Track limits and DRS raise ire at Spa

2015 Belgian Grand Prix Rate the Race result

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The Belgian Grand Prix was rated higher than most races this year, as Lewis Hamilton romped to his sixth win of the year and Sebastian Vettel lost his chance of a podium after a late tyre failure.

But there was palpable frustration at two aspects of the race among fans: the continued abuse of the track limits at Spa-Francorchamps, and the ease with which drivers were able to overtake due to DRS.

Following their Hungary blip Mercedes returned to winning ways at Spa, and the ease with which the silver cars led the field home prompted different responses:

There were good battles all around to cover. Great story of Grosjean and Perez. Spa is always gorgeous to watch, from the scenery to seeing the cars blasting though the trees from Pouhon to Blanchimont — it’s like the ideal image of road racing.
DaveW (@Dmw)

No fight for the lead at all. What is going on with Rosberg? It’s like he’s perfectly fine to play number two. As a demonstration of technical dominance and excellence it’s astounding to see both Mercedes go round one-two all the time but as a viewer it’s pretty dull. Even a sluggish start from Rosberg didn’t change much.
Adam (@Rocketpanda)

Williams made an unusual error during the race when Valtteri Bottas was sent from the pits with three soft and one medium tyre on his car. Although he was swiftly penalised, some were surprised he wasn’t also told to change tyres.

What I didn’t understand was why race control tolerated Bottas’s stint on a mix of compounds. I think they should’ve waved the black and orange flag, ordering the team to correct their mistake ASAP, then adding a penalty (in that case, five seconds would’ve done the job). Allowing the car to stay on the track although it clearly had an illegal configuration felt wrong to me, even taking into account that there was no advantage to be gained from it. It was a bit farcical, but I don’t know if that bothered anyone else, or if I’m just splitting hairs.

Good race, strategy made it interesting, Spa made it even better, DRS made it worthless.


There were far too many comment criticising how DRS affected the race at Spa to include all of them.

I’ve seen worse but practically every overtake was identical thanks to the WWE/DRS rules. Back in the nineties my favourite races would be those where one could overtake, nowadays it’s the other way around; Monaco, Hungary etc… During my time F1 has improved in many areas, such as qualifying which is much more television-friendly, particularly in countries where adverts need to be part of the broadcast. As for the engines they haven’t quite got it right yet but they needed to go in the green direction so I don’t want to be too critical other than they let costs go completely out of control. I’ll still give them time to get this right.

For me DRS is the worst thing that’s happened on a sporting level. I understand why it appeared and I salute the bravery in implementing such a fundamental rule change but, for me, it’s been a disaster.
Adam James (@Cevert73)

[DRS] was way too powerful today. The defending driver had zero chance to defend and just had to sit on the side and watch the faster car just stream past. It ruined a lot of the battles that could’ve been.

DRS is necessary at some circuits, but Spa is not one of them.
Chris (@Tophercheese21)

DRS overtakes into Les Combes are just a bore-fest. The overtake is done well before the end of the straight. The slipstream is strong enough to give cars a pull and then a test of a drivers skill is actually involved without DRS to secure an overtake.

Are the FIA still trying to ‘calibrate’ DRS appropriately at each race? There used to be a lot more talk of changing the lengths etc… but if they do still tweak them they keep it a bit quieter.

Anyway, DRS is spoiling the sport too much now. I can just about accept it at circuits where it’s historically difficult to overtake, but I don’t need it crapping up the circuits where you normally get a good race regardless and I can write most of those races down at the start of the season.
Robert McKay

Track limits

The FIA attempted to prevent drivers cutting the track at the top of Raidillon by installing a new kerb, but it was removed after Friday practice following complaints from the drivers. That wasn’t the only part of the circuit where most if no all drivers were seen putting four wheels beyond the track limits.

Despite a pre-race warning that drivers would be reported to the stewards if they went off-track and were “suspected of gaining an advantage”, no penalties were issued, although Daniil Kvyat was given a warning about leaving the track during the race.

One thing that did annoy me over the weekend was that most drivers seemed to be routinely cutting the kerb and going of track to gain an advantage at Raidillon and yet nothing was done. It may be the case that they cannot put big kerbs there to stop this because of safety concerns but I think something should be done.

After the race when Vettel was speaking about his tyre failure he said that he didn’t go off-track, and yet I seem to recall seeing footage showing that he was one of those who regularly had all four wheels outside of the white line, do the drivers not consider that as going off track any more?

A race not without incident but fairly short on action, Verstappen’s overtake being the memorable positive incident. Like many others I’m frustrated about drivers exceeding track limits and the stewards not taking a tougher stance. Vettel constantly put gravel on the track by doing so at one corner yet nothing was done.

No need to overtake anywhere else on the track because you just wait until the DRS zone.

It’s been this way for the last five years at Spa or whenever it was DRS was introduced. I truly despair at the stupidity of this gimmick and those behind its introduction and continued use.

I was really surprised the stewards did nothing about the track limits in this race. About five cars went off at the exit of Eau Rouge (cutting the corner by a foot or so) including Hamilton. Almost all drivers exceeded track limits at some point in the race at various places and not one penalty.

I’m much more annoyed at that than DRS. Either redraw the lines or enforce the rules. As for DRS it was definitely excessive here.

If that is the best that F1 can do at classic circuit that almost always produces great racing in every category then F1 is in real trouble.

Epic, last of the late brakers, overtakes into Les Combes are a thing of the past, DRS has completely destroyed that. And may as well remove Radillon and make it straight as barely saw a driver do anything but straight line it all race. What a joke.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “Track limits and DRS raise ire at Spa”

  1. Vettel… was one of those who regularly had all four wheels outside of the white line, do the drivers not consider that as going off track any more?

    I think that’s a good point. It does seem like a driver would consider it ‘going off’ if they had a spin within the track limits, yet deliberately running wide for laptime isn’t considered ‘going off’ now.
    For them, being within the track limits is simply keeping the car in control and out of the wall. Anything is else is fine.

    1. @mickey18 @PJA Surely the drivers only care about what constitutes ‘track limits’ as far as it is defined by the stewards? I.e. if they can get away with it, do it.

      1. Right. A driver considers it to be on track if:
        A: He uses the fastest line possible
        B: Is not penalized for it by the stewards

        And why should it be different? It is the enforcement of rules and/or punishment due to track related constructions (gravel pits, grass etc) that tell drivers where the track ends. The white line means nothing. I don’t get upset anymore when drivers don’t care for the white line, as it is the same for all drivers.

        That doesn’t meant that I think stewards enforce rules enough, or that I didn’t wish for more gravel pits again, but I don’t blame the drivers for doing what is fastest given the circumstances.

      2. pretty much that Keith. It even looked like Vettel was clever enough not to cut Eau Rouge EVERY lap, because that might have given him the attention of the stewards. So instead he did it about every other lap …

        I really feel that we should think about a “3 strikes = time penalty” kind of thing where the GPS data makes it automatically count every time they leave track. Those would have had many drivers not able to abuse track limits after a single lap from what we saw.

        1. @bascb Sensible proposition! It reminds me the goal cameras in football.

    2. Well yeah I guess that’s sort of what I meant. Just the way Vettel was talking after the race, his small violations at Radillon didn’t register with him, it would have taken a big mistake for him to consider it reason for the tyre to be damaged.

      1. Good point. Does It matter for the tyres if he barely touches the white line (still all four wheels on the curbs) and therefore is on track even according to the rule book, or if he is a few inches away? Of course not.

      2. This is true of all the drivers, for example I am sure if you had asked Hamilton, Rosberg and Grosjean after the race if they had “gone off” the track they would all have said no. As far as they are concerned they all had a normal race following the same lines that all the other drivers were using (even if sometimes they had all four wheels over the white lines), with no incidents of out braking themselves, excursions through the runoff areas or sleeping policeman etc.

        1. well… all interesting propositions, since these guys can all circulate Monaco without breaking track limits, why not just build a wall on turns that are constantly violated. too dangerous? really, well don’t cut the corner and you’ll be all good. I do agree wholeheartedly however that DRS has got to go, it’s fake passing and requires zero skill. too video gamey. why not rockets!!!

    3. Yup, the blame lies squarely with the stewards and the rule-makers for not defining and enforcing the track limits appropriately.

      Switching to another topic, the teaser for this article claims that “the Belgian Grand Prix was rated higher than most races this year” — to which I say “not true”. The running average for races so far this year is a depressingly-low 6.5 out of 10.

      (And that despite folks inclination to give unrealistically high ratings to races, such as the 9.1 out of 10 for Hungary this year which, if true, would have to mean that was one of the most epic and memorable races of all time — something it clearly wasn’t. You have to go all the way down to 7th place to find two cars which were even within overtaking distance of each other, but we now live in a world where a non-Mercedes win is an automatic ten-pointer for most folks even if the race itself was still utterly yawnworthy. But I digress…)

      Comparing against that average of 6.5/10, this race was not rated higher than most this year. It was, truthfully speaking, just slightly below average rating-wise, or more generally speaking, about par for the course.

  2. ColdFly F1 (@)
    31st August 2015, 12:31

    Good point by @Lopek

    may as well remove Radillon and make it straight as barely saw a driver do anything but straight line it all race.

    And when drivers take the liberty to ‘straighten the curves’ then the FIA will remove the barriers and put run-off zones to improve safety.
    If we go a few years with this evolution then we’ll be racing ovals in F1! (or maybe dragster straights)

    1. Well then we would have exciting racing like Indy car!

      Agreed though- there needs to be a physical limit of the track that penalizes exceeding the limit. Exceeding a white line has no repercussions unless the Stewards take action. The run-offs are good, but maybe there needs to be a band of curbing/grass/teflon that penalizes a driver if they leave the track limit but still have the runoff if things go really wrong. These guys are the best in the world at going around a track the fastest way possible- they will adjust.

  3. idea for an article keith: look at the top 10 rate the race races since 2008 and review them. maybe we’ll see a trend as to what we like from races!

    1. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
      31st August 2015, 13:39

      Merc not winning?

  4. I also am one to complain about the DRS at this race but we’ve seen a handful of overtakes that actually involved braking in Les Combes. Defending is also possible as Vettel clearly showed. None have a 100% passing rate in the DRS zone, and even a Torro Rosso could slip by a Williams and a Ferrari.

    If anything Spa showed the huge difference in teams; just some lucky misfortune for made this race somewhat interesting. “Oh but Grosjean” – That was a proper fluke, Vettel/Ricciardo ahead of him out and both Williams with a terrible setup would have been ahead of him with ease. Add to that Kimi or Kvyat on a normal day and Grosjean would have been a nice ninth.

  5. I’m actually quite surprised by the bad rating. I found the race reasonably entertaining, with a few decent battles and some (if not many) spectacular non-DRS overtakes, as well as a strategy gamble for the last step on the podium, that ended in a controversial tyre blow-up. Sure, technical failures are not what we want, but a rare last-minute tyre blow-up in an undecided battle is something I consider spectacular, not just irritating.
    I don’t quite understand where the negativity comes from. 6.3 feels like a bad rating for a not-so-bad race.

    1. @nase

      I don’t quite understand where the negativity comes from. 6.3 feels like a bad rating for a not-so-bad race.

      Because people are sick of DRS, Sure there were 2-3 good non-DRS overtakes but they were completely overshadowed by the 95% that were easy DRS highway passes.

      When you have a car move over to defend the inside with the car behind driving by with ease you may as well have just asked the lead car to move aside & let him by because thats what it looks like.

      1. That’s true, but to me, that still doesn’t explain why the lightning only struck at Spa. DRS is just as bad on any other track, and accounts for a similar percentage of dull overtakes, especially during the Bahrain GP, which was rated a full point higher than Spa. So I can’t quite shake the feeling that the vote was somehow affected by factors not directly related to the on-track reality.

    2. @nase
      I can’t speak for others, but for me it became a bit dull quite early. There were a few good non-DRS moves, it was nice to see Romain on the podium, and I found Seb’s tire blow out more exciting than annoying, but overall it just felt a bit predictable.
      While I find DRS passes annoying, what really annoys me is the fact that it’s taken away the build up to a pass, or attempted pass. There’s hardly any defending from the guy in front, and far too often the guy behind doesn’t try to make a move before the DRS zone. And on circuits such as Spa it really shows, and I find it sad that we’re not seeing drivers involved in multi-lap battles, with several attempts or feints that really draw you into the race.

  6. I don’t like DRS, but it ‘works’ on circuits as Barcelona, Hungary and other circuits which are notoriously low on traditional overtakes. But why can’t the FIA switch DRS off on circuits for where history has shown that overtaking is possible (Canada, Spa, Monza etc)? At least try it out for once!

  7. Glad to see the previous race ratings return!

  8. SPA was rated higher than other races this year. Really, I love SPA but it was in line with some of the latest SPA weekends, pretty poor. 2 years in a row we get a significant number of retirements early on the race, DRS ruins the race and PU power deficit overshadows true racing.

  9. I agree with the complaints about track limits, it was quite funny when, late in the race, there was a train of cars, Perez, Massa, Kvyat and probably someome I’ve forgoten; all of then cut the corner bar Massa, and that was not only once but several laps in a row. No wonder Massa had no chance to overtake Perez and defend against Kvyat (not that he would have anyway I guess, but still).

  10. Two comments:

    – Cutting the top of Eau Rouge is cheating F1 of one of its greatest specticals. We go on and on about whether or not Eau Rouge is a challenge anymore, “is it flat?”. By straightening it out it certainly becomes less of a challenge.

    – DRS should be used reverse to how it is now. Let it be used on the short straights to keep cars close to each other to allow for a “natural” overtake on the big straights.

    The first DRS zone down to La Source is perfect example of this. Other circuits: between T8 & T9 Sepang, between Degner 2 & the hairpin in Suzuka, from woodcote to copse.

  11. WilliamsWilliams
    2nd September 2015, 6:10

    Is it just me, or did it appear that drivers used to not cut Radillion?

    Were the cars in the past lower and more susceptible to damage climbing all over the kerbs?

  12. Bottas nearly passed Hamilton up the hill on lap 1. If Hamilton had not cut the top of Eau Rouge (by a couple of feet) it seems likely that Bottas would have succeeded. In my mind there was no doubt that Hamilton gained an advantage by leaving the track and I was fully expecting the stewards to investigate.

    Bring back hay bales and then the drivers will obey the rules!

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