Fellow Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko put themselves in front of Sergio Perez in defence – but team boss Christian Horner seems to be running out of patience after the Mexican’s fourth consecutive failed qualifying session.
“He had the pace, he had a car that can go on the front or second row of the grid with ease, he could keep Max’s times – so stay within the white lines,” Horner raged to Sky UK after Spielberg qualifying.
Historical issues on track limits in Austria
At the Red Bull Ring, enforcing track limits has been a significant challenge. The layout of the circuit, with its wide run-off areas and expansive gravel traps, can tempt drivers to push the boundaries and go beyond the designated track limits. Additionally, the presence of high-speed corners, such as Turn 9 (the Remus corner), further exacerbates the issue, as drivers strive to carry maximum speed and may exceed the track limits in the process.
The issue of track limits at the Red Bull Ring has become particularly contentious during Formula 1 race weekends. On several occasions, drivers have been found to exceed the track limits, gaining an advantage by running wide and carrying more speed through certain corners. This has led to controversies, with teams and drivers arguing over the fairness of the race results and the consistency of track limit enforcement.
Measures taken by FIA
To address the problem, the FIA (International Automobile Federation) has implemented various measures at the Red Bull Ring. Additional sensors and cameras have been installed to monitor the track limits more effectively, enabling race stewards to enforce the rules and penalize drivers who consistently exceed the boundaries.
Furthermore, during race weekends, drivers have been repeatedly reminded of the importance of respecting track limits, both through pre-race briefings and radio communications from their teams.
Despite these efforts, the issue of track limits at the Red Bull Ring persists. The complex nature of the circuit, combined with the high-speed corners and wide run-off areas, makes it challenging to consistently enforce track limits without causing disruptions or controversies during the races.
Perez’s performance “totally frustrating”
Perez will only start from 15th on the grid for Red Bull’s home race in Austria this weekend because he exceeded the well-established track limits on three attempts in the second section of qualifying by the full width of the car.
Race stewards recorded a total of 47 infringements against 18 drivers – only Charles Leclerc and Logan Sargeant stayed clean – on Friday. Perez was mid-table with three infringements, but his errors meant the biggest discrepancy between potential and result.
“There was the first strike, then the second strike and we told him ‘Checo, stay inside the white lines’,” Horner explained, “Then there was the third strike. It’s totally frustrating.”
The limitations of the Spielberg circuit were the biggest issue after qualifying. Several drivers and team representatives called for a different solution in the spirit of the sport, such as reconstruction measures using gravel beds or high kerbs.
“We drivers almost looked like amateurs,” Verstappen explained.
FIA sees a “significant step forward”
The FIA, which is responsible for safety and the rules, appealed for understanding for the existing system.
It was “a significant step forward in terms of efficiency”, a spokesman said. The FIA assured that “in borderline cases” it would always decide in favour of the drivers.
“Ideally, we can improve the situation for the drivers by asking circuits to move the gravel beds closer to the edge of the track, which we are doing – this was done at the Parabolica in Monza and has eliminated the track boundary problem,” it added.