Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Red Bull Ring, 2023

Put the gravel back, FIA tells Red Bull Ring after 20 track limits penalties in race

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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The FIA has again urged the operators of the Red Bull Ring to install gravel traps at its final corners following an “unprecedented” spate of track limits offences.

Seven drivers received penalties for exceeding track limits at least four times. One, Yuki Tsunoda, was given a further penalty during the race for committing seven infringements.

Following the race Aston Martin lodged a protest claiming further track limits breaches have been overlooked. Race Control was already in the process of examining the track limits infringements which had occurred.

The eventually identified enough violations to issue a further dozen penalties to eight drivers. A total of 20 track limits penalties were therefore handed down during the race, five times as many as the year before.

An FIA spokesperson confirmed it had not been possible to investigate every possible track limits breach which was raised during the race.

“Due to the specifics of the circuit layout and the propensity of many drivers to repeatedly drive outside of the boundaries of the track, an unprecedented situation arose which resulted in all potential infringements not being able to be reviewed during the race,” said the spokesperson.

The FIA had “already begun a full review of the track limits infringements” before Aston Martin protested the result of the race.

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“During the grand prix, Race Control was tasked with reviewing well over 1,200 instances where a car was reported as potentially leaving the track.”

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Red Bull Ring, 2023
Gravel remains around other parts of the track
The spokesperson pointed out the FIA has previously urged the Red Bull Ring to install a gravel trap at the exits of turns nine and 10, where the majority of today’s incidents occurred.

“In order to address the issue for future events we will renew our recommendation to the circuit to add a gravel trap at the exit of turns nine and 10. We note that while this is not a straightforward solution in relation to other series that race here, it has proved to be very effective at other corners and circuits with similar issues.”

Turns nine and 10 were bordered by grass and gravel when the circuit was renovated ahead of its return to the F1 calendar in 1997. It was later turned into an asphalt run-off area, which allows cars to run wide more easily.

The circuit owners are understood to prefer this configuration as it allows the track to hold Moto GP races in addition to F1. However others in F1 have also called for a change to the run-off at the final corner.

“I think it made us as a sport look a bit – when you’ve got so many infringements – amateurish,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “I think [we need] a strip of gravel or something as a deterrent to run out there.”

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The lack of any physical deterrent for running wide makes it too easy for drivers to go beyond the track limits without realising, said Horner.

“The problem is it’s very difficult for the drivers because they can’t see the white line from the car so you’re just purely doing it on feel and the circuit invites you to go there,” said Horner, speaking before the post-race penalties were announced. “So I think that it’s something that needs to be looked at for next year to perhaps add more of a deterrent for the drivers to be drawn onto that part of the circuit.”

He believes a solution can be found to allow both F1 and Moto GP to race at the same track, as they do at several other venues.

“The argument is always the Moto GP, but I think you’ve got to have something that’s flexible purely for Formula 1,” said Horner. “We’ve got some very capable engineers in this business.”

“It’s very easy to say from a binary point of view, you’re in or you’re out, but I think that sometimes you’ve got to look at the characteristics of a corner as well,” he added. “For sure if there was a gravel line there the driver wouldn’t go there, wouldn’t be tempted to go there.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes F1 has a choice between taking a much more liberal approach to track limits or installing large ‘sausage kerbs’. The latter was used at the Red Bull Ring for a while, but removed due to the potential damage they caused.

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“Everybody is really in the worst possible situation,” said Wolff. “[There’s] the regulations and the race director and the FIA try to enforce them to the best of their ability. There’s a camera, there’s sensors, they spend some time looking at it. And we do the same back at base, we have somebody looking at the onboards, looking at the camera just to be sure that we are not penalised versus all the other teams.

“But for the fans and spectators and for the teams, the drivers, it’s super-frustrating to keep those penalties coming. There’s only two solutions. Either you come back to sausage kerbs that break the drivers and the cars – but then no one should complain – or you just remove them all and you let them race the fastest line. This is what Niki Lauda always said. You may come close to some of the rails.

“But we need to find a solution for the interest of the track – which is a super track and traditional track – and all the stakeholders. Because we want to achieve the same: Spectacular race that is not influenced by penalties that are given for the right reasons because the rules exist.”

The need to find a satisfactory solution was highlighted by the stewards when they confirmed the additional 12 penalties, five hours after the race’s completion. “The stewards very strongly recommend that a solution be found to the track limits situation at this circuit,” they noted.

Formula 1 announced today it had extended the Red Bull Ring’s contract to continue hosting grands prix until 2030, the second time this year it has agreed a new deal with the track.

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2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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53 comments on “Put the gravel back, FIA tells Red Bull Ring after 20 track limits penalties in race”

  1. If North American stadiums can go from a concert venue to a basketball venue to a hockey venue in consecutive nights, F1 should be able to figure out how to run Moto GP and F1 races weeks apart.

    1. Why? Liberty don’t own Dorna.

    2. It’s up to Red Bull to sort out their track, though. It’s not really an F1 issue.

      Wolff bringing up the sausage kerbs is a bit odd, especially when he adds nobody should complain if they bring them back. The whole issue people had with them was that they broke the cars and caused potentially more serious issues. As an example; at the WEC race at Monza last year they straight up launched a car into an aerial roll. These things are not fit for use in races with cars reaching speeds over 300km/h. And as Indycar demonstrated yesterday with Pagenaud’s crash, just because a corner is theoretically slower, it’s still possible for a racecar to be at higher than normal speeds.

      1. The idea of bringing back sausage kerbs is insane….. As I mentioned below – why cause a crash to put a car out of the race? If we’re saying “go wide and you’ll damage your car”, why not just say “go wide and we’ll black flag you.” Same result except there’s no risk of injury, there’s no changes needed to the track, there’s no repair bill….

        As for Toto’s other suggestion, if we’re going to say “don’t worry about the white lines – take whatever line you want through the corner”, does that mean they can ignore the first chicane at Monza and straight-line it?

      2. Wolff mentions the problem with the suasage kerbs and says they are not ideal.
        The present situation is ridiculous. Drivers can’t see the line and a poor handling car or one that understeers will always run off track at those points . F1 is over policed and is bordering on being a total farce with the current arrangement.

      3. F1 has some of the best engineers in the world. I’m sure they can come up with a solution that tracks like the Red Bull Ring could then implement.

        1. @g-funk the FIA has already been asking FIM – the equivalent body for motorcycle racing – whether they could adopt gravel traps at Turns 9 and 10 for two years now. It seems that part of the problem is that FIM is basically refusing to co-operate with the FIA over possible amendments to Turns 9 and 10.

      4. Funny how this track has been fine for decades but suddenly needs to be changed.

        1. It was never fine for decades. It was fine until they started to remove the gravel in the early 2000. I remember the the race in 2003 when there was no gravel in the first corner and no track limits either.
          Everyone was taking strange lines through there in qualifying and came dangerously close to the barrier.
          Than, when the track was reimplemented in the calender in 2014 it had the ugly orange sausage curbs that broke suspensions and soon where removed due to the teams the following we had a more lenient track limit policy that no one was happy about and now we have a very strict policy and yet still it is not working.

  2. RandomMallard
    2nd July 2023, 22:04

    @g-funk You make an excellent point. Alternatively, why can’t they just install a small strip of gravel on the outside of the corner, maybe a metre wide or so, and then leave the asphalt run-off after that? Enough gravel to prevent people running wide, but still plenty of asphalt to please FIM.

    1. Very good idea simple and the bike can drive behind it!

  3. What about just make the track larger in that area?

    1. What makes you think the drivers unwilling to respect the current limits of the racing surface would be willing to respect any other line you would draw?

      1. If you make it wide enough they will respect it because if they went too wide they’d just be losing time. As it is you carry less speed to stay on the track especially at the last 2 corners.

        1. Really? At the exit of a corner? Have we all forgotten this complete and utter clown-show nonsense?

          1. @proesterchen:
            While it looks really silly because of the acres of asphalt run off… It’s also effectively simple at the same time. By just not policing it it becomes the same for everyone. No advantage to be had, no whining on the radio, no finishing the race in court…

          2. @baasbas

            The problem with this approach is that the size of the runoff and choice of energy-absorbing material is calculated to the racing line. If you change the racing line, you void those calculations and the resulting FIA circuit license.

          3. @proesterchen Well, @esploratore1 is right. I far prefer the example of IndyCar’s approach to track limits that you posted than F1’s.

  4. There’s no reason track limit violations can’t be automated and instant. I’m sure this would help with driver feedback. But yes, it is more of an issue at Austria. The bikes don’t like gravel which I understand to be why it was removed on safety grounds. Tracks get used outside of F1 and F1 track limits aren’t a safety issue.

    My thoughts this weekend have been just combine 9 and 10 into 1 big sweeper. I know there are barely any corners already but… seems fun. It’s safer (pit lane entrance should be moved anyway imo) and having effectively a (longish) double apex is in reality a single corner anyway.

  5. Gravel does not belong on race tracks used by cars.

    That’s been clear for 3 decades now, that’s why we have asphalt run-offs.

    1. @proesterchen Well, gravel is still used in many places.

      1. Unfortunately, yes. Worse, circuit designers have been adding gravel back to replace the safer asphalt runoffs.

        And then you see accidents like Simon Pagenaud’s this weekend and cannot not be reminded how terrible an idea gravel is for cars.

        1. @proesterchen
          I saw that, happy he’s ok. Looked wildly spectacular. But having seen that I believe it is too simple to only just blame the gravel for it. Also, that is a corner where no driver would want to venture wide anyway because the is no time to be gained.
          I feel there is no ‘blanket solution’. Every corner needs it’s own solution. I like this a lot, for example:

          A piece of tarmac for if you initially overshoot the corner.. maybe brake failure, whatever. But the more inner part of the corner is gravel. You can only hit the gravel if there at least was some speed lost.. otherwise you would go straight. And with the reduced speed there is less chance of a barrel roll like Pagenaud. But still the benefit of a natural penalty so no one will try to cut the corner

          1. Agreed, if one desperately wants gravel near a track, putting it out of the way of any out-of-control car at the end of a straight is mitigating some of its known issues.

            They put in a similar solution at T1 with the revamp, unfortunately, most other corners around Zandvoort still have large gravel traps that don’t have similar asphalt areas.

        2. Extremely strange choice of accident to back your point.

          The gravel made the car dissipate the energy in multiple smaller hits while rolling.

          With a brake failure and very likely broken suspension from landing on the concrete, the car wouldn’t shed much speed resulting in a huge hit into the tyres which is potentially much more dangerous.

  6. The only benefit to having gravel is that drivers would actually respect track limits. The downsides are that you’re increasing the risk of injury if someone goes off, gravel can get dragged back onto the track causing a safetycar and it causes problems for track owners when they want other series to race there.

    If we’re proposing ideas like gravel or kerbs designed to damage cars, why not just strengthen the penalties instead? How about if you go off the track and doing so wasn’t influenced by another car pushing you wide, that’s 1 strike. Do it again and it’s strike 2. Do it once more and that’s it – black flagged.

    The drivers are all more than capable of keeping the car on the track but they think they can get away with it so they don’t bother. They leave no room at all for error and if they go off, so be it…. If they were all told “3 strikes and you’re out” before the race started today, I can guarantee that not a single driver would have left the track more than twice.

    There’s no reason to put things on the exit of the corner that could cause a crash – it increases the risk to the marshals, potentially to spectators and certainly to other competitors on the track. Instead of putting drivers out of the race via a crash, just tell them to park the car up in the garage instead.

    For all the whinging that is going on from the drivers and teams, it wasn’t the track that made F1 look amateurish today. It wasn’t the weather. It wasn’t the cars or the lack of a gravel trap. It was the drivers. If they aren’t capable of driving an F1 car and keeping it between the white lines, maybe they should try their hand at an easier series?

  7. Why not work out where the optimal (fastest line) is and then paint the line there?

    1. Sam Crawford
      3rd July 2023, 1:39

      Because then they’ll exploit that too, and you’ll have have to move the line again, until every corner is a perfect sweeping 90° curve and we’re running on ovals

      1. I don’t understand, I like his idea, if they make the optimal line the track limit, there’s no incentive for drivers to go wide because they’d lose time.

    2. It’s a corner onto a straight. The optimal line is to open it up as much as possible by running as wide as possible.

      These drivers are out there (and routinely over) because that’s said optimal line.

      If you made the corner 1m wider, they’d all be 1m further out. Make it 1m tighter, they’d all be 1m further in. It’s not the corner that’s the problem.

      1. @proesterchen Clearly not the case. Think about it: there’s an optimal line between the minimum (inside of the corner) and, say, an infinite outer edge. In the corners at Austria we’re talking about, that optimal line is undoubtedly not infinite but somewhere between the track and the available off-track tarmac. At some point going wider will be slower, simply because you’re covering more ground.

        1. @david-br Indeed. Moving the track edge further leftwards at the last two corner exits, i.e., further away from the current normal exit acceleration points, would help the situation.

        2. Any extra ground will be more than negated by the higher minimum corner speed and resulting higher speeds down the following straight. Basically, you have to look at the elapsed time from the breaking point before the corner (T10, in this case) all the way through to the breaking point for T1, as that’s what drivers are going to optimize for.

          And that’s why all drivers are out there in the first place.

  8. John Ballantyne
    3rd July 2023, 3:56

    A TV presenter was attempting to explain why the published race results differed so widely from the actual observed results. he finally gave up admiting that he couldn’t explain it.

  9. In a world where tennis uses Hawkeye, Cricket uses DRS, Football uses VAR; why does FIA forces its series to live in the past!!

    Why can’t they tell circuits to install sensors to detect such infringements and automatically apply penalties? ‘Do not cross white lines with all 4 wheels’ is a black and white rule and can be automatically enforced using sensors and technology. It shouldn’t require intervention by race control or stewards.

    This is not a track limits problem. It is an FIA problem where they are stuck in the past

    1. Why can’t they tell circuits to install sensors to detect such infringements and automatically apply penalties? ‘Do not cross white lines with all 4 wheels’ is a black and white rule and can be automatically enforced using sensors and technology. It shouldn’t require intervention by race control or stewards.

      Drivers interviewed after the race were saying that by the time they had feedback about the specific offence on a specific corner, they were so many laps further on that they couldn’t recall what they did on that corner for that lap.

      The stewards need to feed back details of the (alleged) offence much sooner.

  10. Instead of gravel, put some slippery surface material such as that used in Bahrain, as that’s effective, or alter the last two corners by making them slighter in radius, which would follow the cars’ natural trajectory & thus help with staying on track.
    Moto GP could also simply stop racing at Red Bull Ring or generally sharing tracks with F1 despite having a right to race where they want, like all circuit-racing categories & or motorsport form ones, for that matter.

    1. I watched the race from 2015 to see why it wasn’t a problem back then… and it is because there is grass, or artifical grass at he outside of the track… problem solved

    2. You don’t think that the Red Bull Ring itself has a reason it wants Moro GP there? A single F1 race does not guarantee financial security!

      My solution would be to make the rumble strips about a 10th of their current width, then 3 times wider than now, have a section of very very grippy and abrasive tarmac / paint (like at Paul Ricard) that will take at least a lap of life away from your tires. Then watch them never dare touch it when the potential performance loss is much more significant.

  11. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    3rd July 2023, 8:17

    Many years ago the last two corners used to be a single sweeping corner with an Armco barrier at the edge of the track. I know this can never come back, but a big part of me would love to see a race with that layout now.

    I think I’ll ask Mr Chat GPT what the answer is…

  12. It’s broken and needs fixing. Bottom line is: the gamble pays off

    A popular opinion here is the ‘just stay within the line’ retort. But that is just silly. Going as wide as possible yields valuable time, especially on a short track where they are naturally close anyway. Throwing a car through a corner gives a variance. A slight change of wind, a couple degrees of tire temp, maybe a hint of disturbed air off another car, more rubber on the track, a degree extra track temp, a slightly different bounce off a bump… and the car will go an inch wider or less wide. When the time is there to gain and with the variance of the corner it just makes it a gamble. And because it pays to gamble, they do, others do, so they have to. Chuck it into the corner with a 50/50 chance of being legal.. and actually make it means all your competitors also need to make the same gamble.. So we and up having to endure this beep-show on the timing screens… It sucks. Now during the race it is made worse by the fact you have multiple jokers where you are free to go wide. Not using them is silly. And when you do get that penalty, well, so does everybody else so that nullifies the penalty. And on some other tracks we have seen in the past an overtake where the marginally faster car went off the track to complete the move. They won’t give the place back but instead take the penalty.. why? Again, because it pays off.

    What they could do is paint the white line wider there, but I’m not a fan of that. The pro would be it would be the same for everyone, no policing needed. The con would be, it would just change the track. So I’d advocate for a natural penalty. Like a strip of astroturf. Or a guardrail/barrier. Removable to accommodate whatever other series maybe, if needed. The pro would be that still no policing is needed, but mainly it changes the stakes of the original gamble. Just make the gamble not worth it. Go too wide now and actually lose time or even damage the car. It can be a good thing. Just think of Verstappen in Monaco touching barriers or that shot of Alonso tapping the wall in Canada. Or that one Q3 final lap from Verstappen in Saudi Arabia 21 where he went all in and it didn’t pay off.

    1. When the time is there to gain and with the variance of the corner it just makes it a gamble.

      It’s not gambling when the odds are controlled entirely by the competitor.
      Think about these two outcomes of for a moment and ask yourself which you’d rather take, and you’ll understand why this really is as easy at it sounds.
      – Push 101% for the final millimetre and maybe you’ll gain an extra 1/10th of a second.
      – Slow down a touch, stay between the lines, sacrifice the tenth and there’s no risk at all.
      That 5 second penalty costs as much as ‘sacrificing’ that corner 50 times…

      Just make the gamble not worth it.

      Drive through penalty for each offence? Not too many drivers would consider that a risk worth taking, right?
      Unfortunately, this is F1 – where penalties are seen as an attack on the perpetrator who broke the rules (sorry, the ‘victim’) and a weakness of the system, and not as a lack of sporting talent or a poor risk assessment.

      1. @S:
        I meant a gamble in the sense of chucking the car into the corner and having a 50/50 of it being legal. The fact others do it and get away with it means you’re forced to gamble too. The odds are not entirely controlled by the competitors, they contribute, with dirty air. But a gamble nonetheless.

        I agree a direct drive through penalty would for sure reduce the amount of offenses during a race, probably not so for quali though. Still, by raising the stakes you’d be amplifying the stewarding and that is inconsistent already. With higher stakes we’ll for sure see more legal action after the race etc. While a viable option, I’d rather see it simplified… enormously. Even if you’d automate it with camera’s or some hawk eye system like with tennis, no policing of track limits makes it so much better. I don’t want to watch an exciting battle and then turn to the VAR to see if it was legal afterwards. For me it is clear it needs simplicity.

        1. With higher stakes we’ll for sure see more legal action after the race etc.

          There’s no course for legal action – this is a privately run racing series, and the competitors have all agreed to abide by the rules and the decisions of the administrator – in F1’s case, the FIA.
          Any teams who were upset would only be arguing with the FIA in the FIA’s ‘court’ – and generally, with little to gain from doing so.

          Even if you’d automate it with camera’s or some hawk eye system like with tennis, no policing of track limits makes it so much better.

          That’s not my idea of better. That’s just taking away the challenge of driving a defined racing track as fast as possible within the rules – simply by not having rules anymore.
          Without a defined track and consequences for leaving it, basically anyone could drive it at the same speed as there’s no longer a high demand for skill or finesse required – ‘When you don’t like where the track goes, just go somewhere else’…

          Having a defined track (with white lines) is a basic as having a start line and a finish line (which are also white lines). Would you advocate for ignoring or removing those too?

          I don’t want to watch an exciting battle and then turn to the VAR to see if it was legal afterwards. For me it is clear it needs simplicity.

          The simplest thing to do is make sure to stay on the track.
          Since there is no way to stop time and it’s somewhat impractical to stop the race while each decision is being made, I guess you’ll just have to accept the compromise that the correct decisions (on all types of infractions, not just track limits) take time while the competition continues in parallel.

          1. @S:
            Of course there is. They can take it up to CAS. Most likely though as with politics, a team will use it as a threat to put pressure.

            No it’s not the simplest thing to do or have you not watched this weekend? If it was there would not be that many infringements. Sure, have a dig at some drivers and their skill set racking up a heap of penalties. When there are a few infringements you can chalk it up to driver/situation. When it’s 1200+ there is a fundamental problem and you need a different approach.

            Look, we’re not going to agree on anything, I feel. Which is fine. It just comes down to personal preference. It basically comes down to what you want to see. If you don’t change anything physically but only through detection and punishment, you’ll end up with policing being necessary. And there will be penalties. The problem with these penalties is they are postponed. Some are served during the race (many laps later), some are not at all and time will be added at the end. To me that is a mess and not very pleasing to watch.

            I prefer a physical solution for that problem/corner. Did you go off? Then you lost speed going onto the straight. Penalty is instant. Did you hit a barrier? Is you car still fine, then you were lucky. Did you damage your suspension? End of race for you.

  13. It’s been obvious for years that the best solution is a natural barrier of either grass or gravel, less then a cars width from the white line. You could have tarmac after that if it’s deemed to be safer. It seems there are some who would be happy with painted lines in a giant carpark as long as they “keep it between the lines”

  14. Gravel traps arn’t the answer in this case as they tend to cause more problems then they ‘prevent’ on corners like Turn 10. I’d suggest widening the red and white part of the kerb so that the outer wheel only touches the rumble strip beyond it if the car is going out of track limits.

  15. Facts&Stats
    3rd July 2023, 11:22

    “The problem is it’s very difficult for the drivers because they can’t see the white line from the car so you’re just purely doing it on feel

    It’s amazing that gravel improves the eyesight of drivers.

  16. This is the same FIA that threw a red flag because a car went through the gravel this weekend & didn’t even get beached?
    Just how many times do they want to red flag races, or have VSC’s and safety cars, because that’s what gravel traps lead to … that and days where half the fields don’t finish again.

  17. Get some paint, widen the white line to a point where there’s no benefit going beyond it, let them race.

    1. I think that’s the wrong way to go… don’t change the track to the cars/drivers, they should just stay on track.
      the track is the track, (drivers) live with it

  18. Carless0664 (@)
    3rd July 2023, 12:54

    A simple, cost effective solution would be to put up on Turn 4 and Turns 9 & 10 those upside-down T-shaped concrete barriers. Call them The European Walls of Champions, like the wall at the exit of the last corner at the Montreal circuit. That way the circuit could stay the same for other series and I am certain a set of walls would nip that track limits problem in the bud. Sure it would look ugly but it would be no different from all the street circuits every racing series is so happy to do. It would also provide more space for advertising banners.

  19. Just make the penalties 20 seconds and watch drivers suddenly learn to stay on the course.

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