FIA wants tracks to bring back “natural penalties” for running wide

2016 F1 season

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The FIA wants circuits to offer “natural penalties” for drivers who stray beyond track limits to stop them from gaining an advantage, instead of relying on stewards to penalise them.

The issue of drivers obtaining a benefit by going beyond the track limits was a taking point throughout 2016. This was notably so in Mexico where Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen all cut the turn one run-off area but only Verstappen was penalised.

FIA stewards chairman Garry Connelly believes the problem is limited to a small number of corners on the F1 calendar.

“There are now probably only 11 or 12 corners across the whole championship where there is the potential for cutting corners in a very obvious way,” said Connelly.

“There are solutions that can be adopted to sort those issues out, such as the solution that has been adopted for turn one in Monza, where if you do go off there is a natural penalty in that it takes you longer to rejoin than if you had used the circuit. That makes it a lot easier for the stewards as the penalty is applied on track.”

Connelly suggested the FIA intends to tackle the kind of tactics used by Hamilton in Mexico, where he gained a large amount of time by cutting the track and avoided losing any places before relinquishing that advantage.

“The point we also made is that the rules say a driver can rejoin the track as long as you do it safely and gain no lasting advantage,” he said. “The word lasting is again very subjective.”

“Does it mean lasting for 500m, until the next turn, the next few laps or the whole race? That subjectivity is removed if the circuit is modified or designed to immediately disadvantage a driver if he does go off track.”

The FIA may also adopt a practice from the German motor club DMSB (Dachverband für den Automobil- und Motorrad-Sport) to improve the consistency of its decision-making between races.

“The stewards get together by video link to look back at incidents and discuss the decisions made. We thought that might be good thing to do every three or four races.”

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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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33 comments on “FIA wants tracks to bring back “natural penalties” for running wide”

  1. Very simple:
    Track-Kerb-(Grass)-Gravel-Tarmac-Wall. In that order.
    Or Track-Kerb-Wall: a wall just alongside the track (not 2-3m away) is sometimes way safer than anything else.

    1. Evil Homer (@)
      1st December 2016, 10:47


      I don’t mind that suggestion at all- makes sense!
      Charlie has always said (in the past few years) that he likes runs offs compared to gravel, and the reason is obvious. I watched the 1991 & 1993 season reviews last week (what epic racing & I wished we had that back, but that’s off topic) and there were gravel traps everywhere!
      The drivers missed breaking zone more often, were hit but other drivers more often and reliability was pretty poor compared to todays standards – you got 7 or 8 of the 26 starters finishing the race, hardly riveting viewing from the grandstand or on TV!

      Charlie & FIA want more finishers as its better ‘entertainment’ (we will leave the debate if this is F1 or entertainment for the next one) but being a sloppy driver so much more forgiving now, hence the difference between a good and great F1 driver is weakened somewhat, to our (the fans) loss.

      A happy medium with some good grass run off to make the driver slow, suffer but still in the race may be better than just a gravel trap & out of the race. And as you say, if he runs too wide he will hit some gravel and gets some more hurt…………… or all tacks can be like Monaco, and they all seem to adapt pretty well there don’t they!

      There seems to be a lot more efforts to more forward since Liberty were taking over and not sure if its BE losing some control or a lazy sport waking up, but either way happy with some positive changes, but I really did enjoy this season!

      1. I see your point, but the thing is that grass doesn’t always slow down the cars. Wet grass is even dangerous: that’s why we still need gravel traps.

        Moreover, tarmac runoffs are dangerous. Imagine a ‘crazy’ car (no brakes, or missing 2 wheels, driver ko, etc…): nothing will slow it down on tarmac if the car is on a straight trajectory. I’m sure somebody will be badly hurt (or worse) one day because of it.

    2. @bebilou
      If it was that simple, they’d have done it years ago. Circuits aren’t just used for F1, and your solution would result in more motorcycle riders getting injured, and more track day customers trashing their vehicles, and neither of those are acceptable outcomes of modifications made to suit a series that only uses the circuit one weekend a year.

      The most obvious solution would be the use of temporary barriers, like the ones at Monza. Personally I’d go with the polystyrene type ones, as they offer an incentive to avoid them, yet are safe (and visually impressive) when hit, and aren’t too expensive to buy, or move.

      1. Exactly! @beneboy

        Especially after Mr. E makes the circuit owners pay through their noses just to host the race.
        Circuit owners have to recuperate their costs in some way.
        Personally I like the Polystyrene blocks used at the Turn 1 escape road at Monza and also the yellow striped speed bumps used on the inside of the Retifilio chicane.
        Maybe use the Polystyrene blocks on the run off at corners after braking zones like for e.g. the first corner of Mexico.
        And use the bump strips on the outside of corners where the driver can simply gain time by going off. For e.g. the penultimate corner at CotA.

      2. They could sell advertising on all the foam walls. That would easily pay for them. It was way more exciting in Schumi’s days when a driver went off in the grass or gravel trap they were heavily penalized by damage or out of the race when stuck. that allows the back markers that slim chance to score good points and be heroes for the day.

    3. Paul Rodríguez
      1st December 2016, 19:26

      How about a ‘Virtual Wall’? kerb-grass (a couple of meters) Big bright yallow line. You cross it, you are out, period.

    4. I like your approach but I have a small modification:
      Track-Kerb-One inch of water-Two inches of water-Three inches of water-Wall

  2. It’s funny that when people are discussing the “deserved-ness” of the championship, no one is bringing up stuff like this. For example, Hamilton should have lost the lead in Mexico, making the 14 points difference in Nico’s favor. Then there’s the, in my opinion, bad call and undeserved penalty for Nico in Germany, taking some 3 or 6 points more from him. Then there’s his brakes failing in Austria, making the points swing of more than 20 for how it all culminated. What about Nico letting Lewis by in Monaco, giving him potentially some 20 points difference. You can’t overtake in Monaco, so what was Lewis going to do? Even if he overtook him at some point, he would never won, or even come second at best. What about Lewis’ crazy luck with safety car in Spa? But then he was in that position because he had engine problems, but that in turn means he gamed the rules and had bunch of fresh units for the last races.

    The point is, you can’t just take one thing and say: this thing decided the championship. It’s extremely complicated and while Lewis was faster in the last 4 races, Nico was often faster when it mattered and that is why he won.

    1. you are also forgetting the points Nico lost because he was given a time penalty in the British GP for the radio rule we all agree was stupid and the FIA got rid of, always think Nico should have been giving those points back.

    2. @Biggsy: Don’t try to destroy the illusion of the Hamilton fans that Nico has only had luck. ;-)

    3. @Biggsy,
      That’s a great comment on this whole thing. But us sports fans don’t operate like that. I myself am a Kimi fan for long time, still now & then I try to come up with justifications for his performance in last 3 seasons(this year he’s made it a little easier by qualifying better than Vettel).

      Lewis is a much more popular driver & held in such high esteem. Rosberg never enjoyed such fandom & he’s getting these articles/remarks written about him in droves. Had the opposite happened this year, what would most of us be claiming?

      That Rosberg was lucky to come this close only because Lewis relaxed a bit with his initial lead….?
      Or that if Lewis tried harder, he’d never lead by only 12 points before the final race?

    4. “It’s funny that when people are discussing the “deserved-ness” of the championship”

      it is funny that Ros fans never bring up subjects for heavier penalties for like Belgium crash, Austrian Crash, Spanish crash, where a car took a car out by intentionally crashing or pushing a car off circuit in front of millions of people. Yeah stewards do give out penalties leniently for some people or for some instances if it is within teammates… unlucky for those that are not teammates…

      Playing with points game, Ros fans should question team’s garage side changes as well which it seems to have effected Lewis in a great fashion, and he has lost majority of the points before he started racing… not to mention while leading by a mile… where it mattered and it was to swing the championship lead/points… yeah so Ros fans love to close an eye on doddgy Ros driving, and behind door action… Also if you wanna play number games, factor in the other side, not extract/exclude it.

      I guess we will find out why team changed/swapped Lewis side with Ros’s side and how magically Lewis had tons of reliability issues before and/or during races, and Ros’ were almost always before qualis… It is almost like a luck in a million years…

      1. @mysticus, check the comment of the day here:

        And check the comment sections of following post for that discussion:

        1. @praxis what did you think hamilton should say? dis him and get hate for it? after everything is done and dusted…
          my comment was based on commenter’s bias on ifs and buts… ham should have lost points this and that, while ignoring the fact that ham had all those unfortunate events out of his control to begin with… like saying goes: karma is a bitch…

          regarding your other referral: it is not unseen for other drivers to stir things up… esp coming from raikonen, who was the biggest beneficiary of a ham/alo battle… he is not dissing anyone, he is saying ros just won the champs with points, from his point of view ros won it, hence deserving… he doesnt care about the drama, maybe he just wanted to stir it as it is not uncommon!

    5. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      1st December 2016, 13:53

      @biggsy COTD you said what I also think, but more politely. And Keith, we need +1 buttons please!!

    6. I couldn’t agree more!

  3. “Connelly suggested the FIA intends to tackle the kind of tactics used by Hamilton in Mexico, where he gained a large amount of time by cutting the track and avoided losing any places before relinquishing that advantage.”

    So although the FIA insist that Hamilton did nothing wrong there (because it was the first corner of the first lap), they seek for something to avoid ‘this kind of tactics’. I am all for that, but to me that’s just a confirmation that Hamilton was incredibly lucky in Mexico.

    1. Noone is in favour of what Hamilton did there but there needs to be a consistent way to deal with it and not random penaltys.

  4. The problem I have with solutions like Canada or Russia with the alternative route around the bollard is that, deep down, the drivers know that they can’t risk it all at every corner because missing the apex or running wide offers very little in terms of penalty, even with the bollard

    It’s not the same as knowing that there’s a wall or gravel on the outside that can really slow you down or damage your car. If there’s a white line dividing two bits of tarmac, it makes little difference, even if you lose a bit of time.

    It’s a physiological problem, almost

  5. Isn’t the FIA how we got here?

  6. For me, the very last point is the strangest –
    “The [German motor club DMSB] stewards get together by video link to look back at incidents and discuss the decisions made. We thought that might be good thing to do every three or four races.”
    Does that mean that currently F1 Stewards at each race do not discuss their decisions with other Stewards?

  7. “The issue of drivers obtaining a benefit by going beyond the track limits was a taking point throughout 2016. This was notably so in Mexico where hLewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen all cut the turn one run-off area but only Verstappen was penalised.”

    I recall Ros being pushed off by Max, not him cutting the turn?

    1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      1st December 2016, 13:55

      I remember the same

    2. I recall Ros being pushed off by Max, not him cutting the turn?

      He still cut turn 2, rejoining before turn 3

  8. Why not make the punishment for cutting the track more “racy” – for example, keep the corner-cutter from accessing DRS or ERS for going off and gaining an advantage. It doesn’t change the subjectivity of what an “advantage” is, but I would still prefer to see a corner cutter have to defend for his life for two laps rather than a time penalty or simple position swap.

  9. Lewisham Milton
    1st December 2016, 17:06

    They’ll have to bring back natural tracks first.
    Is it anything to do with the big, wide, flat kerbs and, outside of them, the big, wide, flat, level, grippy areas of green carpet. It might as well be red carpet.

    If it ain’t black, it ain’t the track!

  10. “The FIA wants circuits to offer “natural penalties” for drivers who stray beyond track limits to stop them from gaining an advantage, instead of relying on stewards to penalise them.”

    This is being irresponsible. The FIA is supposed to represent all forms of motor racing, not just F1. All forms of hazard represent potential damage to the vehicle and, importantly (like I should have to actually mention this), potential injury to the driver or rider. A race track should especially be designed to minimise potential injury that can occur in every type of race that is expected on the track, which means they need to be designed for the vehicles that protect their riders the least when things go wrong. The FIA should be looking for on site facilities or low cost technologies that can be installed to reveal who has been off the track and safe and effective ways to immediately punish violators.
    Three important points about a hazard are there is very little margin between no punishment and being out of the race; the punishment is immediate; and popularity doesn’t count. You don’t get the situation where a person gains an advantage and then goes on to win the race.
    I think Martin Brundle’s idea of something like a “sin bin” or a “slow lane” on some part of the track is a good idea.

  11. Rosberg didn’t run off in Mexico. He was kick off straight by Verstappen. Hamilton should have been penalized.

  12. “for drivers who stray beyond track limits to stop them from gaining an advantage”… that’s a bit strange. Normally, I would say even if a driver comes back in the same place as he left the track, would also not beeing an advantage. But I am expecting the driver to loose position or at least time… so it would be an disadvantage then. This should be normal case, instead going wide and keep position. So why would I need track limits then?
    The F1 forget how to race: overtaking rules, folding wing, dirty air, bad tyres… I don’t want to see cars just overtaking, I want to see them fighting.

  13. I still don’t get what was wrong with gravel traps.

  14. Regarding running off track, I agree 100%. There should be a penalty. The solutions are
    Gravel : I get the no gravel thing. It doesn’t slow down cars like tarmac and it has the potential to flip cars. We were right to get rid of it as much as I like it.
    Penalties : Boring and possibly unfair at times. It’s so open for debate and or adjudication by marshals. That is the last thing we need. More debate about whether it was wrong or right.
    Grass : It doesn’t slow down cars, so it’s dangerous.
    Fake Grass : Same as above, but it also has the added problem that it sometimes comes lose and creates a bigger problem.
    Shock absorbing barriers on the outside of the corner : Drivers will avoid running wide at all costs and no-one dies if they hit them. They can also be removed after the race to allow for motorbike races. But the problem here is that we will get long stoppages while the barriers are repaired after a crash. Think Spa this year after the Magnussen crash. I think that this isn’t workable.

    Ok, so all of the above has problems. But we live in 2016. We watch a sport with more money than any other. Surely we can find a solution. The basis of the solution is simple in my eyes. We need something that penalises the drivers, but doesn’t kill them. As a secondary problem, we need something that can easily be removed so that the courses can still run motorbikes.

    I think the solution is grass followed by tarmac. A 2m verge of grass on the outside of the corner and then tarmac beyond that. If you try and make the corner, you will lose speed on the grass. But if you go beyond that, the tarmac will slow you down so you don’t die or crash out. This doesn’t work in some cases where drivers will completely cut the corner like Hamilton in Mexico. So we need to add a hard and fast rule that if you go beyond the grass and hit the tarmac, you get a 5 second penalty unless you re-enter the track within 20m of where you left the track. Maybe 20m is too short for some corners and too long for others. All you need to do is paint a red line on the track where they must re-enter the track before going past it. If they go beyond, they get penalised. You can tailor it to every corner on the track. And this solution is cheap.

    My last thought is that the 2m verge of grass should actually be some kind of sticky substance. Think sticky tape with the sticky side up. It slows cars down for safety and also penalises them. It’s the perfect solution. I am 95% sure that a substance like that doesn’t exist right now. However, the FIA and FOM have oodles of money and the bad publicity alone is reason for spending it.

    We put a man on the moon in the 1960’s. A few years back, Red Bull figured out how to use the exhaust of an F1 engine to influence the downforce and wake of an F1 car and speed it up by 0.5 second per lap. That research alone probably cost RB $500k and it was money well spent. The FIA can solve this problem, if they actually try to do it. I am sure coming up with a solution here is much easier than putting a man on the moon, or developing blown exhausts.

  15. Alex McFarlane
    3rd December 2016, 15:29

    What about that special abrasive safety-paint they have at Paul Ricard that significantly slows cars that go over it?

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