FIA warns F1 venues have to address track limit issues or risk being dropped from Formula 1 calendar. FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has issued a stern warning to Formula One circuits struggling with track limit issues: Fix it or risk losing your place on the F1 calendar.
The strong statement comes on the heels of the Qatar Grand Prix, a race weekend marred by track limit controversies that resulted in shuffled grid positions and a host of in-race penalties.
Problem is the circuits, not the FIA’s policing
Ben Sulayem rejects the notion that stricter policing by FIA officials is the solution to track limit problems. Speaking to Motorsport.com, he insisted: “You’re absolutely right, we had the same problem in Austria; there were 1200 [infringements there].
“Congratulations to the stewards for spotting it, but is that the solution? No. The solution is to improve the tracks themselves,”
He went on to emphasise that tracks with known problems with line marking, such as Losail in Qatar and the Red Bull Ring in Austria, should make the necessary changes to discourage drivers from going off track.
“The solution is to improve the track itself. I know some are resistant to it, but to tell you the truth, if they don’t, there is no race. It is as simple as this…”
According to Sulayem, it’s a matter of safety and racing integrity. “We can’t afford it,” he warned.
Kerb design and tyre concerns
A major issue highlighted during the Qatar Grand Prix was the abuse of kerbs by drivers, which led to problems with Pirelli tyres. This in turn necessitated an 18-lap tyre life limit for the main Grand Prix, making it an uncharacteristic three-stop race.
Ben Sulayem suggested that venues struggling with track limit problems should look at redesigning their kerbs.
“One of the solutions is to make it slippery when the drivers go off track. Nobody can stop the drivers except the drivers themselves,” he explained.
Considering alternative solutions
When discussing possible solutions, Ben Sulayem touched on several factors, including the height of the kerb, the possibility of incorporating gravel, and the granularity of that gravel. These changes, he stressed, would have to be carefully balanced to avoid trapping or damaging cars.
“We have to do it,” he emphasised, “and we have to listen to the feedback from the drivers first and foremost. This needs to be implemented urgently for next year,”
Technology and resource constraints
While the FIA has taken steps to improve stewarding processes, particularly through its Remote Operations Centre, Ben Sulayem noted that further technological advances could be used to more effectively control track limit issues. However, he admitted that the FIA needed more resources to implement such technology.
“It’s a $20 billion operation,” Ben Sulayem pointed out. “We can’t run it on a shoestring.” He suggested that a more substantial agreement between F1 and the FIA was needed to properly fund these crucial improvements.
A call to action
Ben Sulayem concluded by calling for a collaborative effort, especially given that the FIA owns the championship.
“Our mission may be different from Liberty’s, but we are in the same boat,” he said.
“We should not be running this responsibility on a shoestring. We need the resources to run it in the best way possible, because every time we improve, we make the teams and the sport better.”
With track limit controversies affecting not only the outcome of races but also safety concerns, the FIA’s strong stance underlines the urgency of resolving this recurring issue. As circuits look ahead to the 2024 season, the message is crystal clear: adapt or risk losing your place in Formula One.
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