year out of circuit and stewards did not see any wrong with Nico (as he forced drivers out of circuit). So the question is if Nico was no in fault according the race stewards than how they let Hamilton to continue without a penalty.
    As usual inconsistent decisions going on.

    1. Nico never forced anyone off the track. Both LH and FA chose to go wide rather than let off because they had the forgiveness of the tarmac apron to do so. At no point as they were going off the track were they beside NR until they were off the track. If there was a wall there NR still would have done nothing wrong and LH and FA would have had no choice but to back off or simply not carry so much momentum that they would need to back off.

  29. Well, I am not sure that I entirely agree with this. In situations where the outside of the corner (or run-off) is used to gain an advantage during unforced circumstances (that includes qualifying or timed runs where the car is not impeded) then yes, this needs to be addressed. However, in situations where the car is pushed wide during an overtaking maneuver, i don’t agree.

    Schumacher passing Trulli, in this situation a penalty is not so obvious. Because, if Schumacher had stayed on the right side of the track there would have been an incident and both drivers could have easily taken each other out. Also, in case of Hamilton pushing Maldonado wide, again driver on the outside has to go off track. So if a driver is purposely pushed wide during an overtaking maneuver, and they happen to gain an advantage, then so be it! That advantage is well deserved! If they go off track during unforced circumstances, then some kind of penalty should apply. In Button-Vettel situation, Vettel was not forced to go off track.

    What we forget to remember is that during an overtaking maneuver, the offending car has already done more than half of the work to try and overtake and so why should they be further punished if they are forced to go off track?

  30. First of all, I also appreciate that the stewards appear to have been taking this more seriously at least at this event. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen how long they will remain consequent with following this issue. More details were put into the sporting regulations for this year from the beginning, so it’s unfortunate that it apparently took six months for some kind of regulation of this drivers’ behaviour. There have been cases where, arguably, action could have been taken before.

    The important thing to take away from this, in my opinion, is that there are at least a number of drivers who need to understand once again that they are to stay on the race track. That means if you’re along on the outside of somebody and you haven’t yet passed by, you need to think about a point during the corner where you yield and wait for another chance. What people have been doing for years, instead, is just staying at the outside of their opponent and then claiming he forced them to go off track.

    Even Vettel at Hockenheim brought this up as an excuse. It’s even funnier how he argued that it was slippery off the track and he still passed Button, so Button’s tyres must have been “going off”. Then why was he so impatient to pull off a potentially irregular move right there, instead of waiting for the exit of the next slow corner?

    Not that Lewis Hamilton would suddenly have become an expert critic on what a mature, sensibly acting racing driver is, but I actually see this as much of a replication of what Vettel did with Kubica at Melbourne in 2009. He clearly had the better tyres, he could go much faster than the driver in front of him – and he couldn’t wait another corner or to to make a clean move.

  31. As for running off track to make a pass, I thought the Hamilton-Spa rule was invented to deal with this. If you go off tomake a pass, give the spot back for two corners. For other situations, we can just leave the run off areas with the same surface, but put in a Cyclops system as in tennis. Or you don’t need to embed sensors in the ground, just use a camera and some simple software. If you get three dings for your car reaching a point a car’s width or more from the track, you come in for a drive-through. No arguments, no whining about stewards’ discretion, no arguments about “advantage.” Oh, and those dinged laps are excluded from timing and scoring as fastest laps. They turn red if you will, as in GT5.

    I see that Keith eyeballed Alonso’s excursions but what about Vettel? It seems every other time time we saw the shot of Alonso from turn 2 looking back, we would see Vettel shoot off the to right and them come back onto the track. I even say him go off on the last and first corners consecutively a couple times. That advantage has to accumulate. Common sense tells you that using perfectly good asphault on the outside of a corner, while longer in distance, can allow you to reach the next corner in less time.

    1. @dmw

      Alonso’s excursions but what about Vettel?

      To be honest I expect most if not all the drivers were taking these liberties at times, we probably just didn’t see all of it.

  32. To play devil’s advocate a bit, Micheal was clearly faster than Trulli in that situation and if he had not passed him there he would have eventually.

    Vettel on the other hand was running out of time and was only slightly faster than Jenson at that time making a pass there vital. Vettel also had DRS heading into the turn where as Micheal was down to car superiority.

    1. @dm0407 Button’s tyres had started to go off and Vettel was quite a bit quicker. But the difference in speed between the two doesn’t excuse either pass.

  33. The way all the tracks should have it is a small strip of grass, to stop people running off track to gain advantage, then tarmac, for cars that run very wide and where they need to have grip to stop the car sliding to a wall, then finally a gravel, where there is space, in case a car is sliding off track out of control.

    Or, as somebody tweeted in during the practice session on Sky, use marmite run-off areas.

  34. The only thing this rule will encourage is drivers closing the door earlier, resulting in less side-by-side racing and more collisions on track. It is clear that Vettel’s performance advantage over Button during that stage of the race meant that he did not absolutely need to use the asphalt runoff area to complete the overtake, but did so in order to leave Button enough room to race him. I thought it was an incredibly respectful overtake, and can not understand how anyone could view this incident and then move Vettel down the rankings, not only behind Button, but behind two other drivers who never had a chance to race Vettel on track.

    1. he did not absolutely need to use the asphalt runoff area to complete the overtake

      Then he shouldn’t have. As the rules say, drivers may not go of the track to gain an advantage.

  35. Apart from Schumacher’s accident at Silverstone in 1999 did anyone ever get seriously hurt because of a gravel trap?

    Places like Hockenheim and Canada that have long straights down to tight hairpins should have a tarmac run off straight ahead, and once past the apex of the turn, gravel. F1 tracks are way too clean and dont punish mistakes enough these days.

  36. I find it a bit curious as to how many people are trying to find other solutions than tarmac as a solution for this issue. I think they have (or can) tackle the issue simply by having and enforcing the rule that four wheels inside or outside the white line means a penalty. ie. how about we treat the drivers like adults rather than coming up with substances other than tarmac that will force them to not go outside the white lines with more than two wheels, presuming they can’t think for themselves or that being racers they are going to use the tarmac for an advantage, full stop….imho, they only will if they can get away with it. If they can’t, they won’t.

    From what I understand, tarmac is there as the best option for cars to continue to slow down during an off, such they they hit the barrier with less momentum, and therefore more safely. In some cases (or many) they are even able to slow down enough that they can avoid hitting the barrier completely. And the other benefit is that as opposed to gravel that can flip a car not just bury it, a driver can live to fight to the end of the race or the quali session if one little mistake doesn’t see him stuck in the kitty litter and done for the day, and that makes for better days for the audience as they get to see their driver carry on and not be penalized permanently for a small error (or maybe even a bit of rain at one portion of a track while they are still on slicks). So for that reason I’m not sure I can agree with your suggestion, @Keith, that perhaps they don’t need tarmac on the outside of the exit of a slow hairpin.

    Obviously if there were walls everywhere the risk would be far different and we wouldn’t see drivers carrying so much momentum as they have been, knowing that they can because that act won’t end their day. But the walls are gone or moved further away in many areas of many tracks, for safety reasons, and that’s fine. The walls remain at other venues, and the drivers drive accordingly. They have no choice. Given the choice, and with big tarmac runoffs, the risk is minimal of carrying too much speed so they do it.

    So I say leave the tarmac in place because it is there for a couple of good reasons, enforce the rule that more than 4 wheels beyond the white lines is penalty worthy, and then all they have to speculate on is whether a certain driver was forced off the track by a car that didn’t leave him enough room according to other rules in place for that, which we have been talking about since MS questionably held LH back for about 20 laps at whatever race that was, and for which they have firmed up that rule too. Perhaps at some corners of some venues, if they find the drivers simply can’t resist going way wide or cutting a corner they can use orange cones or ‘stanchions’ or what have you that are forgiving and moveable. Touch one of those when you are not spinning off or being forced off…penalty.

    In virtually all sports I can think of there are limits…there are lines over which if the ball or your foot crosses, play stops. You can’t receive a ball or a puck from your teammate if you are ahead of a certain line…it’s called being off-side. etc etc. It can’t be that hard to simply enforce a rule for F1 cars regarding the white lines. Where there’s the will there’s a way. And it sounds like there’s more will, now that they have seen and reacted to Vettel’s driving last weekend.

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