Neils Wittich, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022

Wittich simplifies Bahrain track limits rules in first event as F1 race director

2022 Bahrain Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

FIA Formula 1 race director Niels Wittich has informed drivers of simpler rules on track limits for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Wittich is participating in his first grand prix weekend as F1 race director in Bahrain in a role he will share with Eduardo Freitas through the 2022 season.

The two experienced race directors have been appointed to replace former race director Michael Masi, who was relieved from his Formula 1 duties by the FIA after three seasons in the role following an investigation into the finish of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The track limits arrangement at last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix proved a source of confusion. Drivers were told their lap times would be deleted if they ran wide at turn four during qualifying but the standard would not be applied for the race.

During the grand prix both Mercedes drivers were given warnings after running beyond the kerb on the exit of the corner multiple times in the race. Max Verstappen later ran wide across the white line at the corner while passing Lewis Hamilton for the lead, and relinquished the place to avoid being given a penalty.

The exit of turn four was a point of contention last season
A clearer line has been drawn over track limits in the first instruction from the new race director to drivers. Last year’s three paragraphs of guidance on track limits have been replaced with a single instruction from Wittich which states: “In accordance with the provisions of Article 33.3, the white lines define the track edges.”

Article 33.3 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations compels drivers to “make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times and may not leave the track without a justifiable reason.”

The article further adds drivers “will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with it and, for the avoidance of doubt, any white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not.”

Wittich has over eight years of experience as a race director for FIA-sanctioned series, most notably the German touring car championship the DTM. He had worked previously within Formula 1 race control at a handful of races last season in preparation for a new role within the sport.

Become a RaceFans Supporter

RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help cover the costs of creating, hosting and developing RaceFans today and in the future.

Become an RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 Bahrain Grand Prix

Browse all 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix articles

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

110 comments on “Wittich simplifies Bahrain track limits rules in first event as F1 race director”

  1. This is good news, the issue before was ambiguity – a rule should be absolute where possible and not open to different interpretations, or applied differently.

    1. Yup. This is exactly what we need @geekzilla9000.

      The white lines have been there since racing started. And we already know drivers are fully able to keep to them to the millimetre if they know they have to. Simple rule that is clear for everyone.

      1. OMG it’s actually happening. Amazing!!!

        1. # Im With Massi
          Made a scapegoat when no rules were broken (as decided when the Mercedes protest in AbuDhabi failed)
          Now they give the new guys extra resources and man-power… Suppose nobody liked having an Aussie in the position, not european enough….. Let the F1 “world” (European) Champioship begin!

          1. Masi is Italian. Are Italians not European enough for you?

      2. White lines are not since racing started at all ! Asfalt was the border of the circuit just check some older F1 movies.

        Simple solution is a gravel/grass tramp next to it and there is no problem at all.

        1. I’m not sure placing tramps next to the circuit will do any good, but whatever. :p

    2. Is it absolute, really absolute??! Its states ‘any’ and not ‘all’ white lines, there’s some discretion there for the director 😂😂😂

      1. IfImnotverymuchmistaken
        18th March 2022, 8:06

        Well, now you’ve given them ideas…

      2. Ooh. If I could give you a star I would 😂

      3. ugh, can’t argue the English language sucks. they need to fix this pronto.

  2. A simple but likely very effective way of handling it. When faced with a ‘grey’ area of the rules the FIA/F1 must make efforts to clarify more effectively. This seems like a good start!

  3. Done a more reassuring job before the first race than Masi during his entire tenure…

  4. Finally, unambiguous and the way it should be. This should be rules at every track for every race.

  5. I still don’t understand how something as simple and unambiguously written in the rules as track limits has been overcomplicated as much as it has been the last few years. Inside the white lines (white lines included)? Good. Outside the white lines? Not good. Doesn’t matter which track, doesn’t matter which corner, doesn’t matter which session.

    Maybe they just need to change “any white lines” to “all white lines”.

    1. Go to google and type in 2012 f1 track limits. Track limits have been an issue for a very very long time. Way before Masi was there. Moving on.

      1. @stash, I managed to find one TL-related article from that year for some reference.
        https://www.racefans.net/2012/07/25/f1-cracks-down-track-limits-abuse/

    2. Issue is not in setting the limit, its as easy as you say. But policing them is an issue, cost cannot be ignored.

    3. @warheart “Maybe they just need to change ‘any white lines’ to ‘all white lines’ ”
      Ha! Good catch!

      1. “Any” rather than “all” is there I believe to cover situations where there is no white line edging the track. Not sure if there are any circuits where there is simply a curb at the track edge, other colours or other markings aside from walls! but maybe there are….

    4. Who also scrolled back, thinking: “no that can’t be true”?

      1. Been there, done that.

    5. When I first started watching F1 in the “modern era” (2009), you were allowed to exceed track limits coming out of the Variante Ascari. That was it.

    6. Charlie Whiting was the beginning of the flexible approach to track limits.

      1. Charlie whiting was the beginning of only some car can unlap and look where we are now.

    7. Coventry Climax
      17th March 2022, 22:25

      Any and all, that was the first thing I noticed too, after I had climbed back onto my chair.
      Now please make it uniform across all tracks and enforce it in the exact same way for everyone and everywhere.
      Do we now have a racedirector who actually reads what the fans complain about?

    8. It’s a shame the white line wasn’t considered to be off track. If it was then it is simple to determine if the car is “off track”. If any white is seen inside the inside tyre then the car is off track. Simple.

  6. Masi was too obsessed with trying to please everyone to gain political stripes. Three paragraphs for track limits?!!

  7. I imagine the talk: “Guys, you’re the 19 most skilled… Oh, Mazepin is gone?! OK, you’re the 20 most skilled and renowned car drivers in the world, keep it between the white lines. Thank you.”

    1. Even without mazepin there’s no way they’re the most skilled, making it to f1 is circumstancial too, depending on money to make the minor series first.

      1. That was a joke…

      2. they are the 20 most skilled drivers in F1 that are currently racing, there is no doubt there.

  8. Can’t wait for the “let them race” crowd to moan.

    White line, simple, hope they also police it.

    1. @proesterchen I’d consider myself part of the ‘let them race’ crowd, and I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t be, given that this is the pinnacle of racing. Keep in mind too, many within F1 are all for “let them race” for they are the very ones that ‘invented’ it or called for it, and are for less of every incident having to be adjudicated.

      I’m fine with this clarification but let’s be ‘clear’ ha ha that at least they have the “without a justifiable reason” part in there too, to cover off cars that are forced wide by other cars on the inside. I also wonder if they will enforce this in the first few turns at the start of the race, or rather, I’m sure they will consider the closeness of the cars off the grid start to be justifiable reasons to go wide, just as they will ignore other infractions at the very race start.

    2. The perfect time for Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel and “White Lines (Don’t Do It)”

      1. fun fact, there’s 1 driver on the grid who was born when that song was released!

    3. That will be crucial. Will drivers have their times deleted in qualifying, and will they be given time penalties in the race?

      What about the drivers who are pushed off, something which is “strictly” prohibited by the FIA Code but which has become common in F1 and even, supposedly, allowed by the secret notes handed to teams. Similarly, how will they handle people who skip chicanes to keep their position, a frequent situation in Monaco, Monza and Abu Dhabi.

      The rules still give the race director the power to decide how a driver should “give back” any “advantage”, however he defines it, gained.

  9. FINALLY! F1 applying simple sense!
    Next rule please – thou shalt not force another driver off track….!

    1. Right. Enforcing track limits and stopping drivers from forcing other cars off course will restore necessary boundaries to the racing, in my opinion.

    2. @pwspencer

      “thou shalt not force another driver off track….!”

      By deliberately planting your front left on your rivals rear right?

    3. I agree. How would that have been applied to the last race in 2021. Seems there was a lot of forcing others off.

    4. @pwspencer: I’d say this is a small step in the right direction. Less rules/less complicated rules = better. But it doesn’t remove the track limit issues sadly. I feel a physical deterrent could solve a lot of these issues. Most of the time you see a car leaving the track because… it’s possible.

      Want to try a ridiculous torpedo overshooting a corner? Sure, go ahead. Worst case scenario you queue behind the car you were dive bombing anyway. From a defending point of view as well, are you being pushed wide? Just stay right next to the other car and start moaning on the radio. Looks like football, roll on the ground, cry to the ref for a card yada yada.

      With a physical deterrent (wall, kerb, 1m astro turf strip, gravel: different solutions for different corners), as attacker you risk losing more than you could gain overshooting a corner. As a defender, what do you do when you are pushed outward? You bail out. Like you should. Look, I’m not the biggest fan of “the squeeze” but the current situation is worse. Don’t like being squeezed on the corner exit? Well, start defending properly and don’t give the inside of the corner away on a platter…

      The added bonus is that with a proper track design you don’t need policing. No 3 strikes. No warnings. No endless discussions. No “is he going to get a 5 second penalty or not? we’ll find out in 25 laps”-nonsense…

  10. This makes sense.

  11. Seeing the headline made me dread the content, but this actually sounds good.

    However, enforcing the rules is as important (or even more important) as making them. Let’s see how this goes down.

  12. FINALLY – it’s been clear to me that this should have been the rule for ages. I have no idea why it’s taken so long to simplify it.

    1. @hufggfg: It wasn’t about simplifying; it is about applying the existing rules, period. That article/rule on track limits has been there all this while; it’s just that the referees chose to ignore it, until now!

  13. Interesting, but simple & short.
    Zero mention on lap time invalidation, although this track has only one corner (exit), where going off can be faster than staying on track anyway & that’s T4.

  14. Martin Elliott
    17th March 2022, 17:26

    Who first pressured the RD and when to allow discretion over an almost perfect rule?

    Who then continued it with circuit specific TDs?

    Now all they need are correctly located cameras rather than poorly located F1 cameras and marshals in the FIA Race Control office. I believe a lot of sports have computer locator systems. ;)

    1. From memory this started several years ago with public complaints by the drivers and the teams. They were unhappy at the impact on the driver for a mistake when driving at the limit and it required leniency for the show.

      It seems in one foul swoop the FIA has reversed years of erosion of the track limits rule. Perhaps this is a larger statement from the FIA on its approach to the “show”.

  15. Why don’t they just do an Iracing style system? You have sensors and when you break the line you get a second added per incident. No exceptions. They play to the drivers too much. Have some will and at least enforce the rules there. This is partially the reason we have a fake champion.

    1. I have news for you. The fake champion is gone. We have a real champion now. Try to follow what’s happening inside those white lines.

      1. Actually, erikje, I have news for YOU.
        The reason Max has #1 on his car is because that’s how many people really believe he deserves to be the champion.

        1. I guess those 44 others are roaming this forum :)

  16. So you can leave the track if you want, just make sure you have a good story to tell about your reasonable efforts to stay within the lines , and make sure you have a good ‘Wheatley’ to come up with as many ‘justifiable reasons’ as you can think of. It would also help if you enjoy a rapport with the RD and stewards as they will decide if you get a penalty or not.

    1. At least the rule applies in a way for RBR and Verstappen. Hamilton has only to lift in the 3rd sector and return the time advantage he gained from cutting the corner and gaining the position.

      1. Yea, and Max would have had a penalty for leaving the track in Imola when acting as the safety car. As well as the safety car infringements he got away with at the time.
        Noting also that even this guy has added ‘for a justifiable reason’ . Like knowing that the car up the inside is going to crash if you stay where you are. Based on the knowledge that the guy on the inside has a track record of doing it, bragged all season about his ‘get out of my way or crash’ style; and adding pre AD that its not a proper fight unless theirs some wheel banging.

        1. Still moaning I see..
          Enjoy the new season!

          1. Still gloating, I see.

          2. (@ferrox-glideh)
            Absolutely and keep for some time.

  17. So, what’s the penalty for crossing the white lines in practice, qualifying or the race?

    No mention of that, so still not as clear as it could and should be.

    1. @silfen Presumably, nothing unless a driver gains an actual advantage.
      Be that in lap time or by overtaking & or maintaining position.
      Time-wise, T4 is the only corner where an off-track can be faster versus staying on track & effectively also for the latter two. However, I agree the message should be clearer.

      1. Why, the normal three strikes rule will apply.

  18. The obey the track limits in Monaco, so why can’t they do it at every track.

    1. They can but it’s faster not to and if everyone else is going off, why wouldn’t you?

    2. No they dont. They try it on where they can which is out of the tunnel, and then blame whatever car was closest to them.

  19. Niels Wittich, welcome to F1. Please stick with these rules you’ve approved (something your predecessor was unable to do)

  20. I’d rather see Article 33.3 amended so drivers can use the full extent of kerbs and define the track limits as outside of them, as MotoGP does. There are many corners on the calendar where the kerbs are wide enough for a car to be fully on them, outside of the inner white line. I’d rather see drivers fight to stay on the edge of the kerbs and risk upsetting the car instead of simply aiming for the white line, which presents no physical risk or feedback.

    But this simplicity is certainly an improvement over how the issue was handled at last year’s Bahrain GP.

    1. Simple. Just paint the line there.

    2. @markzastrow I would think that with the move to rely on ground effects to generate downforce. Drivers will be less inclined to risk damaging the floor by riding the curbs as they once did.

  21. Well that’s an extremely strong start. Well done. Of course, we haven’t seen how it’ll be enforced yet but all good so far.

  22. This is the right move, although of course it wouldn’t be an issue if there wasn’t an acre of tarmac beyond the white line in so many places. Surely they have enough sand in Bahrain to solve this issue properly.

    1. @red-andy That tarmac forms the Outer Loop section, although the same slippery brown-ish material could get temporarily placed on that tarmac piece for the event.

  23. Good start. Effective enforcement will be the next step – this would be my biggest gauge of how good Wittich and Freitas will be as Masi’s replacements.

  24. Horner will argue that “every” does not me “all”.

    1. And he was right then.. There are a lot of white lines in Bahrein without any meaning.
      But to make it simple for you. Its about the white lines bordering the track.

  25. I feel that last year’s debacle might actually have been worthwhile in order to get a race director with common sense

  26. Thank God and finally! All the people whining about Masi’s use of the sporting code have happily forgotten the real problem of F1 race management: the rules state that the white line is the track boundary. Full stop! Not mostly, or for corners that are boring unless you cross it. We have been unofficially granting this latitude
    to race directors for decades. No wonder they believe they have it.

  27. Now they need to extend this to all tracks.

  28. Thank god! But why did it take so long to do this?

  29. Good. But kerbs are now no longer part of the circuit?

    I used to like seeing drivers use the full edge of the kerb in order to carry maximum speed in qualifying.

    1. RandomMallard
      17th March 2022, 19:51

      Sumedh As others have pointed out, with the ground effect cars this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the kerbs are much less popular with the drivers than they used to be. I’m not enough of an aerodynamicist to know how significant the effect of the “steps” in the kerbs would be on airflow, but I’d also assume the drivers won’t want to risk breaking parts off their floor on the kerbs.

      But we’ll wait and see on Saturday I guess…

      1. Coventry Climax
        17th March 2022, 22:17

        It’s no so much the air flow, as it is breaking the vacuum underneath the car. Bumps in the tarmac, as well as kerbs will have the risk doing so. Whether or not the kerbs will have lost their attraction is based on how fragile the floors are, how damaging to performance floor damage is and also where on the track you are.
        I expect they’ll be using the kerbs more in the low speed corners, there’s more ride height there and the cars depend less on the ground effect. In the high(er) speed corners on the other hand, the ride height is less and the ground effect is bigger, so using the kerbs brings a significantly higher risk of suddenly losing grip. And… crossing the white lines with all four wheels.

    2. But kerbs are now no longer part of the circuit?

      They never have been, officially. The regulations have always stated that the white line defines the edge of the track. The officials have just let the drivers get away with using them as part of the track before.

    3. They could still run a kerb, as long as at least one wheel remains within the track boundary, the white line.

  30. RandomMallard
    17th March 2022, 19:52

    Good start. Now I just hope the enforcement and the rule itself will be the same across circuits and across Race Directors. I seem to remember Freitas was always quite strict on track limits in WEC so I hope he’s the same here.

  31. Was that so difficult, Michael?

    1. And Charlie.

    2. Do you really think that the new race director has come up with this instruction regarding track boundaries all by himself or do you perhaps think he has been guided? Consulted? Given direction? Let’s just hold one individual responsible shall we? The race directors have been compromising on the rules for eons to appease drivers, FOM and the FIA etc. Who is responsible for the race directors? Who employs them? Who dictates to them what the rules are and how to manage races? Please stop bashing individuals. Is this what people call common sense is it? Homer Simpson common sense it it?

      1. Literally the headline of this post:

        “Wittich simplifies track limits.”

        So, appreciate you comparing me to Homer Simpson, but somewhat uncalled for. Some might say it’s bashing an individual.

  32. New RD just trying to draw a distinction between himself and the previous guy as well as mark his territory early.

  33. The white line has ALWAYS defined the track limit, it has rarely been enforced at all tracks however as the drivers pushed for exceptions at certain corners and often got there way. Let’s see if this really is a new chapter in F1 or if we slide back to familiar grounds of one flexible rulings.

  34. Sounds good.

    However I suppose as someone who plays semi sim like racing games it becomes apparent at many tracks that the white lines are often quite constrictive, with the “natural” line, often teased by kerbs and tarmac beyond them, going beyond the white lines. So either there’s more thought put into where the white lines go, if it’s a more natural line to take through the corner, or there is a corner by corner adjudication. Quite often the lines betray the real racing line that every racer would wish to take and handicap some of the best circuits if they were so strictly adhered to. I think this is an ambiguity problem with the tracks and placement of the white lines themselves and needs remedied.

    However I’m still happy there will be a hard and fast and simple rule. I hope it is adhered to by drivers and punished when appropriate so we get consistent racing where the viewer actually knows what going on and is t waiting for some judgement or decision in the upcoming laps to know if something was legitimate or not.

    1. Quite often the lines betray the real racing line that every racer would wish to take and handicap some of the best circuits if they were so strictly adhered to. I think this is an ambiguity problem with the tracks and placement of the white lines themselves and needs remedied.

      What on earth are you talking about @davidhunter13?
      There is no ‘natural’ racing line without the white lines defining the track. Without the white lines, there is no track – it could go anywhere and in any shape.
      You seem to misunderstand the point of racing circuit design – it isn’t about the easiest or most efficient way to go around and return to the same place, it’s about creating a unique challenge. They are designed to test driver skill and technique.

      If you think the ideal racing line involves leaving the track, then your driving needs a lot of work.

  35. I’m sorry, that’s not a clarification or a simplification, that’s just avoidance.

    The rule hasn’t changed or been clarified – he’s just throwing it over to the stewards to make any determinations if they think someone didn’t make a reasonable effort to stay inside the white line.

    With so much inconsistency from the stewards over the years, this will just get even more messy. Unfortunately stewards seem to apply things differently depending on who the driver is, so I expect to see rookies and lesser lights getting some kind of penalty whilst those at the pointy end will get away with all sorts of things.

    Defining something as every reasonable effort is completely meaningless.

  36. Ok, so what is considered a ‘white line’?

    Take the picture included with this article. You have the white inner line joined by the red/white stipe outer line. but the line itself is considered part of the track, so if a car drifts off so all four wheels are on the red/white part is that still part of the ‘white line’ since the inner white line and the outer white/red line are joined.

    I wish it was simpler still and was that some part of the wheel must be INSIDE the white line and touching the black asphalt. Just so there is no ‘wriggle’ room. It would be easier to judge and then enforce.

    1. There is only one white line. About 15cm width.
      The white and red are the curbs.
      As long as you keep one tire on the thin white line your good.

  37. Good to see the clarity and change. It was an example of the many Masi era poor management decisions that wasn’t just during the last race. Not sure why Horner keeps defending him.

    1. Because it was not masi who “invented” these exceptions.
      Charlie whiting started it.
      It’s common in some circles to put all the blame for what went wrong in the last season on masi. That’s nonsense.
      Nevertheless there is a lot to improve.

  38. In contact huh. So if a car bounces on the kerb and the two inside wheels aren’t in contact with the white line but directly over it – technically we’re out? :)

    Joking of course. This is good news. I hope everything further down the chain of rules is just as clear – ie penalties for each circumstance. Quali, race, overtake, all that.
    Otherwise we just moved the bottleneck further down the bottle.
    Which is a good step still.

  39. This is all still a question we don’t need to answer. If we must have tarmac run offs (and I understand why, sometimes, they are preferable to gravel), line the outside with sensors that cut your MGU-H / MGU-K for 30, or 60 seconds. Enough to cost you a second of lap time and negate the advantage of an illegal pass. No more track limits, no more giving back places.

  40. Great news, however Wittich wasn’t free of controverse during his DTM tenure. With last years finale being more controversial than Abu Dhabi.

    So reservations should be held until we can see Wittich in action.

  41. Wittich has over eight years of experience as a race director for FIA-sanctioned series, most notably the German touring car championship the DTM.

    Where he made a mess last year when crashing your main adversary out of race gives only a nimble penalty. I have no good memories of Masi, but if this guy mantains his decision level none good will came from him.

    1. crashing your main adversary out of race gives only a nimble penalty

      So a perfect fit for F1?

      1. Lewis will like him!

  42. ABOUT BL00DY TIME!!!!
    Am not sure this is actually all Masi’s fault.
    Surely someone higher up the FIA foodchain should have injected some commonsense by instructing him to simply apply the written rule………ergo – cr@p upper management!!!

    Still should be time deleted/black & white flag followed by a drive-thru penalty for a driver where any part of the vehicle exceeds any [=all=every] white line.

    Slower times???

    1. All white lines is a bit excessive. Look at Bahrein and notice the lines that do not have a function in the race.
      So it’s only about the lines forming the borders of the racetrack.

Comments are closed.