The 2023 Formula One Austrian Grand Prix turned into something of a farce both during and after the racing on track. Following criticism of their officials management of the 2021 decider in Abu Dhabi, new president Mohammed Ben Sulayem set about improving F1 race control.
Now in Geneva race control has the assistance of a team of officials who are watching events on track unfold in front of a bank of monitors combined with instant TV review systems. It is likened to football’s VAR system though after the events in Austria questions are again being raised over its effectiveness.
Relations deteriorated between FIA and F1
The race is governed by the FIA’s race director Neils Wittich who overseas the entire running of the on track sessions at a Grand Prix. He is assisted by a rotating panel of part time stewards who adjudicate on the penalties if and when required.
However the teams and drivers have grown increasingly critical since Ben Sulyem took office over how the Grand Prix are policed citing multiple examples of inconsistency together with strange archaic laws being dusted off and applied in surprising circumstances.
Lando Norris was penalised for “unsportsmanlike like behaviour” in Canada for allegedly holding up the pack behind the safety car. This potential infringement should have been managed under the safety car procedures and regulations and McLaren then appealed the decision.
The entire event this year in Austria was dominated by drivers exceeding track limits, being reported by their fellow competitors and with penalties being handed down from the stewards.
Perez 1st big name to suffer track limits
Sergio Perez was the first big name to suffer during qualifying on Friday when in the second session he delivered three fast laps all of which were deemed to have exceeded track limits and were deleted. The Red Bull driver subsequently started fifteenth in the Grand Prix.
Then during the race the stewards were overwhelmed with some 1200 track infringement referrals to process from the centre in Geneva. 89 resulted in deleted lap times for over half the 20 driver field.
However the real shambles was yet to come.
Some five hours after the chequered flag the stewards finally completed their reviews of the alleged transgressions and published a final race classification.
McLaren boss: “Never again”
One of the drivers penalised had already landed back in England and the final haul of penalties saw Lando Norris promoted to fourth while Lewis Hamilton was relegated from seventh to behind his team mate in eighth.
TJ13 can now reveal that the entire saga appears to have been created deliberately by the FIA to force home a policy change they have been demanding for some time.
Zak Brown believes this fiasco will never happen again. Despite his driver Lando Norris being a major beneficiary from the saga, speaking on Monday at the launch of a new McLaren livery Brown said:
“We can’t have it again. We can’t have a race and five hours later you have that degree of change and penalties.” he told reporters at the team’s factory.
”It definitely wasn’t ideal what happened yesterday, that’s stating the obvious (but) it has no long-term impact because I don’t think it will ever happen again,” said the American about a situation some said made the sport look amateurish.
Track limits always a Red Bull Ring problem
There have been issues year in year out with cars exceeding track limits at the final two corners at the Red Bull Ring circuit. It is clearly circuit specific and due to the nature of the final sector of the lap. Verstappen explained the problems post qualifying:
“It was very difficult because of all the track limits,” he said. “We don’t do this on purpose but, with these speeds and all these high-speed corners, it’s so hard to judge the white line really.
“That’s why I think you could see today a lot of people were getting caught out, including myself, so, honestly, it was about surviving, even in Q3. It’s always very tricky around here every year,” he added.
“The cars are big and heavy but just to judge it on a line this wide, at this speed, is incredibly hard.”
FIA solution refused by track
Sky F1 commentator’s bantered around the topic with one suggesting if there were walls there the drivers would naturally respect the track limits.
And this is exactly true. The need to make a lap time coming into the final two turns and the lack of physical barriers causes the drivers to take extra risk with the limits of the track.
TJ13 can reveal the FIA has previously asked for the organisers at the Red Bull Ring to add gravel to the outside of turns 9 and 10. However, the circuit is also used for MotoGP and the gravel insertion has been resisted because it becomes a safety hazard for motorbikes.
Grade 1 license for F1 races at risk
The FIA has again made the same recommendation to the Red Bull Ring following the debacle of the 1200 reported track limits incidents at the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix.
Given the circuit’s resistance to the requirements of the FIA Formula One’s governing body had two options. Firstly it could revoke the category 1 license the Red Bull Ring requires to host and F1 race.
This would lead to legal troubles and a protracted dispute.
Alternatively the FIA could create such an uproar over the two corners in question during a race that the circuit is forced to act and bring it into line with the rest of the Formula One tracks.
How did these four not touch?! 🤯
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 3, 2023