Lando Norris, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2023

Austrian GP track limits farce was avoidable like ‘IndyGate’ and Spa 2021 – Brown

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 should have acted to prevent the farcical post-race situation which occured at the Austrian Grand Prix, says McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.

The result of the race was heavily revised five hours after the chequered flag fell after a dozen penalties for track limits breaches were applied retroactively. These were in addition to the eight penalties imposed on drivers during the race.

Brown pointed out many track limits breaches had occured during practice and F1 should have taken steps to avoid the situation which unfolded.

On Friday 47 track limits violations were reported during qualifying alone. It proved a sign of what followed over the rest of the weekend. Every single driver committed at least one track limits violation and nine picked up time penalties during the race.

Indianapolis, 2005
Feature: Indygate remembered, 15 years since F1’s six-car fiasco
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was penalised 30 seconds in total on Sunday for repeated violations, with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda copping 20s in track limits penalties. Six drivers were penalised 15s.

Aside from a few examples of drivers going wide at the downhill turn six left-hander in qualifying on Friday, all violations took place at the two high-speed right-handers that complete a lap of the Red Bull Ring. The potential advantage gained from running wide at the last corner meant in many instances a driver’s following lap time was also deleted.

The 34 violations in Friday qualifying translated into 47 deleted laps. One of Brown’s drivers, Lando Norris, was among the top offenders, along with Carlos Sainz Jnr. Sergio Perez was the most conspicuous culprit, failing to set a clean lap at all in Q2, where he was eliminated. Logan Sargeant and Charles Leclerc were the only two drivers able to stay within the track limits throughout.

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The following day there were 13 deleted laps from 11 violations in sprint race qualifying. In the rain-hit sprint race, where drivers were likely more keen to stay away from the slippery kerbs, just seven deleted lap times were registered.

Report: Farce and mockery – Belgian GP spectators react to F1’s Safety Car parade at Spa
However the number of infringements rocketed during the dry, 71-lap grand prix. A total of 130 lap times were deleted following 84 recorded violations. The majority of the 20 penalties were issued after the race because the FIA had over 1,200 potential infringements to investigate.

Speaking at his team’s British Grand Prix livery launch the following day, Brown said F1 should have taken steps to avoid the track limits problem escalating after noticing how many violations were recorded before the grand prix.

“I don’t think it will ever happen again. I tell everyone here at McLaren, mistakes are okay. Don’t make the same one twice. When I look back at it, drivers did have the option to stay on the track. Some of them did, or two guys did,” he told media including RaceFans.

“That being said, it’s also a unique track. I’ve never seen anything like that before, so I don’t think this is something that is an ongoing issue at other race circuits. I think it was specific to that one. So we need to look at how do you fix that?

“Where we need to do a better job is we knew this was going to be a problem on Friday.”

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Brown said the situation was comparable to two infamously farcical Formula 1 races. The 2005 United States Grand Prix, when the 14 cars using Michelin tyres withdrew over safety concerns and the race was contested by six cars on Bridgestone rubber, and the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, where half-points were awarded despite only a single lap being completed behind the Safety Car in extremely wet conditions.

“We knew Spa was potentially going to be a problem… on Friday,” said Brown. “And we just kind of watched it unfold.

“Dating back, I remember the other one was tyres at Indianapolis. We knew that was a problem on Friday, it was a big problem on Saturday, and we watched it unfold on Sunday.

“So I think where we need to do better as a sport is we all kind of thought what happened on Sunday [in Austria] could happen and yet we just watched it happen.”

The long delay in processing the track limits infringements shows new solutions are needed to speed up the process, says Brown.

“We need to look at various technologies because we were getting delays, there was like a five, six, seven-lap delay. So what do you do on the last lap if someone goes over the track limits?

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“There’s probably not enough technology that can move fast enough from identifying the issue to relaying it to the team, et cetera. So that’s why they were just rolling out all these deleted laps.

“What we need to do is make sure that never happens again, and then we do a proper debrief and understand how could we have prevented it in the first place or handled it differently.”

However Brown praised the FIA for acknowledging the problem and ensuring all the infringements were studied. “I’ll give hats off to the FIA for addressing the issue. It would have been easy to go ‘this is going to create a lot of noise, let’s just kind of get it right next time’.

“But for them to put their hand up, if you like, and say ‘yeah, there’s some penalties that need to be addressed’, I thought that was a bit of a brave decision.”

“But we can’t have it again,” he concluded. “We can’t have a race that four hours later you have that degree of change in the [results from] penalties.”

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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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54 comments on “Austrian GP track limits farce was avoidable like ‘IndyGate’ and Spa 2021 – Brown”

  1. A lot of the so-called “scandals” and “farces” in the history of this sport have been avoidable. However, to avoid them would require the participants to care even just a little bit, which is too much to ask, I suppose.

  2. Coventry Climax
    5th July 2023, 14:01

    Ofcourse it’s avoidable:

    With the white lines designated as a track’s limits by design, it’s rather silly they’re even allowed to go over it with a single wheel already, let alone two. The FIA should start by looking up the definition of the word ‘limit’.
    Always a wise choice, I’d say, to have a clear understanding of the actual words you’ll be using when creating a rule set. Saves nonsense speak like ‘the ultimate limit’. And discussions about it.
    Another wise choice and sensible thing to do, to me at least, is to make sure you have the means to transparently judge your own rules being followed or not, and have the means to act accordingly. They’d just be hollow threats otherwise. So, -and again my opinion- : Either come up with an automated system and/or put camera’s, overhead and inside, of EVERY corner. Oh, and then broadcast the undeniable proof when handing out penalties, instead of deciding on such things behind closed doors and after lengthy discussions between ‘experts’.
    Too much? Then don’t come up with such rules in the first place – unless you’ve fooled everyone and your primary goal is to maximise controversy.

    1. It’s not uncommon for the outside edge of a line to be considered the “limit” in other sports though. In tennis if the ball touches the line then you’re in. I’m all for a automated loop though with the bias being on drivers being immediately flagged and then requesting review if they disagree. How many people would you need to monitor 20 drivers across 10+ corners to rule on instantly.

      1. Coventry Climax
        5th July 2023, 18:00

        What I’m saying has nothing (= zero) to do with where the limit (infinitessimal thin line) is chosen to be located; inside, outside, halfway or whatever part of the white painted line. Yes, practical and common is outside of the painted line, but again, that’s just a choice.
        What I’m saying has everything to do with there being defined such a limit in the first place, with setting rules regarding being allowed to cross that thin line, and with the available means to monitor and enforce it.
        Read it again please.

        It’s like this: You design an island. By nature, it’s borders are water. So the limits of the island are where the water begins – no discussion possible. Rules for racing around the island are, amongst others, that getting wet is illegal; we’re racing on the island, right? No. The FIA comes up, after some 40 years, with a rule that says a minimum (and expect the FIA to redefine the word minimum as well, within a couple of years) of one wheel should stay on the dry. So now we have contradictory rules, great
        And then it turns out they don’t even have the people or technical means to monitor if cars get wet? And enforcing the rule and it’s penalty is open to -lengthy- discussion?
        Excuse me, but that’s plain amateuristic.

        1. Big discussion possible for the limits of an island.
          Do you take the limit at high tide or at low tide? And then which high or low tide?

          In the UK the limit of the isle of Bute is decided by how far the lord can throw a spear from horseback that is standing till its waist in the water.
          Its all arbitrary, a choice has to be made and participants will have to accept that choice.

      2. I’m all for a automated loop though with the bias being on drivers being immediately flagged and then requesting review if they disagree.

        This is what I think should be done too. There must be track limits, and F1 knew they would be going to this track since last year. I have no idea whether or not the limits used at the Grand prix were modified to suit F1 or not, but if F1 didn’t like the limits at their last visit there, then they should have requested they be changed. So the track must have limits, and for some reason those limits were what they were when the teams arrived. These same limits were programmed into each team’s simulator, so the drivers were able to practice driving the track as it would be when they arrived, so those limits weren’t a surprise.
        In every other sport if you go beyond those limits then you must expect some sort of penalty, and the same applies to F1. I’m told the drivers often play a charity game of football against one of the local teams when they arrive at a city. Does the referee ignore some of the rules of play at that game, e.g. off side rule, handling the ball, keeping the ball in play even though it went over the field boundary? No, I don’t think so. Every driver knows how to play soccer, and they know how to respect the white line that defines the field of play. Therefore it is reasonable to believe every driver also understands what the white line defining the track limits is for as well.

        1. Coventry Climax
          6th July 2023, 12:52

          The drivers understand alright, but the FIA doesn’t. They go back and forth; this corner not that one, during practice not during the race. You can’t blame drivers trying to take advantage of it, and certainly not when some get away with it when others don’t.
          It’s the FIA that created the mess in the first place, and fails to set it right in a decisive, professional manner.
          As usual, I might add.
          Oh, we didn’t see that coming. It’s your JOB to see things coming!

  3. Not a surprise then that redbull didn’t get any penalties despite Perez going in and out of track limits like a fiddlers elbow.

    1. Coventry Climax
      6th July 2023, 12:55

      Oh fo. You seriously expect the reverse to happen at Silverstone?

      There is no higher plan behind this, that’s the whole issue.

  4. These white lines have been a point of contention for years because drivers have gotten away with it for years.
    Now that they realize they are actually getting penalized, I’m pretty confident the drivers will actually manage to suddenly stay within the white lines next year.

  5. The fix is easy. Just put a live feed of all cars into Lando and Lewis’ cars and have the two of them report all of the violations. That is what they did all race anyway.

    1. LMAO.. if the drivers don’t correct their violations despite Lando’s and Lewis’ warnings, we need to send Sergio in to ‘intimidate’ them.

    2. Haha, they’d be onto it way quicker than Race Control.

  6. Every penalty could be avoided … if all rules were permanently ignored.

  7. The driver needs to get better, simple as that. People moaned about the old system where each track and corner had different limits and was confusing. Now they followed and standardized the rule for all tracks and people still moaned lol. People don’t know what they want.

    The drivers knew what the rule was, they know where the white line is. Either take a conservative line or get punished by penalties/lap deletions.

  8. Its nowhere near as bad a scandal tho. US GP farce transcended the sport. Track limits is just an argument that non motorsports fans won’t understand or care for, like offside in football

    1. Yellow Baron
      5th July 2023, 15:35

      Perhaps but it’s quite off putting. May as well call the track limits GP. It took the commentary ransom

      1. It took the commentary ransom

        I blame David Croft. I wonder if this is the real reason why Martin Brundle took the weekend off?

    2. The GP wasn’t a farce, Michelin was. They wanted F1 to install an extra corner because their product was bad. It’s so outlandish it’s a small wonder people still frame this as an F1 problem.

      1. The problem was the out right refusal to find a compromise, especially when it affected the majority of the grid affected (and it’s not like Michelin put the tyre together thinking “right, let’s make sure this doesn’t work on this one track”), which was very much an F1 problem.

  9. He’s right that FIA & FOM should be more reactive & proactive if something or a likely outcome becomes evident two days beforehand.

  10. The best natural solution is where we have gravel at the point where the track limit is reached. So either you stay within the limits of the track, or you dip a tyre in the gravel and naturally get a penatly anyway either through losing traction, spinning, or crashing. What we have at Austria is there is enough margin beyond the white line to keep your foot down before reaching the gravel. They either need to bring the gravel further towards the kerk/white line, or in instances of tarmac runnoff, create a narrow band of low friction surface (astroturf or something?) beyond the kerb where cars will naturally lose speed, but perhaps not lose control if safety/lack of runoff area is a factor. Make the track limits a physical deterant instead of a virtual one, then we wont need to worry about the white lines anymore.

  11. What’s the next avoidable crisis then, mystic Zak?

    1. Yellow Baron
      5th July 2023, 15:36

      New regulations intended to keep the teams close and make the cars easier to follow, which ultimately backfires.

    2. Yellow Baron
      5th July 2023, 15:37

      Or Christian Horner being given a microphone too often, not sure.

  12. Indy 2005 was unavoidable without breaching the FIA’s own rules.
    Spa 2021 was unavoidable without making a very last minute change to either hold or cancel the race earlier.
    This one, unlike the other two, was entirely avoidable. This was solely a series of poor choices by the drivers and not at all a technical misjudgement months prior, nor an ‘act of God’.

    If there is anything that should have been changed after Friday, it is that the drivers collectively should have been given a kick up the backside and a solid talking to. Especially by their own teams.
    Stronger penalties wouldn’t go astray either. A drive through penalty for each breach would work magic on their attitude to track limits. Wouldn’t take much more than that to miraculously raise the driving standards significantly.

    1. I thoroughly agree with you. COTD-worthy post.

    2. Absolutely. If the drivers had stayed on track, there wouldn’t be any track limit penalties .

      1. So what would happen if the drivers were affectively blinded? This is a very unusual situation that dismissively saying “the drivers should X” won’t resolve. Either a strip of fake grass or moving the rumble strips so the drivers only touch it if they go over the limits would help, as if you can’t tell you’re near or over the limit then the problem will simply continue (especially when the corner’s racing line takes you up to or over the limit naturally).

        1. There’s a big red and white serrated kerb right outside the track limit at both of those corners. They ran over them every single lap with at least two wheels and had their teeth and bones rattled each time.
          They’d have to be unconscious to not notice – and that’s a pretty dangerous state to be in while in a race car.

          You can’t honestly expect anyone to believe that the drivers didn’t know where the track limit was.

  13. F1 DID act – they penalized those that broke the rules – why is this debate still going on?

    1. The teams want to go back to before 2022 in regards to track limits.

    2. @ahxshades Good point. I think it’s because this debate isn’t really about what is or isn’t needed to deter drivers from breaching track limits. We all know what that would take. Like S says above, a drive-through for every track limits breach would surely reduce their number. It’s more a philosophical debate about what sort of sport F1 should be. Is it a sport that embraces the abstractness of white lines enforced by referees and penalties like most sports, or is it a sport that seeks to minimise artificial interference and embraces the physical challenge posed by the circuit and its environment?

      1. I appreciate the thoughtful counterpoint @markzastrow – thanks

      2. Is it a sport that embraces the abstractness of white lines enforced by referees and penalties like most sports, or is it a sport that seeks to minimise artificial interference and embraces the physical challenge posed by the circuit and its environment?

        What you’re essentially saying is “Should there be tarmac outside of the defined track?”
        And to answer “No” to this would simply be to the detriment of safety, the realities of commercial sustainability of the circuit and also basic common sense.

        I find it extremely abstract to consider a safety zone beyond the track primarily as a negative aspect.
        I also find it quite abstract that you don’t consider there to be both sufficient challenge and freedom within the defined circuit anyway. The track isn’t restricted to only one car width across at any point – there are a multitude of options to alter the driving line and make other driving decisions that don’t involve leaving the track altogether.

        Your philosophical ponderance comes across with the same flavour as those who suggest that car racing should be inherently (more) highly dangerous, and that motorsport has taken many steps backwards by improving safety (for competitors, staff and spectators alike) over the years.

        1. What you’re essentially saying is “Should there be tarmac outside of the defined track?”

          Wrong. There are plenty of physical solutions to this issue — discussed at length right here in the comments — that could well involve tarmac outside of the corners in question, including moving the white line to the outer perimeter of the kerbs or a strip of artificial turf a car width outside the white line and tarmac beyond.

          S, it’s quite a stretch to imply that I’m being callous about safety when the drivers are pleading for physical deterrents and the FIA and its race director are calling for gravel traps outright. The reason they are not there now is because it’s expensive to do so and has been deemed unsafe for bikes, not cars.

  14. First, I don’t think the Red Bull Ring is compatible with the modern F1 formula. If it were only a few drivers exceeding track limits, then maybe it’s a driver issue. But 20 drivers exceeding track limits? That’s a problem. Several years ago, at this track, limits weren’t as aggressively enforced, but the massive sawtooth kerbs were out there, ripping the cars to shreds– and well, that was the driver’s fault, because obviously, none of them wanted to finish the race.

    Now we’re told there were 130 lap times deleted following 84 “limit exceeded” violation– and that doesn’t even make sense.

    Austria has been a problem since it came back to the calendar– I think it’s too short, too twisty, for the long, wide, heavy (and very powerful) F1 cars of the modern era.

    Finally, there are transponders within each car, on the centerline. Put a freaking timing loop 1010mm past the white line on all problematic corners (It’s only 10 corners at the RBR anyway)– if transponder breaks timing loop, you have a violation– full stop. Race Control should be getting the notifications before the car’s back on the track.

  15. I’d give them free reign at certain tracks to go where they want, this being one of them. It would be hillarious used at the wrong circuits though, they’d just completely straight-line places like Paul Ricard haha, glad that’s not on the calendar anymore.

  16. None of these three events were farces.

    Indianapolis 2005 – Michelin made unsuitable tyres. How is that the FIA’s fault? It is only fair that the teams who chose the safe tyre supplier should be rewarded by getting to do the race. It may have been boring for fans but it was the right thing to do.

    Spa 2021 – the weather made the race impossible to run. Again, how is that the FIA’s fault? They tried to run the race but couldn’t, and again, as boring as it was for fans, no wrong decisions were made. The decision to award half-points was fine as well, as it would have been more unfair if all the qualifying laps from Saturday were nullified. And at least we got a very exciting qualifying session.

    Austria 2023 – a very clear set of track limit rules were laid out from the start of the weekend and the drivers failed to follow them. Again, there was no farce, the drivers broke the rules and were rightly punished. George Russell and Zhou Guanyu showed that it was perfectly possible to not go off track all the time. It would have been better if there was gravel there to eliminate the need to delete lap times, but if that is impossible due to bike racing then it is nobody’s fault but the drivers if they repeatedly exceeded track limits.

    A true farce is something like Abu Dhabi 2021, where the organisers broke their own rules. In none of the three aforementioned races did that happen.

    1. Is it really impossible due to bike racing that takes place 7 weeks later?
      It’s not the Red Bill Ring – they can afford to lay some gravel and take it away again.

      1. Placement of several concrete block is easily done and can be removed before bike racing. For some reason the champions wall in Canada is enough deterrent to maintain track limits. Same can be done where drivers have an inability to drive on the circuit as defined by a white line. If concrete is too much of a safety concern how about a string of Techpro barriers?

        Barriers can be placed 3/4 of a car width outside the white line to allow some margin of recklessness.

        1. For some reason the champions wall in Canada is enough deterrent to maintain track limits.

          That’s also placed at the exit of a low-speed chicane, parallel to the braking zone for that sequence.
          Not where cars can plough straight into it at high speed.

          Same can be done where drivers have an inability to drive on the circuit as defined by a white line.

          If they lack the ability to stay within the lines they shouldn’t be anywhere near the circuit, nor any car of any type.

          If concrete is too much of a safety concern how about a string of Techpro barriers?

          It’s been tried in other series – the barriers just end up being continuously nudged further away from the track limit until the race has to be stopped to put them back in the correct location.
          Add the fact that they cost a considerable sum of money and are completely useless after receiving a reasonable hit (and then become another wasteful plastic product that can’t be easily/economically recycled).

    2. Spa 2021 – the weather made the race impossible to run. Again, how is that the FIA’s fault?

      It was run to regulations, but the rather disingenuous attempt to “restart” after stringing people along for hours soured a lot of people on it regardless.

      That said, every time an F1 big shot brings up Spa 2021 as somehow a terrible race, they should be asked what they did to compensate the fans who sat in the rain for an entire day only to be bamboozled by the F1 collective and told that the “race” happened so… no refunds for you!

    3. @f1frog Agree about Indianapolis 2005, not primarily FIA’s fault.
      But Spa 2021 was a farce because of the deliberate attempt to fake a race when no racing was possible (presumably for commecrial reasons) and also the ridiculous awarding of points for a race that had no racing.
      Austria 2023 was foreseeable just as Brown says. And it was a total farce. Remember a few years back when Verstappen and Hamilton were racing, both exceeding the track limits and then halfway through the race the stewards ‘decided’ they’d actually do something about it? That’s arbitrary. Just as I continue to be baffled as to how 1000+ potential track violations didn’t actually see the whole grid disqualified. Because just a few proved to be actual violations or because they picked and chose which they’d count? If so, what were the criteria and how would the drivers know?

      1. This “impossible to race” annoys me, lower formulas run there and f1 used to run in conditions like this in the 90s: we’re the pinnacle of motorsport, we have the safest cars ever but we can’t race in heavy rain!

        I just hate that the classic spa wet races are a thing of the past, would be nice to see more instead of going back to the same ones.

        1. This “impossible to race” annoys me, lower formulas run there

          Yes, and just this week a driver died in those conditions.
          F1 used to produce a lot less spray and, as a result, visibility wasn’t such a problem then.

          If F1 wants wet races, they need to reduce downforce – especially that which is produced using airflow under the cars – and lower speeds.
          They’ve made their decision….

        2. Coventry Climax
          6th July 2023, 13:04

          @esploratore1 : You forget that the cars have changed over the years, as well as top speeds. That means the amountof spray has changed and visibility accordingly. That last word, visibility, should be the deciding factor, and getting that wrong – in favor of anything, over safety – results in tragic accidents like Dilano van ‘t Hoff’s.
          I’m all for rain races, but against willingly putting lives at stake.

  17. Formula 1 should have acted to prevent the farcical post-race situation which occured at the Austrian Grand Prix, says McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.

    Maybe the Team Principals should be telling their drivers to stay within the track limits at the briefing before they go out on the track.

  18. Biggest storm in a doll’s sized tea cup in F1 history!
    Note to Drivers & Team Principals. WHITE LINE. Delineates Track LIMIT.
    PAY ATTENTION. ALL 4 WHEELS must stay within Track Limit.

    Until & Unless the ridiculously small 5 second penalty. Is replaced with a 30 second STOP GO penalty the abuse will continue.

  19. Not a farce and the FIA did address it. They addressed it every time there was a violation. They enforced the rules: Drive between the white lines, or suffer a penalty for repeated infractions.
    Straight forward, simple, obvious, clear, equal. Job done. Excellent work FIA. Teams, stop moaning and do your jobs. For once the FIA did theirs. A little slow to be sure but they did it. Next time they can be quicker.
    It’d be even better to but a gravel trap right where a car would be in it if the opposite wheel went beyond the line.

  20. Note to Drivers & Team Principals. WHITE LINE. Delineates Track LIMIT.
    PAY ATTENTION. ALL 4 WHEELS must stay within Track Limit.

    Redefine – contact with the line is violation.
    Contact/pressure sensors in the line.
    Immediate feedback to the driver(s) in the corner at that time.

    Contrary to any suggestions that the tech for the contact might not exist – it has done since the 1970s, and it’s had 50-odd years of refinement, so it’s probably up to the job.

    And the circuits can keep the slabs of “safe” tarmac as is, so no whining possible there.

    1. That would require the tech to exist to put the sensors at the outer edge of the tyres, which definitely doesn’t exist yet. (The closest that can be done at the moment is to put sensors in each wheel hub).

      1. That would require the tech to exist to put the sensors at the outer edge of the tyres

        Er, I did say:

        Contact/pressure sensors in the line

        That’s in the line

        The pressure tech would be sensors akin to the ones in a typical set of digital bathroom scales, although I think they might go for something more upmarket than the tech in scales you can buy cheap as chips in Aldi/Lidl et al.

        Putting sensors somewhere other than the car means that if it works for one it works for all, and fails for all when it fails for one.
        Ultimate in fair fail.

        All the tech is in the stuff embedded in the track corner

  21. The FIA’s been addressing this for 18 months, reminders were issued before the weekend and after both qualifying sessions. Those who took extra liberties should not pretend to be surprised that there were consequences.

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