Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull ring, 2019

F1 drivers want “consequences” for going off-track

2019 Austrian Grand Prix

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FIA race director Michael Masi says Formula 1 drivers have made it clear they want run-off areas to punish them for going off the track.

The increasingly widespread use of asphalt run-offs in place of grass and gravel at circuits has reduced the natural penalty drivers face when going off-line. Special ‘return lanes’ have been installed at corners on some tracks, such as at Paul Ricard two weeks ago, but Masi stressed safety could not be compromised when installing deterrents to track limit abuse.

“One of the decisions that was made many years ago is the Tarmac run-offs, from a safety end, absolutely play their part and are an important part of the manner in which circuits have evolved,” he explained.

“Has it had a resultant impact with track limits? Drivers possibly not conceding at places if there was some terminology of: ‘If there was a concrete wall’, or ‘if there was grass’ or ‘if there was gravel’? I think that has changed the mindset.

“We had a long discussion with the drivers in Canada and they all said ‘we want consequences’. The prime example is here. With all of the orange bumps that are on the outside, because of the nature of some of them there was consequences. So it’s one of those ones that we’ll continue to look at and evolve over time.

“But at the end of the day the safety, making sure that the 20 guys that start effectively come back safe and sound, is the primary objective. There’s the balance of it and it’s something we’ll continue to look at and evolve.”

The ‘return lanes’ used at Paul Ricard could appear at more circuits, Masi indicated, though each solution needs to be tailored to ensure it penalises drivers sufficiently. Sergio Perez was given a time penalty after he overtook two cars on the first lap in France while going through the return lane at turn five.

“We trialled a couple of items in France being the bollard that we discussed to turn two and obviously the one at five. The one at turn two was a success, the one at turn five, yes they rejoined safely but didn’t lose time.”

Speaking at the Red Bull Ring, Masi also suggested some drivers have been more vocal on the subject in public than they have in drivers’ briefings. “I think the drivers said more to some of you guys about sausages and yellow bumps and consequences then they did to me,” he said. “So silence is an acknowledgement in some regards and approval.”

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  • 48 comments on “F1 drivers want “consequences” for going off-track”

    1. Why not leave about a car width of gravel on the outside of turns, followed by tarmac? They do so in some places, I believe. Running slightly off would damage the car, your tires, and hinder your speed. However, if you go well off you still maintain the stopping power of tarmac run-off.

      1. Great idea, and also safe as you mentioned. My only concern is, this small gravel area would not prevent drivers to cut them on purpose. I mean if you feel that you pushed too hard and slide on that gravel patch, then you decide to go through on it instead fight and try to get back on track. I suggest, not just one patch, a several gravel areas on that large asphalt run-off areas, your speed and car handling would 100% be hurt with this way.

        1. A strip of grass or gravel might still allow drivers to cut a corner like the grass does at Mexico T1 for example, but it would keep drivers from running wide consistently to take more speed out of a corner.
          They’d simply risk a spin or a massive tank slapper (i.e. losing time). Think of Copse corner at Silverstone as a good example or T1 & T9 at COTA.

          1. @jeffreyj @bnwllc3 Moreover, running over gravel would cause their tyres to lose grip for the next few corners so it would still lose them time overall

      2. All I can imagine why grass is not used much is because the grass tends to wear away if you put it next to a track when drivers sometimes drive over it. That in turn creates deep holes right next to the tarmac which in itself is really bad for club racing and track days when driving over those holes in ground can cause expensive damage to the cars. I’d also image it can cause damage to the track surface itself when the tarmac starts breaking next to the edge of the track. I know this is an issue with some drifting circuits when the cars go over the track edge and it creates huge holes on the track edge and breaks the tarmac near the track edges as well. Also grass needs maintenance to look good. And putting grass next to the track is not good for motorbikes.

      3. Spread some gravel ON TOP of the run off area tarmac for the F1 weekend, get the street sweeper machines out to sweep it up after the race. Would not need to be a deep layer. Makes for more pitstops also to change tires. May need larger allotment of tires for some drivers😜😄😝 Easy to add a little more between practices/ qualy/race if the drivers go off enough to create a “racing” line thru the gravel.

        Yeah, I know, not practical, but I like the image I get in my mind!

        1. @waptraveler
          No I like this idea, and should be very manageable. As you say just add gravel for F1 weekends. No need to put it down for the club or bike meetings, and solves the problem of the divots that grassed area leaves behind…More pits stop is good & gravel tends to be a deterrent…Even place a couple of bollards along the track further down for a safe re entry. 🤔😮

      4. I would go with at least, half-gravel if I were to go with this direction.

    2. Still don’t know what was wrong with gravel. I am assuming asphalt is cheaper and requires less maintenance? I don’t remember anybody besides Wayne Rainey being hurt by gravel traps. Seems like they could come up with some sort of hybrid with a strip of gravel and then asphalt.

      1. Safety reasons for F1 cars; and now; despite your Rainey reference, bikes. The air bag has changed everything. Rather than rolling you have to spreadeagle and slide. That’s best on tarmac. If you roll you stand a good chance of turning into a bouncing bomb.

        1. tony mansell
          5th July 2019, 12:58

          Hay thanks for that. So theres a technique in MotoGP/bikes to coming off and not getting hurt. I did wonder why there were so few ‘big ones’ nowadays. Appreciate the run offs are much bigger but didn’t realise there was a way to fall off. Airbags though, never seen them

          1. Airbags are in the suits themselves. And the reason they have fewer offs is traction conrol and other electronic gizmo’s that were introduced in MotoGP the last decade.

      2. An undiscussed reason for tarmac run-offs is track days: less gravel crashes, less disruption, more encouraged amateur drivers, more profit for the circuit. Neither F1 nor MotoGP pushed for this initially.

        1. That makes sense to me. Thanks.

      3. Still don’t know what was wrong with gravel. I am assuming asphalt is cheaper and requires less maintenance? I don’t remember anybody besides Wayne Rainey being hurt by gravel traps. Seems like they could come up with some sort of hybrid with a strip of gravel and then asphalt.

        I believe that some of the FIA’s preference for tarmac is a result of the Bianchi incident, in which a car became disabled on track and a crane was dispatched under yellow flag and was involved in the collision. Their goal is to try to limit the number of times a car becomes stopped on the track to avoid a similar occurrence in the future. Cars can’t get stuck in tarmac.

        1. That’s the crash where the driver didn’t slow down for the conditions, or for the flags?

    3. FIA race director Michael Masi says Formula 1 drivers have made it clear they want run-off areas to punish them for going off the track.
      “But at the end of the day the safety, making sure that the 20 guys that start effectively come back safe and sound, is the primary objective. There’s the balance of it and it’s something we’ll continue to look at and evolve.”

      So I assume nothing will change.

    4. It doesn’t seem that complicated for F1 to come with some abrasive or slippery bands that could be set around some corners (and eventually removed for other events).
      That way drivers have their tyres damaged or lose grip and are penalized without compromising their safety…
      Less damaging than some kerbs and probably not that expensive for F1.

      1. @jeanrien – isn’t that what’s used in France? The blue stripes are mildly abrasive, and the red ones are damagingly so.

        1. @phylyp That’s the idea, but I think it clearly doesn’t work as a deterrent. Ricciardo’s last lap is pretty good proof of that!

          1. Since when was the idea behind those stripes to be a deterrent during races?
            I was always under the impression that the stripes were there in case of accidents, when the car is out of control and needs to be brought to a full stop before it hits a barrier.

    5. If we have to consider bike racing at the same track then it needs to be something that affects only the cars.
      So just for laughs there is an idea:
      All cars to be fitted with an additional engine/power kill switch. This is triggered by a buried cable at a set distance off track. It will need an FIA official, or say fire marshal, to re-set the switch via a transmitted code from a hand device. (with steering wheel off).

      1. Mattias Hammer
        5th July 2019, 11:31

        Or it could slam the brakes through the brake by wire-system. You can use safety to motivate this. If the driver has went off the circuit and is unable to stop the car himself the car will slow down automatically when triggered by the sensors in the run off area. And the secondary purpose would be as punishment for going off.

      2. I’ve always thought they could have “drop in” gravel traps rather like cricket with “drop in” pitches. That way you could match the run offs with the sport’s requirements. Gravel/turf etc for F1 and tarmac for MotoGP

    6. Bernie was right, let’s just get sprinklers for the kerbs.

      1. In theory … some corners could have one car width of runoff area lowered by just half an inch – and have that runoff area filled with standing water.

        Go off the track = splash and risk of aquaplaning/spinning
        Outside the “water runoff” there’s dry tarmac again

        I guess it might just work at a place like Paul Ricard or other tracks with lots of tarmac runoff.

      2. My first thought was wind could blow water back onto the racing line. An alternative is digital power drop, place a sensor on both side of the car, when both sensors have passed over a detection point that is just outside the white line the car looses 25% power for 5 seconds.

        Sensors reset to zero every 5 seconds so tripping a sensor in corner 1 won’t affect a driver in corner 2.

        Place these detection points on any corner a driver can cut and get an advantage – solves the lap 1 issues like Perez in France & Vettel in Canada (they wouldn’t gain an advantage with a power cut or maintain potion) The only issue for Stewards to pay attention to is something like Austria – was LEC penalized by a power cut (pushed wide) by VES intentionally or was it just racing. Force someone wide intentionally they you have a stop & go penalty or 30 seconds added to your time.

    7. The original purpose of kerbs was to physically enforce track limits, often as a safer alternative to grass. Back in the golden days, kerbs were these raised things – a bit like the sausage kerbs they now sometimes use beyond the normal kerbs.

      Now though, thanks to FIA’s strict standardisation of what kerbs have to be (another great idea to make tracks more boring), they are basically an extension of the circuit.

    8. The obvious (for me) answer is to install a sensor: if all 4 wheels are outside track limits, impose a penalty in the form of a “penalty lane” next time they pass it. This could mean that these cars will have to take the outside of a critical corner. This would give a ~2 second penalty to those drivers who would not have to negotiate rejoining the track after going round a “return lane”. The system could be completely automated: sensor sets a light on the dash, failure to take the small penalty = instant 5 second penalty. If pushed off, drivers could ask for a contest the penalty and this could be removed swiftly by the stewards.

      1. @mattb What a fantastic way to put people off watching! The last thing F1 needs is more penalties. The obvious answer is to install kerbs and grass which offer little traction and cause drivers to lose time. I seem to recall F1 was popular back when tracks were like that

      2. Not sure where we are at with that at the moment, but Motorvision were installing that at their British tracks a few years ago, and Hungary had them installed a few years back. They were used by the F1 stewards in 2016.

    9. How about the opposite of the FE attack mode, reduced power for a specified period after triggering a sensor.

    10. I liked what Palmer said during the last race.
      Just use the Austria style kerbs that are proven to break the car if you abuse them.
      Good drivers will survive and the reckless will suffer.

      Obviously if someone (Max perhaps?) pushed someone (Charles maybe?) onto the kerbs then we may get some complaints, but overall I think it would make more sense than the meaningless run offs that we have now.

      1. Exactly, Its not the kerbs running onto the track attacking the cars. Stay on the track.

      2. Ehy can’t they paint the kerbs with a more slippery paint? On the outside of the corners they could put giant stickers or some sort of foil…. This would be very slippery, easy to remove/install, and it would also be a commercial sapace….

    11. Consequences for going off the racing track would solve a lot of problems. If Vettel had lost time by going off in Canada there would have been no need for a 5 second penalty, if Leclerc had known that going off the track in Austria would result in lost time he would have stayed on the track. In the days of gravel traps mistakes were punished and drivers knew that a risky overtake could result in a collision because the other driver simply couldn’t get out of their way.

      I think that any driver that goes off track (for whatever reason) should lose DRS and some or all ERS benefit for one lap. The system could be automatically enforced so there would be no debate about stewards’ decisions.

    12. Sergio Perez was given a time penalty after he overtook two cars on the first lap in France while going through the return lane at turn five.

      Instead of letting a driver just blat along the return lane at any speed they like, why not put some expectation on a driver when they use a return lane? For example, say a 50 km/h speed limit, or maybe even some motorway onramp style traffic lights that are normally red then, when a car arrives at the lights at the end of the return lane. the driver is held there for a few seconds before they go green.
      One of the problems with the current Time Penalty system is it is limited to a minimum of 5 seconds, whereas the expectation placed upon a driver could be tailored to that particular Return Lane. So, using the example of Perez above, maybe a 50 km/h speed limit would have resulted in a net loss of 3 seconds, or a set of lights could have held him for 1 second, meaning he returned to the track behind where he’d have been if he had stayed on the track instead of ahead of where he’d have been if he’d stayed on the track.

    13. georgeboole (@)
      5th July 2019, 20:58

      I m more towards natural solutions and not sensors.
      Sausage kerbs are good but they still run over them. Why not use higher but angled towards the racing line kerbs that would even gain them time if used properly?
      More old style, I know but I guess they can work in combination with tarmac run offs

    14. Best is if cars could be electronically slowed down if they exceed track limits. This way tracks can be MotoGP friendly and safe.

      Maybe some near-field sensor embedded in the asphalt for the worst offending corners, and leave the rest to be controlled by GPS or whatever else can be used (radio beacons?).

      As this is the most technically advanced sport in the world, it should be feasible and would also fit with a tech solution.

      1. Jose Lopes da Silva
        6th July 2019, 19:39

        Indeed. But oldtimers can’t stand it, they would say it’s videogaming.

    15. Neil (@neilosjames)
      5th July 2019, 22:26

      In most corners you could have tarmac in an expanding triangle shape straight on from the corner, to catch out-of-control cars because that’s safer. Then transition the tarmac to gravel mid-corner, right up to the kerb at the exit. If you want to be kind, add a tarmac ‘escape road’ round the back of the gravel trap.

      Go a bit wide from mid-corner to the exit and you meet the gravel, go very wide at the entry/mid-corner and you have to take the escape road.

    16. Sensors in the raceway that trigger 5 seconds of ODRS in ODRS zones on the track. An ODRS zone would put the wing in a position that creates more drag.

    17. Oh you guys and all the high tech nanny state limits.

      Liberty wants to make a splash in south Florida. That means F1 runoffs will be swamps ‘n gators.

      ;-)

    18. I think the best would be tall artificial fibers. Slows down cars in all circumstances, unlike asphalt or gravel, and would be detrimental for cutting corners. And would make filthy moves like Verstappen’s in Austria more glaring and obviously punishable.

    19. Jose Lopes da Silva
      6th July 2019, 19:36

      “Astroturf”. The final corner of Shangai is perfect.

    20. 5 second penalty for all 4 wheels off track. If forced off track the other driver gets penalty. If collision involved both cars get penalty unless one is clearly at fault. Wouldn’t stop close racing as usually cars fighting for position are 20 seconds or more apart. Stats junkies would love it…

      1. I mean 20 seconds away from other cars.

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