Why the supposed FIA clampdown on ‘track limits’ is a fail



In the UK today, a new law has come into force making it a criminal offence for anyone to smoke in a car where there are minors (under 18 in age) present.

However, one police force has already confirmed enforcing this law will be a low priority matter for them. Add to this the fine is just £50 and the drafting of the law means the person has to be actually caught smoking whilst there is a ‘child’ in the car.

This all adds up to a fairly big fail – as a deterrent – for those determined not to comply.

The FIA has been under constant fire for some time over the ‘track limits’ issue. Fans and many drivers alike want to see the cars remain on the circuit layout designed for the race.

For many, the most recent example of a flagrant abuse of track limits happened during the2015 Belgian GP. Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari repeatedly left the circuit at Radillon, straightening out the corner – though he did suffer a tyre deflation late in the race which cost him a podium.

Following yesterday’s World Motorsport Council meeting, the headlines are suggesting the FIA will now clamp down on drivers exceeding track limits.

“Sporting Regulations regarding track limits have been clarified and specify that drivers ‘must make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times and may not deliberately leave the track without a justifiable reason’”.

So someone has to now judge intent of the driver?

The seriousness of fouls in soccer used to be judged in this manner, until better definitions of the technical aspect of a serious foul were developed – this removed most of the arbitrary element for referees.

And what about the ‘track limits’ clampdown new punitive measures?

“Penalties will still be allocated based on whether a driver is judged to have gained an advantage.”

So no change from the current regulation.

Just as with double waved yellow flags, in life and in sport, most people base decisions about following regulations based on the seriousness of the penalty for being in breach – together with a risk assessment on the likelihood of someone enforcing a penalty worthy of proper consideration.

14 responses to “Why the supposed FIA clampdown on ‘track limits’ is a fail

  1. ahhh, my pet hate again. There is always an advantage when a driver exceeds the track limits, regardless of overtaking. It allows the driver to push to the limit with no fear of consequence if they cross the mark, thereby lowering the bar for excellence in driving by making it easier to reach that limit.

    whilst i agree with the notion that we cannot simply return to the good old days where a driver exceeding the limits got beached/rolled in the gravel, allowing the track limits to be ignored is in effect dumbing down the driver quality.

    not to pick just on Seb (as to a greater or lesser extent they are of course all at it – just Seb gets plenty of nice TV coverage and does seem to do it rather a lot) – with a lack of overtaking action of recent times I’ve taking to playing spot the 4 wheels over the line game the last few years – highlighting Spa is not really needed, its a rather lap by lap process in each race unfortunately.

    one would thing in this wonderful day and age we live in of GPS and microwave ovens some sort of technical solution would be found. wishful thinking indeed.

  2. Build kerbs to define track limits rather than painted white lines – that will stop drivers abusing the rules.
    Drivers will soon learn – and if they don’t they have no place in F1.

  3. A nice ribbon of grass all around the edge of the circuit would be a fine (and cheap) way to stop this happening.

    So: Track > white line > grass ribbon (lets say a couple of metres wide) > then tarmac (to keep the safety freaks happy, though I’d prefer gravel to make drivers pay for errors!) > safety barriers.

    Net result? Driving on the grass is then much slower than staying on track, and drivers will stay on the circuit.

    • I have entertained that idea myself and thought about the possible consequences.
      The abrupt change to grass could easily result in loss of control.
      It would be tricky implementing the transitions. Abrupt changes would result in damage and possible injury.

      Maybe 6-10 inches of thick sticky mud for about ten yards around the corner. That would be safe, punishing and quite humorous 😉

      • Maybe a meter of astroturf between the white line and the grass fixes this problem. Then only when going with all four wheels over the line result in two wheels on the grass

  4. Simple solution in my book is to punish them on track. No need to build bigger kerbs or anything of that kind, follow the MotoGP format.

    If a driver continually abuses the track limits after 2 warnings, then they’ll have to either give up a position to the car behind or incurr a 25 second time penalty.

    If any of you follow MotoGP, in the Moto3 race in San Marino, after continually being warned, Danny Kent had to give up a spot and the rider behind him was almost 6-8 seconds down the road, which effectively cost him a chance at the podium.

    Problem solved.

    • The problem, as the Jugde points out, and I agree, is that the rule is subject to interpretation and we all know what that means: it will never be enforced, except for those that aren’t in Charlie’s list of friends that day.
      Technically It’s as easy as installing sensors in the white lines around the track -or at least in corners- and in the part where the tyres are mounted -sorry I forgot the name in english- in the car, three or four tyres -as decided- cross the sensor and first warning, if done again, punishment. And the punishment can be a loss of 100 hp of power for 5 seconds or something like that, doesn’t need to be a drive thru or something that needs giving up a position to a driver 20 seconds behind; after all when there was nothing but gravel outside the track they lost a few seconds in track, immediately.

  5. … drivers ‘may not deliberately leave the track without a justifiable reason’…

    So the FIA / WMC are saying that “it’s faster” isn’t a justifiable reason to nudge the envelope on track limits? Now that’s funny! 🙂

  6. But the FIA always seem to enforce track limits when an innocent car is forced off track by a rival, consistently punishing the innocent car.

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