Just wanted to revive this discussion after Grosjean’s penalty in today’s Hungarian Grand Prix. If you would allow drivers to overtake while exceeding track limits, that wouldn’t work simply because there is so much tarmac on the edge of the track. For an example, turn 4 where Grosjean passed Massa: there is an enormous tarmac patch on the apex, while the outside if basically a pristine tarmac paradise.
So in my opinion, they should replace the tarmac run-off areas with grass patches, at least the first meter on the outside of the track (also the ridiculous astroturf has to go). Then you can be a bit softer with the track exceeding regulations: it basically becomes the driver’s responsibility to judge whether keeping your foot in is the sensible thing to do. Of course if a driver cuts the corner completely, a penalty should still be handed to him.
There is of course a safety issue: the tarmac is there for safety reasons, because the friction of the tyres with the tarmac surface is actually a really effective way to slow a skidding car down. That’s why I say the first meter or two alongside the track should be grass and further away from the track it should remain as it is right now: tarmac.
I think that 1-2 meters of grass on the verge of the track is an ideal solution. Not only does it prevent passes outside the boundaries of the track but it also prevents gaining an advantage by not respecting the track limits on a regular lap.
It would also lead to better racing too as drivers would be punished for mistakes – when running wide at the moment they just use the run off and there’s no issue, if there’s grass in the way then they’ll have to make a decision, go wide onto the tarmac run-off or back off and stay within the track.
Would love to see the impact on safety of having grass verges – if they’re too soft it just provides a cushion to roll.
The other alternative that I’d like to see investigated is the Paul Riccard style blue and red zones – would these work for F1?