As part of the developing Formula One story that is pitting the FIA against the teams and drivers, it appears we are set for more penalties and controversies at the upcoming French GP at the Paul Ricard circuit. During the last racer in Austria no fewer than 43 cautions for track limits violations were issued by the race stewards. An unprecedented 4 drivers after 4 violations were given time penalties, being Lando Norris, Zhou Guanyu, Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel’s was awarded following the chequered flag and it was left to Sky reporters Rachel Brooks to tell the 4 time German champion of his fate during the bull pen interviews.
These four drivers have also been issued with a penalty point against their license. 12 points in a calendar year sees the driver banned for one race.
There are circuits where the drivers find it more difficult to respect track limits due to the nature of the flat kerbs. The banked sedated kerbs allow the driver to feel the track limits and adjust his throttle input according.
However circuits like Austria in the quick corners have flatter circuit boundary kerbs and entice the driver to stray beyond the white line.
But Red Bull team principal Christian Horner fears the problem will only be worse when F1 returns to Paul Ricard next weekend.
Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner explains the difficulty. “The problem is the nature of the circuit [Red Bull Ring], it invites the drivers to use the track limits and of course, there were many, many drivers that were infringing that over the weekend [in Austria[,” explained Horner.
“My concern isn’t so much here. I think [Paul] Ricard will be a bigger issue.”
During the late 90’s and early 2020’s Formula One saw gravel traps removed and huge tarmac run off areas replace them for alleged safety reasons. Even the famous Monza parabolic has been emaciated so the drivers can now run off the circuit with impunity.
Horner explains why he feels Paul Ricard will see even more drivers punished for abuse of track limits.
“There is genuine time gain to be had and you’ve got acres of Tarmac there so it’s just inviting you to run offline.”
Of course this problem does not occur on street circuits where concrete walls await the driver should he stray, but there is a psychological difference between a wall and a corner where even the kerb fails to define the track limit.
GPFans ran a poll of their readers as to whether they thought track limits was overly policed in Austria. 84% agreed track limits should be enforced as they were.
However, it is the responsibility of the FIA to ensure that drivers have significant triggers to alert them in those split seconds they arrive at a high speed corner as to where the track limits are.
It would be ridiculous to just erect walls on circuits where the corner is open, yet by bringing back gravel traps – or more severe banked sedated edge kerbs would allow the F1 pilots half a chance to stay within the white lines