Charlie Whiting’s reign as F1 race director and de facto FIA delegate responsible for sporting regulation changes was often accused of being slow to react. For years Whiting was forced to answer questions about track limits over which he prevaricated, never delivering a satisfactory solution.
For all its ills, the current regime has at least been more progressive in its approach to resolving sporting issues that plague the fans, the drivers and the F1 teams.
F1 start anomalies recognised
The first two grand prix this season delivered an anomaly at the start. In both Bahrain and Jeddah, a driver was penalised for starting grid infringements.
Both Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso failed to place there cars within the designated box painted on the grid.
Neither driver was forward of the proper starting position, but wide of the painted lines which run parallel with the sides of the car.
Stricter policing of F1 start position
While the FIA have not explained why this has suddenly become an issue, it has acted decisively to resolve the problem.
The width of the boxes for the grid in Melbourne Park will now be 20cm wide to accommodate the larger modern F1 cars.
Now it could be that Ocon and Alonso fell foul to stricter policing of the starting positions than had been previously monitored. For now no explanation has been offered by race control.
Race control making more decisions per lap
However, this explanation would not be surprising given the clamp down the current F1 regulatory regime has been enacting over the past two seasons.
As mentioned earlier, track limits is now policed to the millimetre – and pretty much around the entire circuit. This was something Charlie Whiting told this writer would be impossible to do. The current regime is making a lot more decisions per lap than has been historically the norm.
Of course drivers occasionally complain about the new track limits policing, but their contentions are more of a gripe than a full blown cry of anguish. This is because they know the rules are the rules – and without exception.
There’s always a line where over is illegal
It may seem silly to penalise a driver for not gaining an advantage in his grid box by being forward of his marked starting position, but being just a little wide.
Yet besides the optics of a neat in line F1 starting grid being beamed to millions of viewers around the world, whether a driver is inside the left or right hand side of his box does matter.
Of course a driver on a softer compound of tyre which will get away from the line more quickly, may decided to position his car clearly wide of those in front to give him a better run when the lights go green.
FIA sensible approach to widen the start boxes
Its obviously if the driver sets his car a full 2m wide of the rest of the field, he will be penalised. But just as with track limits a consistent decision must be made as to what is within the rules and what is not.
In clamping down on how wide the cars are placed at the start of the race, clearly the FIA believes the visibility the drivers now have a limited view of where they are placing their car before the start of a race.
With the new 18 inch wheels, wheel brows and the general gargantuan size of the F1 beasts, its clearly difficult to know where the side white line is.
A sensible approach form race control and the FIA has been to widen the pit boxes which have been a consistent size for decades.
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There’s brutal, then there’s this 💀#F1 #AustralianGP pic.twitter.com/lmFo9HyvMG
— Laura Leslie (@LauraLeslieF1) March 28, 2023