Aston Martin’s Formula 1 team has triggered controversy once again following the Austrian Grand Prix, as their successful protest led to a reevaluation of the race results by the stewards. While the top three positions of Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, and Sergio Perez remained unchanged, retrospective penalties were imposed on eight drivers.
Aston Martin drivers Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll were among those who benefited from the protest, each gaining a position in the final classification. Alonso now sits in fifth place, while Stroll moved up to ninth.
Aston Martin protest
The protest filed by Aston Martin alleged that several cars had not been penalised for violating Article 33.3 of the Sporting Regulations. As a result, penalties were imposed on drivers including Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz, who dropped from their original positions.
The FIA, the governing body of motorsport, revealed that during the race, stewards had invalidated over 100 lap times where drivers exceeded the track limits by going beyond the full width of the car at specific corners. The FIA announced that they would review more than 1,200 cases where cars were reported as potentially going off the track.
A spokesperson for the FIA acknowledged the unprecedented situation that arose, explaining that due to the large number of potential rule violations, it was not possible to address all infringements during the race. The track layout’s characteristics and the drivers’ tendency to repeatedly cross the white lines contributed to the issue.
To avoid a recurrence of this situation, track operators were advised to modify the circuit by installing gravel beds at the exits of turns nine and ten. This change is expected to prompt drivers to reduce their speed to avoid getting stuck in the gravel.
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1200 times track limits exceeded
The recent developments have raised concerns about the nature of Formula 1 racing. While races dominated by Max Verstappen have become the norm this season, the focus on track limits and penalties at the Austrian Grand Prix reached an unprecedented level.
During the race, drivers received numerous black and white warning flags, followed by 5-second time penalties. Aston Martin’s protest after the race highlighted that not all offences had been penalised, leading to further penalties being imposed.
The stewards had the daunting task of reviewing over 1,200 instances where cars potentially crossed the white line, particularly at turns nine and ten. This created a challenging situation, and the final race result remained provisional until all cases were addressed and Aston Martin’s protest was validated.
The increasing number of penalties has raised questions about the essence of racing in Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton, the record world champion, expressed his dissatisfaction, questioning whether this can still be considered true racing.
Throughout the race, drivers engaged in exchanges and complaints about their competitors exceeding track limits. Teams even encouraged their drivers to file organized complaints, deviating from the image of fearless heroes that Formula 1 portrays.
What can be done?
To prevent such a farcical situation from recurring, some measures could be implemented. Firstly, the use of the pit radio should be limited to essential communications related to safety, technical issues, and pit stops, while discouraging constant complaints and grumbling about competitors’ actions. This would allow drivers to focus on their performance and acceleration.
Secondly, the reintroduction of gravel traps, particularly at tracks like the Red Bull Ring, could be considered. Track limits have been a recurring topic of discussion at the Styrian circuit in previous years. The strict interpretation of track limits this year resulted in the chaotic situation.
Gravel beds act as a deterrent for drivers, as the consequences of going off track are more severe. Looking back at the example of Michael Schumacher in 1998, when his Ferrari went into the gravel after pushing too hard, it demonstrates that drivers adjust their approach when faced with the risk of getting stuck and damaging their cars.
The recent Formula 1 chaos at the Austrian Grand Prix has prompted concerns about the nature of the sport and the focus on track limits and penalties. To prevent a repeat of such a situation, limiting non-essential communications through the pit radio and reintroducing gravel traps could be potential solutions. These measures would allow drivers to concentrate on racing and reduce the need for constant complaints and controversies.