Some corners ‘special cases’ in track limits disputes

2014 F1 season

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, Albert Park, 2014Exceptions will be made to the rules regarding abuse of track limits where they are needed, according to FIA race director Charlie Whiting.

In a media briefing at the Australian Grand Prix, a summary of which was published by the FIA, Whiting noted that drivers had argued there are “certain corners on certain circuits that require special treatment” when judging whether a driver had gained an advantage by going off the track.

“Track limits have become a very emotive subject,” the summary noted. “Fundamentally, a driver is required to use the track at all times. If any part of the car remains within the boundaries of the white lines, he is deemed to be using the track. If he has all four wheels over the white lines, he’s off the track.
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“A driver is allowed to leave the track and rejoin without penalty, providing he does so safely and providing he does not gain an advantage. It is up to us to decide whether he has gained an advantage from being off track. 
Circuits are designed so that going off track should always be slower – or at least not faster.

“My view is that if you have two wheels on a bumpy kerb and two on artificial grass, that is not faster. Not everybody shares that view but it is held by the majority.

“In Jerez, we held a meeting with the drivers to discuss the matter. They agreed with the general point of view but argued that there are certain corners on certain circuits that require special treatment. Therefore we will treat each circuit individually rather than making a blanket ruling.”

Track limits were a point of contention in the final race of last season in Brazil where Felipe Massa was penalised for repeatedly cutting across the pit apron at the final corner on the Interlagos track. The stewards had issued a notification before the race that drivers who cut the corner would be punished.

An update to the 2014 rules states drivers must not gain any “lasting” advantage by leaving the circuit.

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71 comments on Some corners ‘special cases’ in track limits disputes

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  1. DK (@seijakessen) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:22

    This was never much of an issue back when tracks had properly defined limits…such as grass or gravel traps right outside of the white lines.

    But hey…since they want to keep hiding behind the safety word as a reason to emasculate circuits…this will continue to be a problem.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:39

      I don’t think this is a big problem, not that you are saying it is, but yeah it does seem like the big runoff areas that were meant not just for safety but also to ensure that our favourite drivers’ day wasn’t ended for one small error, have allowed for extra ‘bravery’ vs. if there was, for example, a wall there which would totally change how a corner is treated.

      • DK (@seijakessen) said on 23rd March 2014, 15:40

        The thing is Robbie, these guys are purported to be the best drivers on the planet, so while yes they make mistakes, they’re in theory supposed to make way less mistakes than any other driver out there. I never bought the idea that this enables them to survive a small error. If a small error results in a driver not finishing a race, then is it really a small error? ;)

        • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 23rd March 2014, 16:35

          what about car failures?
          You haven’t accounted for the possibility of car failures pitching drivers off the circuit.

          • Velocityboy (@velocityboy) said on 23rd March 2014, 20:31

            Car failures are a different matter. The point is drivers are going beyond the marked surface in order to gain a speed advantage when qualifying or racing. It seems the concept of a driver controlling their car and driving within their limits and to the conditions of the track are a thing of the past. It would be easy enough to assess a time penalty for 2 wheels beyond the white line and a stiffer penalty for 4 wheels beyond the line with an increasing penalty if violations continue. Sort of like them hitting a virtual guard rail over and over. But rather than demand the drivers stick to the circuit limits, they will provide exceptions to make the rules pointless and remove the need for a combination of precision and speed.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 23rd March 2014, 17:05

          @seijakessen I think of it in the sense that we want our drivers pushing the limits, and that’s going to mean some offs, and from a viewership perspective it is disappointing if any little incident or event out of a driver’s control has a high probability of ending his day. For sure you are right that even a small error can end one’s day and therefore actually be a big error, but do we want every little thing to be fatal? Yet yes, there has to be some risk.

          • DK (@seijakessen) said on 24th March 2014, 2:08

            @robbie The way I look at it is that many years ago, it was an accepted part of F1. Everyone was ok with drivers who left the track possibly being unable to finish the race. As someone who well remembers the F1 of yesteryear, I think the concern of a driver being unable to finish a race because he made an unforced error that beached his car in a gravel trap is overblown. As is, the drivers today don’t even push on the limits much anymore with how gimmicky the formula has become…it’s largely a conservation exercise as it relates to tires, and now fuel.

            What I like about errors too personally, is that it is a reminder the drivers are human too, and they aren’t perfect.

    • Sean Doyle (@spdoyle17) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:45

      I’d settle for mandating safer cars starting from a nearly flat bottom from nose to diffuser (say, limit the angle from the sidepods to the tip of the nose to 5 degrees), with the safety tub realigned and strengthened accordingly first though. After that, severely regulate the amount of wing elements on the car to single-digits. Safer but faster cars with less downforce -> More braking. Do that, THEN make the tracks less forgiving.

      Like it or not, only losing de Villota in a freak crash in the past nearly twenty years has come in part to safer tracks. If the floor was more flush further forward, these 2014 noses wouldn’t look so hideous, either. Think a longer B193 or a slightly different F412T without the tobacco sponsorship.

      As long as the aerodynamicists are given the leeway they are, the tracks will be made to be forgiving. It’s a symptom of the stagnation in F1, gimmickry to enable overtaking, and the character of the circuits gradually fading over time, largely in part due to the aero wash produced from each car.

    • F1 is not the only motorport series racing on those tracks…

      • Wonderduck (@wonderduck) said on 23rd March 2014, 16:11

        But it is the only one that the FIA (and we) are concerned about.

        • FormulaLes (@formulales) said on 24th March 2014, 5:14

          You are aware that the FIA does sanction other series aside from Formula 1? And that most governing bodies of individual countries are members of the FIA?

          And also, I am sure that I am not the only Formula 1 fan that is concerned about other motor racing series.

          @jeff1s makes an excellent point, most of the circuits host other motor racing series, and motorcycles too, and these circuits need to be designed to suit all vehicles, and varying levels of ability.

          I would however like to see the FIA enforce the white line rule, with no exceptions for all Grand Prix. I would even like to see a loop installed in the white lines with a transponder installed at a uniform point in each car, if the transponder triggers a signal in the loop, penalty time. With tennis they can use sophisticated technology to determine if a ball is in or out, Formula 1 one should be able to determine whether a car is in or out.

  2. Circuits are designed so that going off track should always be slower – or at least not faster.
    Well, that’s debatable. there are a lot of corners at various tracks that are faster if you exceed track limits . Not a good argument in my opinion!

  3. Robbie (@robbie) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:30

    Fair enough. Not entirely sure why in some cases there needs be an exception, or more to the point why not just change the location of the aprons then. That said, F1 likes to leave some room for potential controversy. Certainly I don’t get why a driver like FM would repeatedly do this when they were all warned ahead of time about the pit exit area. I think as long as the drivers know ahead of time what Whiting will be watching for at these unique corners at some tracks, then there should be no issue.

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:40

      @robbie – Exactly, why have a nice black and white rule, or in other words, either side of a white line, when you could a nice vague controversy to confuse the fans yet more?

      • Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 23rd March 2014, 14:49

        Well I bet he’d love a nice black and white rule. As he has explained, it is the drivers who have emotionally argued against it. The *drivers* want the FIA to be flexible here.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 23rd March 2014, 15:02

          Indeed, I understand that Charlie wanted to make it far easier by stating that you do not actually gain an advantage by going off track, so there should not be a penalty for doing it @joshua-mesh (i guess not including incidents where a driver gets ahead only by straight-lining a chicane or something like that).
          On the other hand, the drivers are perfectly right, when they in turn point to the fact that there are quite a few corners on tracks where you DO gain an advantage by going off track instead of staying inside the lines.

  4. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:34

    Do it simple – remove all the kerbs and replace them with grass or sand, so that drivers would not be willing to exploit track limits too much. If there is a possibility to go faster by exploiting track limits to the maximum, even exceeding them, drivers will always do it in order to achieve the fastest time possible and it’s silly to penalise them.

  5. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:36

    Track limits have become a very emotive subject

    Yes, it does remain an emotive subject, because of the very fast that it is not being addressed properly. In largely every racing series in the world, the race track is defined by the white lines, and in a series like say DTM, a qualifying lap in which a driver runs four tyres over the line is deleted and repetitive excursions in the race are penalized. Why is F1 having problems with that incredibly simple notion? Why must we need to judge whether an advantage is “lasting”? Why are we clinging to some imaginary premise that although a car is effectively straight-lining a corner, it is not gaining a “lasting advantage”? Why are the finest racing drivers in the world doing it then? Is Sebastian Vettel temporarily loosing control on all three of his Indian pole laps when he goes off track, when it is apparently not providing him with any “lasting” advantage? Utter madness.

    • Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 23rd March 2014, 14:53

      The FIA probably agree with you or they would not have held a meeting about it in the first place. Ultimately though it was the drivers who argued against the strict rules. We’ve seen in the past that when all the drivers want something and lobby together for it, they can make a lot of noise and I’m sure this subject was not worth a war against the drivers.

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 23rd March 2014, 17:53

        @joshua-mesh – Going over the whites lines with all four wheels and getting penalized is just one of the fundamentals of circuit racing; just because a broody Spaniard and an irritating German doesn’t like it, why should the rule be different to pretty much every racing series in the world? Why should Vettel get the glory of pole and gasps of “wow” after running off the track, when at exactly the same time in history Joe Bloggs racing his Porsche GT3 in the midst of automotive obscurity gets his lap time deleted? The FIA is giving the finest racing drivers the opportunity to race the finest cars on the finest racetracks in the world, aren’t they the ones with the cards in their favour?

        • Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 23rd March 2014, 18:32

          What does this have to do with the Broody Spaniard?

          • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 24th March 2014, 10:54

            @joshua-mesh – I’m not talking about the Eyebrowanator specifically, I’m just saying that just because a racing driver of the status of say Fernando makes a stink about an issue, doesn’t mean that is therefore a motivation for F1 to be different to every other circuit racing series in the world.

          • Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 24th March 2014, 13:45

            @william-brierty You make it sound like a minority of the drivers want flexibility. Whiting specifically mentioned that by far the majority of the drivers asked him for flexibility in the meeting they had.

            A number of racing disciplines are flexible regarding the lines. For example in DTM we often see them going well off the track at the ring (f1 layout) at certain spots. Just because something is in the other series rules, does not mean they enforce those rules.

    • The operative words there are “lasting advantage”. If every driver puts all four wheels off track on the exit of a certain corner it cannot be said that any of them is gaining a “lasting advantage” from doing so. For instance in the Indian GP qualifying you mention, all the drivers (including Hamilton) were going off-track at the same spot as Vettel did, thus he could not have gained any “lasting advantage”.

      A driver only gains lasting advantage if he is taking a faster and illegal line which his competitors are not taking. Such was the case with Massa in Brazil last year.

      On the whole I think this whole issue is a non-issue. There was nothing wrong with the rules as they stood. The excitement about drivers going off-track was largely driven by people who, incorrectly, thought Vettel was gaining an unfair advantage by engaging in the practice.

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 24th March 2014, 11:14

        But why are we setting such precedents? If drivers aren’t getting penalized for going off track, why is stopping them simply ignoring the racetrack? You make a valid point about saying that common practice negates any net advantage, but if it is common practice then it rather suggests that the finest race teams in world have discovered that there is an advantage to be had in doing it. Vettel was not gaining an advantage relative to his competitors, but by failing to punish drivers that go off track F1 is essentially making itself different to every other racing series in the world. Why? A snobbish need for separatism? Is the FIA scared by the collective demands of the twenty finest racing drivers in the world?

        • .. by failing to punish drivers that go off track ..

          But F1 does not “fail to punish drivers who go off track”. Several drivers were punished for this last season. In fact several drivers are punished for it every season.

          And it is not the case that other racing series apply this rule as rigidly and dogmatically as you suggest.

          It’s true that F1 is not always consistent in the application of its rules. How did Alonso not get penalized for passing another car off track in Abu Dhabi, for instance? But as long as there are “judges” there are going to be some bad judgement calls.

      • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 24th March 2014, 13:32

        So it’s legal if everyone else is doing it? That seems pretty absurd to me.

        Also, offers an intriguing tactic – find a track where everyone is leaving the track at a certain point. Don’t do it. Everyone else now gets a penalty as not EVERYONE is doing it, win the race. (Imagine 21 cars all coming in for a drive through at the same time!)

        • Can you imagine being the one who does the complaining about that? “Oh look at me, I wasn’t doing it. You have to punish everyone else now.”

          No thanks. I’d rather just stick to a hard and fast white line rule. Cross that, you’re punished. Get punished enough, you stop crossing it.

    • CashNotClass (@cashnotclass) said on 23rd March 2014, 18:03

      Agreed, all these shenanigans about ‘advantage’, ‘lasting advantage’ is just giving the FIA more room to meddle in the results of qualifying or the race.

      If the drivers can manage to keep one side of the car inside the track, then they can also manage both. In Abu Dhabi you could clearly see that once told to, the drivers had absolutely no problem keeping all tyres within the white lines. Let the rule be that drivers should keep all tyres within the lines at all times: simple.

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 24th March 2014, 11:00

        @cashnotclass – Exactly, it is how every other racing series in the world operates, so why not F1? To illustrate that we saw Ericsson’s GP2 pole lap justly deleted at Abu Dhabi last year, and Sainz’s P2 lap in GP3 that same weekend, so why only hours later when Vettel blatantly ran all wheels off track at the first and penultimate corners, was he allowed to keep his time? And if you think Abu Dhabi’s bad wait for Spielberg later this year…

        • I think your argument would rest on stronger ground if it was based more on general principles and less on antagonism towards a particular driver. Webber exceeded the track limits while taking pole position at Abu Dhabi last year, and once again you focus like a laser beam on … Vettel?

          You give the impression that you don’t care about the track limits issue at all, except to the extent you can use it as a stick to beat Vettel with.

  6. Rocky (@rocky) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:38

    Each corner requiring special treatment should then simply have the white lines changed to conform to the on/off track rule. This makes it clear with out doubt and not clouded by interpretation.

  7. andae23 (@andae23) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:45

    “My view is that if you have two wheels on a bumpy kerb and two on artificial grass, that is not faster. Not everybody shares that view but it is held by the majority.

    I think he’s missing the point on this one: two wheels on a kerb and two on artificial grass is marginally slower than when a driver is on the racing line (although I doubt running wide at the last corner at Abu Dhabi is slower), but it’s much, much faster then when the car-wide kerb stones and artificial grass were replaced by wheel-wide kerb stones and actual grass.

    The point is that going off-track apparently isn’t perceived as a ‘penalty’ in the way that drivers are willing to go slower to prevent running wide. It has been said many times, but when there is an actual penalty for going wide (wheel-wide kerb stone and actual grass), drivers would finally start respecting track limits.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 23rd March 2014, 14:12

      Well, one would think that they’d only hop the kerb if it was faster to do so. Why would they if it was marginally slower to do so, other than the scenario of literally doing it to gain an advantage over another car, rather than in pure lap time.

      You are right that there just needs to be an actual cost to going wide, so that drivers won’t do it.

    • George (@george) said on 23rd March 2014, 14:55

      Yeah, it sends the wrong message when the FIA’s circuit designer of choice is making two metre wide flat kerbs (India), which entice drivers outside of the white lines. Drivers don’t like it either, they prefer to have a clear idea of where the edge of the track is. Then again, I think the sausage kerbs go too far, you either cut the corner entirely or risk serious damage to your car (and spine). Something that will make you have to get out of the throttle while you run over it is the best solution, e.g. grass.

  8. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:48

    We saw stewards taking action last year in GP2 for this in Abu Dhabi, so I’m not sure why they can’t do it for F1? I know Bernie wanted shortcuts but I think it’s getting silly now. They penalise Grosjean for arguably being shoved off a track but in qualifying they can effectively drive any layout they wish?

    • Le Jimster (@lejimster82) said on 24th March 2014, 19:57

      Imho, Grosjean deserved the penalty, but they often don’t penalize drivers when there is no overtaking involved. The amount of times I’ve seen Vettel with 4 wheels off the track is crazy.. And to say he doesn’t get an advantage is silly, he is able to use carry more speed by pushing past the limits of the track. Other drivers do it from time to time, but they haven’t had the unnatural amount of downforce that Red Bull have enjoyed to make the moves stick and benefit from them.

  9. Seba (@f1fan123) said on 23rd March 2014, 13:50

    India I think was the biggest problem regarding corner cutting and extending. It’s gone now, so hopefully things will be better now.

  10. Michael Brown said on 23rd March 2014, 14:03

    What if there was about a one metre or so wide patch of grass at the edge of the track (like the light blue strips in Abu Dhabi), with the rest of the runoff area being tarmac?

  11. Spud (@the-spuditron) said on 23rd March 2014, 14:13

    This “lasting advantage” thing is just a very unneeded grey area. White lines define the track. Stay within those lines, or be penalised. It really is that simple. If the FIA start to dole out drive through penalties for drivers who exceed track limits, the message would quickly get through.

  12. Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 23rd March 2014, 14:47

    I think the fans issue is when a driver creates an overtaking opportunity or completes an overtaking move by going off the track, ether right before, during or after.

  13. David Not Coulthard (@davidnotcoulthard) said on 23rd March 2014, 15:06

    Circuits are designed so that going off track should always be slower – or at least not faster.

    Small correction:
    Circuits are supposed to be designed so that going off track should always be slower – or at least not faster.

  14. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 23rd March 2014, 15:25

    Sounds like a common sense approach to this whole thing. One rule, no matter how detailed, could adequately cover every situation on every corner of every track. Anything that gives some flexibility while still giving effect to the principles and objectives meant to be achieved by the rule is a good thing in my book.

    Let’s see if it can avoid unnecessarily harsh penalties in practice!

  15. Mads (@mads) said on 23rd March 2014, 15:41

    I think the rule about the “lasting” advantage makes for an unnecessary grey area and potential for a lot of confusion and controversy.
    Rather, I think they should replace the car wide curbs and fake grass with the more old fashioned curbs which are like half a tyre wide. Not very tall, not very bumby. Just to let the drivers know where the limit is.
    Then a meter or two of actual, nice, slippery grass.
    And then they can keep those tarmac carparks they like so much, which of cause are there for safety. Fair enough.
    I don’t like it when the FIA has to determine the racing order. It’s much better when the circuit punishes cheating by spinning them around.
    Another problem with the rules about overtaking off track is that, when there is just a white line and then tarmac, then the defending driver can usually just push the other car straight off the circuit. No questions asked. If the overtaking driver still takes the position then he will get a penalty.
    If the defending driver did that and there was no tarmac, but say.. an armco barrier, then he would be shot at dawn for causing a collision and all that instead. Similar cases. The only difference is how track edge is defined.
    In short, I want the track edge to punish drivers from going off it, and then let the FIA only deal with drivers pushing others off it.

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