Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Imola, 2020

Same track limits rules for every F1 session at Imola

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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The policing of track limits will be the same in every session at this weekend’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, in contrast to the split approach used in Formula 1’s season-opener.

During the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, drivers were told their lap times would be deleted if they went behind the red-and-white kerb at the exit of turn four during qualifying but the same limit would not be imposed for the race.

That caused confusion when Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was warned for track limits abuse in the race, and Max Verstappen‘s off-track pass there cost the Red Bull driver victory as he had to hand the lead back to Hamilton.

New Grand Prix Drivers Association director George Russell said the situation could be improved. Both Hamilton and Verstappen expressed confusion over the approach race control took in Bahrain.

The race director’s notes for Imola show the track limits rules will be applied in the same way across practice, qualifying and the race.

Imola circuit map, 2021
Imola circuit map, 2021

The three corners at the circuit where enforcement of track limits is taking place this year are the exit of Piratella (turn nine), the apex of the turn 13 left-hander and the exit of the Variante Alta (turns 14 and 15).

Yellow kerbing bumps have also been added on the outside of turn 13 and the profiling of the bumps behind the apex kerb at the first part of Variante Alta has now been turned into one long bump in an attempt to incentivise drivers to lower their corner speeds and therefore reduce the likeliness of running wide.

Drivers will be shown the black-and-white flag if all four wheels leave the track three times during the race, unless those occasions include being forced off, with any further repeat offences being reported to the race stewards.

During F1’s return to Imola in 2020 the exit of the Rivazza 2 left-hander, which leads onto the straight that heads towards the start/finish line, was also an area where many ran off the road and particularly in qualifying. The stretch of asphalt immediately after that goes into the pit lane has been resurfaced for 2021, as have many of the service roads around the circuit.

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2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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32 comments on “Same track limits rules for every F1 session at Imola”

  1. Martin Elliott
    15th April 2021, 12:52

    Avoided actually stating what the rule will be!!
    All four wheels beyond the 100mm white line, as in the ‘rule book’?

    OR all 4 wheels beyond the red/white kerb as often discretionary?

    Just to confirm, in practice, if reported beyond the limit, loss of lap time??

    And what stewards action during the race?

    1. Latest:
      Clarification will take place after the race on Sunday.

      1. So you can fully benefit twice from going way off track, just not three times.

        1. The way I read it, you can benefit three times (black and white flag “warning” after third incident). Benefiting three times might be just what a top driver/team needs to win!

    2. I think the times they have actually policed track limits at all, they only started showing messages and flags for having the whole car over the white lines (Yes, I agree that they should rather be told to keep the car completely on the track itself).

      It does mention deletion of lap times and getting the flag shown after 3 times during the race (which means that thereafter they will start racking up time penalties)

      Drivers will be shown the black-and-white flag if all four wheels leave the track three times during the race, unless those occasions include being forced off, with any further repeat offences being reported to the race stewards.

      1. @bascb If they had to keep the car completely on the track, drivers would never be allowed to touch the kerbs, since the kerbs are explicitly defined as not part of the track in the sporting regulations.

        To me, even the “all four wheels beyond the white line” is problematic. The kerbs at Imola are placed well back from the white line, so there are several places where drivers might have only two tyres on the kerbs but all four wheels beyond the white line.

        It’s funny — F1 posted a side-by-side comparison of Gasly onboards, highlighting the line you have to take to do a “great lap” vs. a “good lap”. The “great lap” shows three places where Gasly is completely off the track as defined by the white line and the sporting regs — at the exits of turns 6, 15, and 18. And clearly, he’s gaining a lasting advantage, or it wouldn’t be a “great lap”!

        If there is to be one clear definition of track limits, I’d rather see the sporting regs revised so that kerbs are included. That’s how Masi often chooses to enforce track limits anyway. And that makes sense to me. Kerbs are there to give tactile feedback to the drivers about the track limit and slightly upset the car’s balance, so why not let them use it? It’s more exciting to watch drivers try to wrangle a car back across a kerb to avoid a track limits violation than to watch them try to keep their right-front tyre in contact with a white line.

        1. Martin Elliott
          15th April 2021, 19:25

          They ARE allowed to use kerbs and even sausages; as long as some part of one tyre is ON the white line.

          That’s what the regs have always said.

          Its just that FIA are too scared to enforce it for everybody/everywhere.

          1. Of course they can use it. What I mean is: Why not have the kerbs (the kind that are typically red and white) define the legal boundary of the track so that drivers can use the physical feedback of the kerb to aid them in understanding where the track limit is? You don’t get any physical feedback from a white line. And Masi, rightly in my view, often prefers to allow drivers to go beyond the white line if they are still on the kerb because there are many corners where the placement of the kerb (and whatever is beyond) is such that it is more natural for the drivers to do so — like at Imola, where the kerbs are placed a metre or so beyond the white lines themselves. The exit of the second Lesmo is another case. There’s is a narrow strip of tarmac beyond the kerb and gravel beyond that. If the drivers get their line just right, up to the edge of the gravel, often they have no tyres on the white line. The same is true at several corners at the Red Bull Ring, where the kerbs are so wide the drivers can have all four wheels on them and not touch the white line. That would technically be a track limits violation, but who wants to see that?

            The fact is, if the white line were the actual track limit in all cases, many brilliant pole laps would be disallowed.

            And really, if you think about it, there’s a philosophic argument that kerbs are always part of the track because they are intended to be used. When a MotoGP bike has all of its wheels on the kerb, it’s not considered a violation of track limits. Why should our definition of the track change for a four-wheeled vehicle?

        2. Well, yeah, off course in many places going technically illegal (since off track), but accepted by the current standard in stewarding is faster, since you can use the room there to keep speed, brake less etc @markzastrow.

          Now, I would be fine with them defining the kerbing as part of the track, and if they redraw the track to match those fastest lines (provided it does not impact safety), be my guest.

          On the other hand, it is rather irrelevant what the fastest line is when it is off track. If they would go the route of keeping drivers to the track limits, that would just mean a new fastest line within the confines of the track develops, just like it does whenever the track is (slightly) changed.

          It would mean that has to be taken in account when comparing laptimes, which is already the case anyway (since track changes), but it wouldn’t really change much for how a raceweekend or season pans out.

  2. Consistency of rules what a novel idea :))

    1. Indeed, it only took 76 years to develop.

    2. @johnrkh And then there’s just the consistency of enforcement to tackle :))

  3. The yellow bumps make TL enforcement at T13 redundant, as going off and driving above those is slower than staying on track anyway.
    Variante Alta is relatively slow-speed, so the corner exit should have a physical deterrent a la speed bumps or surface material instead of lap time invalidation.
    Piratella is the only understandable one because it’s high-speed.

    1. I disagree.
      The fact that there is only 3 areas is baffling.
      Even if they aren’t monitoring the entire circuit, they should not be telling anyone. The assumption should always be that every part of the track has the same limits and the same consequences.

      Anyway – I’ll wait until they’ve actually made it through an entire event without changing their mind and/or stuffing it up before I judge.

      1. “Pre race reminder: Please drivers, drive on the track. Yes we will check and penalise”

        1. Well, when race directors notes point specifically to Article 27.3 and they still ignore it – it doesn’t do much for confidence in enforcement.

      2. @S Why should FIA monitor corners that have gravel on the exits? Three is more than necessarily needed.

        1. @jerejj Read my comment again.
          As I said above – if they aren’t watching every inch of the track, don’t tell anyone.
          What is gained by telling the competitors that Race Control aren’t watching?

          What you support is reinforcing the inconsistency that lead straight to the events at Turn 4 in Bahrain.
          Grass, gravel, walls, a cliff, spikes or white lines is irrelevant – the track limits should always be respected and enforced as the track limit. Telling the drivers otherwise is just inconsistent.

  4. The dream for f1 2020 track limits is getting closer…. Only add 3 seconds to those who violate 3 times to finish it off…

    1. those who violate 3 times to finish it off…

      I don’t understand these ‘3 times’ rules/arguments.
      It’s not like a gravel trap of wall let you off the first 2 times when going into them.

      1. And that’s part of the reason why they don’t use gravel anymore.
        While it wouldn’t bother me if only 4 cars made it to the finish, apparently many people would be unhappy about it.

  5. This is a silly situation.

    That should never have been a headline.

  6. Why they cant stick to the basic rule : if all four wheel are beyond the white line which marks the track limit then they are in breach of the rules.

    Another Massi mess in the offing I would suspect.

  7. What kind of sad case is F1, when announcing that they will adhere to their own rules is headline material?

    Can they do it for whole season?

    1. Not even for a race, just you watch. The leaders will be exempt if there is a fight for the lead as last race.

  8. Just wait until 70% of the laps get deleted on Friday for exceeding track limits and they get rid of the limits altogether for Saturday.

  9. Just a correction (one that matters):

    During the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, drivers were told their lap times would be deleted if they went behind the red-and-white kerb at the exit of turn four during qualifying but the same limit would not be imposed for the race except where a driver gained a lasting advantage (i.e. overtook over the limits at turn 4). That caused confusion when Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was warned for track limits abuse in the race, and Max Verstappen‘s off-track pass there cost the Red Bull driver victory as he had to hand the lead back to Hamilton.

    The real issue wasn’t telling Max to give the place back, it was warning Lewis about exceeding the limits mid-race, which, as he said, they’d essentially been cleared to use except to overtake. That just reintroduced the issue of ‘how much’ you could go over the line and how often (every lap? just some laps?) and whether it was unfair advantage if other drivers didn’t do the same.

    1. NB: I added “except where a driver gained a lasting advantage (i.e. overtook over the limits at turn 4)” (in bold when I posted the comment but it seems to have disappeared).

      1. Well, Hamilton sure got his lasting advantage.
        Didn’t have to give anything back though…

        1. I mentioned that point, but as Vettel said: “Lewis was smarter and drove well and kept his head down and did what he had to do.” You can’t blame Hamilton for maximizing what was available to him, including whatever fractions of a second he gained at turn 4, available (in theory) to all the drivers. You can blame FIA for the track design and/or the rules and their implementation. I still think where they were wrong was altering their attitude to track excursions mid-race – that’s a clear case of making stuff up as you go along. They should have just reminded Red Bull Max was free to do the same – but not for overtaking. That difference was made clear to the drivers pre-race.

  10. Martin Elliott
    15th April 2021, 19:33

    Like The Pirate Code. FIA International Sporting Code, F1 Sporting Regulations and F1 Technical Regulations are more a sort of Guideline.

    For a couple of years we sort of had, under Charlie Whiting, some consistency and a bit of transparency in Stewards Rulings. Unfortunately it wasn’t enshrined in the culture of his staff, let alone the FIA management systems.
    What happened to the database of Stewards Decisions and the standard of ruling explanation?

    1. Whiting’s tenure introduced and supported much of the inconsistency that we see now.

      Rules aren’t guidelines – they are rules. Otherwise they’d be called “guidelines”…

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