Race start, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

Poor visibility in F1 car cockpits contributing to grid penalties, say drivers

2023 Australian Grand Prix

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The limited visibility within Formula 1 cars’ cockpits is part of the reason why two drivers have been penalised for failing to line up correctly at the start, say their rivals.

Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were given five-second time penalties for being in incorrect starting positions at the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian grands prix respectively. Both drivers fell foul of a revised rule for the 2023 F1 season which requires driver to position their cars between two lines in their grid boxes.

George Russell said it is “incredibly tough” for drivers to line up correctly in their grid boxes. “I think a five-second penalty for being laterally out is probably too harsh.

“We can’t see anything when we line up so yeah, the penalty needs to be reflected on the difficulty.”

The visibility in an F1 car is noticeably worse than in the machines raced in junior categories, said Logan Sargeant, who graduated to the series from Formula 2 this year.

“Coming from F3 and F2 where you can see everything, you can see the yellow line, it’s really easy to line the car up in the right spot.

“The first thing I noticed, the first time I lined up in a grid box in an F1 car, you can’t see anything. You can’t see any of the lines, so you have to take a marker on the wall to your right or left to know how far forward you can pull as well. So it is a lot more difficult and I’m not surprised that there are struggles.”

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Another driver racing in their first full season of F1 this year, Nyck de Vries, said “you literally can’t see anything” at the wheel.

“You park up but you kind of reference yourself to the car in front of you and then you kind of guess where you are. You can see the yellow line coming into it and then it disappears and you just hope you don’t exceed it too far. So it’s definitely very challenging.”

The grid boxes have been widened slightly for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, and a line has been painted down the centre of each to give drivers a better reference. While Alonso doubts this will solve the problem in all cases, Pierre Gasly thinks it will be an improvement.

“It’s one of the most stressful times of the race, to be fair. If you look back at the first two races of the year, two drivers got penalised. I don’t think this is necessary and I think it’s good we are increasing and just giving us slightly more space.

“It doesn’t really change anything for anyone, just making it slightly easier for us because the visibility from inside the cars is very limited obviously. And yeah, I think that’s a positive change.”

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2023 Australian Grand Prix

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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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8 comments on “Poor visibility in F1 car cockpits contributing to grid penalties, say drivers”

  1. Did it get more difficult to see out of the cockpit this season?

    1. No, but they enforced the rule more strictly.
      Last year they wouldn’t have cared about Alonso or Ocon’s position, now they’re basically asking the drivers to be more acurate but aparently it’s very hard even for the best drivers in the world so… yeah they need to come up with something to fix this.

      1. It feels to me like they are enforcing the wrong thing. Could a driver gain an advantage by lining up too far to one side or the other? Maybe the rule should be that the car is supposed to be the centre line for its box, but the stewards are given a generous allowance to exercise discretion. If they think a driver is positioning deliberately off-centre to try to intimidate another driver or to make it more difficult to pass on that side, that seems wrong. Maybe they should say that if a car starts slightly too far to one side of where it should be, but hasn’t gone any further to that side by the time it has reached the next pit box ahead, and provided the car hasn’t been so slow that another car has tried to pass it, then clearly the driver hasn’t been doing it for a tactical advantage, because they could have steered to that position anyway off the line, so no need to impose penalties.

  2. No, just that FIA has a burr for everything this season for some dumb reason.

  3. Also the cars were wider last season and some track still have the narrower track markings, so not helping.

    1. The cars weren’t wider last season.

  4. I’d hate to see this go like so many rules in F1, where abuse of the rule gets built into the mind set. i.e. the drivers are told to line up on the centre line and quite rightly say they cannot possibly position the car exactly. So the rules are changed to allow, say, one meter of tolerance. Then the designers immediately rush off and design a gadget which allows them to position the car accurately 99cm from the centre point and argue “the rules say we are allowed to be anywhere we like as long as it is within one meter”. Then when someone ends up 101cm from the centre line, they get penalised, and there will be all these bitter recriminations that he was just 1 cm too far over, JUST ONE CENTIMETER!!! and he loses his race win because of it. And they get the lawyers out and argue about it for a week. F1 looks very silly sometimes the way it argues about a car being one millimeter too wide, or having a fraction too much flex in a wing. It really does itself no favours.

  5. Any penalties should be successfully appealed on safety grounds. (Poor visibility). In fact any costs in repairing vehicles or replacing PUs should be excluded from cost cap.

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