Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Losail International Circuit, 2023

Drivers criticise “joke” track limits after 51 infringements in Qatar Grand Prix

Formula 1

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Formula 1 drivers voiced their displeasure over the enforcement of track limits after another spate of penalties in the Qatar Grand Prix.

A total of 51 infringements occured during the race, more than any round this year besides the Austrian Grand Prix, where 83 were recorded.

Four drivers – Sergio Perez, Alexander Albon, Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly – received multiple penalties for repeatedly exceeding track limits at different points around the circuit.

Stroll, who collected two five-second penalties for five separate infringements and missed out on scoring his first points since the summer break as a result, was furious over the rigid enforcement of the track boundaries.

“It’s a joke that they’re giving penalties for this,” said the Aston Martin driver. “They don’t understand what Formula 1 is these days.”

The track limits were revised after the first day of running at the Losail International Circuit in order to discourage drivers from running on kerbs at turns 12 and 13, which were believed to be causing tyre damage.

Stroll said the difficulty of staying within the lines given the huge physical demands drivers experienced during the race was too great.

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“What they’re putting us through, giving us track limit penalties and they’re making the track narrower and then saying we can’t over kerbs because the tyres are failing if we do… I think the track limit thing is something that just has to be addressed,” he said.

“We’ve seen Austria, we’ve seen this weekend, just people getting penalties and it’s not like we’re gaining an advantage when you’re going off the track by three mil and 60 laps of concentration in 65, 70-degree temperatures in the car with five, six-and-a-half G.

“That’s the frustrating part. We hustled out there and I felt like we drove a good race to finish ninth on the road and then 11th in the points with two penalties. It’s really a frustrating result to not get anything out of it.”

Perez said he found it “impossible to see” whether he was within track limits or not. “I was taking so much margin, giving up so much lap time for it but I still got more. For me it was very difficult to judge.

“There were drivers who were able to do it so I don’t think I did a good enough job in that regard. But I think also it was a joke what we ended up doing with track limits.”

He said the late change to track limits at turns 12 and 13 had made it even more difficult to stay within the lines. “I think it’s really bad that we come up with a solution last-minute and then police it that bad and start giving penalties away,” said Perez.

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Several drivers highlighted the extremely tough conditions they experienced during the race. Charles Leclerc agreed this made it harder to stay within the track limits.

“We are speaking about centimetres at 280 kph,” he said. “In qualifying, when we are fresh, it’s difficult to respect them. But then in the race, it’s just a nightmare at the end of the race.

“So, maybe there are things that we could do because these cars now are so quick in the high-speed so when you are doing quali laps after quali laps, the G-forces we are going through for 57 laps with this heat is crazy.”

Esteban Ocon picked up a single infringement on his first lap of the race, then recalled his experience in Austria where he was found to have exceeded track limits multiple times after the race and given four penalties. After that he avoided picking up another.

“I had the one lap on the race,” the Alpine driver explained. “I was like, if we start like that, that is going to be a pain.

“I got a snap mid-corner and I went wide. After that I think I stayed really clear. I was not even touching the white line any more, just staying mid-track to make sure something like Austria doesn’t happen.

“After landing in Austria, that’s when I got the news, so I’m going to land and we keep in touch.”

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2023 Qatar 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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49 comments on “Drivers criticise “joke” track limits after 51 infringements in Qatar Grand Prix”

  1. I’ve been unable to grasp why the white lines have not been equipped with some sort of slight rumble strip on it. Is it because of it wearing down too much during the race? Surely there must be a way to give drivers some more tactile feedback?

    Gravel is also a solution, however not always an option with a MotoGP track, and sometime this leads to unsatisfactory results as well.

    1. You know this track limits circus is a symptom of boredom. What was it 2019 it began to creep in? And 2020 it was on and by that point it caught on and became popular to talk about especially because of Merced winning their 6th and 7th.
      It’s boring that at some track especially and most tracks at least on one corner it’s constantly talking about especially in qualifying. It’s boring pedantic just lame. Let’s cal it formula track limits shall we?
      Prior to a few years ago it was a none issue and just not even talked about because it didn’t matter. You can’t overtake off the track and leave it at that. Simple
      I mean look at some races even back in the Ferrari dominance era, the “track limits” at some tracks were two car length of track…

      And ykow what, nobody cared!

      Because the engines were loud, the cars were light, the tyres were not garbage, there was no drs and the racing, albeit with big gaps it was much more pure..

      Track limits track limits 🎶🎶🎶🎶

      The track limits brigade is a symptom of issues that go much further than than two long white lines.

      I deeply wish for F1 to split or Atleast some new series to form as it’s rival with a leader that know what actually racing fans want to see, some civil and pragmatic with an eye for reality and purity of racing. Won’t happen, there’s way too much that goes into it.

      But I know I’d rather see 8 races a year of that, than 24 F1 races

      1. People definitely cared back then.

      2. I’m not sure what you were doing, but many people cared a lot. There was constant criticism of the officials for not enforcing track limits, or for being so inconsistent with enforcing them.

        At least we now have consistency. You leave the track in qualifying, you have your tone deleted. You leave the track too often in the race, you get a penalty. This is known and followed at every grand Prix. IMHO this is far better than previously.

        1. @drmouse Unfortunately we do not have consistency – one of my relatives spotted at least five infractions this race that didn’t make the official list, as it appears the stewards mostly gave up after a certain point.

    2. I’ve been unable to grasp why the white lines have not been equipped with some sort of slight rumble strip on it

      There already are rumble strips in use at racetracks.

      They are called – kerbs.

      people getting penalties and it’s not like we’re gaining an advantage when you’re going off the track by three mil

      The thing is, you (the drivers) had a solid 2 METERS of penalty free space to use beyond the white lines.

      So stop with the “we are not gaining an advantage” bs.
      If you were not, you would not be doing it.

      Otherwise, races at places like Monaco and Singapore would not have been possible.

      1. Agreed: these are supposedly the best drivers in the world. If they were not getting an advantage, they would not be doing it.

        It may be that the advantage didn’t come from exceeding limits directly, but from not having to leave as much margin for error. However, this is still equivalent to me. They could drive with the intention of, say, keeping all 4 wheels inside the white line. That way, if they misjudged it they’d still be inside track limits. However, that would be slower, therefore not doing so is an advantage, and hence they are gaining an advantage by occasionally leaving the track.

        1. @drmouse However, they are the world’s best drivers all expected to compete under conditions of severe dehydration. Nobody can be expected to follow these regulations in that state, so if the farce of holding the race in these conditions is to continue, expectations have to be adjusted downwards accordingly. After all, severe dehydration does cause a combination of vision problems, reduced co-ordination and false confidence in one’s own abilities, all of which will increase the amount of accidental errors and none of which can be trained or practised away.

    3. This track has some extreme versions of rumble strips already. However, severe dehydration would have made these more difficult to sense. I get the impression that this race should have been stopped early because of significant numbers of drivers having been put in danger due to the weather.

    4. I think the smaller drivers had serious problems to see the lines while you see the lines in front but during the corner they lose sight of those lines. But during the race after everyone got really hot and dehydroated the brains doesn’t functions not at 100% anymore and you will see errors coming from the drivers.

  2. Nobody cares about this.

    They should install gravel traps or drop these silly penalties altogether. It doesn’t have any effect on the racing and it’s clear they cant monitor this fast enough.

    1. I accept I am a nobody in the grand scheme of things, but I do care about it.

      Personally I do not feel that drivers should be able to choose a line they prefer with total disregard for track boundaries. With that in mind, one problem (as I see it) is anything other than strict rule enforcement would see some form of overly convoluted set of rules and conditions. Examples include, allowing a car a leeway of a number centimeters (in which case they would need to redraw the line to make the transgression clear, which in turn, drivers would go over). Or performing an assessment of gain or loss of lap time (which is probably doable, but still realistically overly complex).

      The simple reality is that the drivers have a choice. They leave a margin in the hope that they have not compromised their pace too much, or they push the limits and accept the potential for a penalty.

      I know some would argue that these restrictions prevent drivers from pushing. But the reality is the drivers can only push up to the limits that physics allow and still navigate the corner. So the same really applies whether the determining boundary is the line, or the physical track boundary.

  3. Without track limits there is no “passing off the track”, “not leaving room”, and “he forced me off”. There is no OFF the track without track limits. Put concrete walls up and see if they can stay on the track.

    1. At least you can see a wall – the lines are invisible from the cockpit of these machines

  4. I can understand why they have track limits on the inside of the corners. If you go over the track limits on the inside, you’ve taken a shortcut, and I think it should be a slam-dunk drive through penalty on the very next lap, no arguments, no tactical time penalties.

    But why penalise them for running wide over the outside of corners. As long as they get back on track in time to get round the inside of the next corner, what does it matter if they take a slightly longer route to get there? Some of the most exciting shots in F1 have been the sight of a car coming round a corner onto the main straight, running wide, kicking up dust and grass, fishtailing around, and the driver keeping it under control nevertheless. We never used to think that was a problem, so why now? If you think ruunning makes the corner too easy, put fierce kerbs around the outsides. Kerbs can be bolted into place so that they can removed easily for bike events. Or go the whole hog and put a wall there. But please let’s get away from this nonsense of drivers getting warnings and penalties.

    1. If you think ruunning makes the corner too easy, put fierce kerbs around the outsides.

      They did that, and then complained about the kerbs damaging the cars and causing other safety concerns…

      Take away track limits, and they’ll just complain that it’s so dangerous that they’re racing so fast so close to the walls and something needs to be done about it – for their safety.

    2. Running wide over the outside of corners can provide a slingshot advantage.

    3. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      9th October 2023, 7:23

      Drivers often have the opportunity to carry more speed round the previous corner if they run wide after it so it still often is a benefit for drivers, so it being penalised makes sense.

    4. A driver can take the corner significantly faster if they ignore track limits on the exit of a corner. It widens the track, reduces the steering angle needed, etc. If you completely ignore it, the drivers will make their own track, running potentially meters outside the white lines because that is far faster than staying on track would be.

    5. THANK YOU!!! Someone else who thinks the same as me! That’s how it was in the old days. Everyone was allowed to do it so running wide did not benefit one driver more than the other more than the car and/or driver’s capabilities.

      It avoided all this over regulated nonsense of huge penalties for the smallest of advantages gain (whilst the same 5 second penalty is given for causing collisions).

      If it’s wide, let the penalty slide! If the corner is cut, the penalty is a must!

      Same wide corner non-penalty applies for all drivers in the same way the same corner cutting penalty applies for all drivers. It all balances out. There is a problem in regulating taking corners wide. Not so for cutting corners.

      I can’t believe the noise this non-issue of running wide is causing. It’s a bad look for F1.

      1. Hey, let’s do that with all of them. Who cares if a driver jumps the start, or exceeds the pit lane speed limit. They can all do it, so it’s the same form everyone.

        Heck, let’s go further. Who cares about the technical regulations. Just let them build whatever car, whatever engine they like. They can all do it, so it’s the same for everyone.

        1. Drmouse, you know very well that no-one is saying that we should throw out all rules. Asking for a better, more-consistent, and more easily understood interpretation of one rule is a very reasonable thing to ask for and discuss.

          1. Yes, I was being facetious.

            However, I don’t understand why you think that drivers should be allowed to drive off the track and gain an advantage from it. If you think they should be able to run wider out of the corners, why not just move the white line further out? Or remove it altogether? And why is it OK to take a faster line on the outside of corners but not the inside?

            The drivers can stay within the lines. When there is a wall at the edge of the track, they do. What’s the problem with insisting they stay within the track?

          2. Dr Mouse, the difference to me is that cutting the inside of the track cuts into the length of the lap, (as measured in kilometers) and I feel that is a well defined limit. I don’t have a problem with tracks which have a wall on the outside of the curve, like the wall of champions at Canada for instance, or the walls around Monaco, and I don’t think there is a problem with the gravel run off that Alonso struggled through yesterday. The problem I have with white lines on top of perfectly good tarmac is that you then need stewards to police it fairly throughout the event, and not only do they not do that, but it is also opaque to the fans who have no idea who is being penalised when or why, and the penalties are artificial, five seconds added to the time rather than any on-road consequence that makes sense to the viewer. If you want drivers to go between white lines, put a wall there, put a styrofoam barrier there, put track sensors there to limit engine power, but do something which has immediate unarguable consequences, not something that happens three laps later after the stewards have looked at replays from all angles.

          3. @drmouse
            Why? Simply because the cure is worse than the disease. The current cure for running wide is horrible while the solution is very simple. Just don’t police it.
            No one will gain an advantage since it’s the same for everyone.

  5. “There were drivers who were able to do it so I don’t think I did a good enough job in that regard.”

    This is all that needs to be said about it.

    The joke is that people still think these are the best drivers in the world. They’ve truly embarrassed themselves on multiple occasions in the last couple of years with repeated poor driving standards.
    Why can’t they just slow down to make sure they stay on the track? Of course they can – they just don’t want to. That is enough reason to penalise them.

  6. I’m sure half the field managed to stay within the lines. Typical excuses from drivers who aren’t good enough. Kerbs were never meant to be taken. Before they were flattened, kerbs had literal raised sections that cars had to climb if they wanted to take it. They were later flattened due to safety concerns. This is the perfect compromise. Kerbs are safe and you are allowed to drive outside the line 3 times.
    If you’re worried that you’ll exceed track limits, then drive slower through the corner.

    1. @hatebreeder It was the sheer guesswork a lot of people were objecting to.

      1. @alianora-la-canta, I think part of the reason why it appears to be guesswork is that they give drivers warnings first, and that is not transparent to the spectators or TV audience. We rarely know about those. So we see what appears to be clear transgressions which seem to have gone unnoticed by the stewards, and then, out of the blue, a different driver gets a penalty because unknown to us he has been warned three times already, and then we hear his radio protests that he is totally innocent and he was pushed wide and the wind caught him and the driver ahead of him took the same line and didn’t get punished, so it all looks worse than it probably is. I’m not diminishing the problem. I’m saying the FIA needs a better way of dealing with it than having stewards constantly interfering.

        1. In this case, I don’t think it was down to warnings. The drivers cannot see where the white line is, so normally there is some sort of raised kerb to give them feedback. In this case, especially where they moved the track limits to try to mitigate the tyre issues, there was no such feedback and so they struggled to be able to tell when they were going over.

          1. Yes, I think it quite crazy that the drivers cannot feel the edges. If you touch a rumble strip on a motorway or dual carriageway, you get such a clear indication of where you are. In an F1 car, visibility is so bad, and I sympathise with drivers who don’t know they are going over lines. If it was a proper rumble strip, they would know.

        2. AlanD, apparently you missed the memo where the drivers were expected to race under conditions of severe dehydration. Warnings are no help if one cannot see the white lines, or cannot co-ordinate enough to avoid them, or simply think the line is somewhere else. With everyone in authority acting as if everything was perfectly fine when it was not, a combination of contracts, instinct and that false confidence from the severe dehydration all point to drivers continuing despite being unable to comply with the regulations.

          1. Alianora, I think the race conditions were pretty bad, but I think we’d have had all these white line shenanigans anyway.

          2. Care to explain what they were up to in Austria, then?

  7. To everyone saying “people would run wide in the good ol’ days and it wasn’t a problem”: you’re right, back then a driver would run wide every now and again (not on purpose) however I’d like to thank the “Verstappen generation” of drivers who perhaps in their esports racing discovered this bad habit of basically cheating and now we’re forced to enforce track limits. A few bad apples ruined the bunch.

    1. Also, the complete inability of the FIA to consistently apply track limits using any method other than literalism reached a head.

    2. The old gaurd ignored the white lines always the rule was if you can drive on it it was part of the circuits.
      It’s much easier to drop the white lines and you don’t have any problems anymore. White lines were more a warning that the road ends nothing more.

    3. @The Dolphins
      I disagree with that, I think you remember it wrong
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnwJBzqvc4w

      1. Baas, that clip makes a good point, but I’d say the problem there is there is no natural penalty for running wide, it is just a fast safe piece of tarmac with a white line painted on it, so you have to have stewards policing it and making judgement calls, penalties, etc, and the more the stewards have to interfere, the less satisying it is for everyone, and the more chance there is of inconsistent application of the rules.

        It doesn’t have to be like that. Look at Alonso’s off yesterday. He end up driving through a gravel trap, lost a ton of time, ended up with dust on his tyres, and there was no need for anyone to intervene. The design of the circuit at that point created a natural penalty for him exceeding track limits.

        Another way they could solve the problem is to put sensor strips on outside of the white lines at an appropriate distance, and just make it automated, that if your car goes over a sensor, you automatically lose one lap’s worth of DRS and KERS with no chance of an argument or an appeal. That would simulate a natural penalty without creating any safety issues and without needing any stewards enquiries. Yes, someone might get forced wide unfairly by another driver and lose KERS for a lap, but racing isn’t just about being fast around the lap, and it isn’t a time trial run in isolation of other traffic. Racing is also about making clean overtakes and knowing not to put yourself in positions where you will be forced into a wall or a gravel trap or lose the wing etc.

        1. @AlanD
          I fully agree to the first part. Although in extremis, you could see drivers going wider than wide and they lost time. But they still didn’t lose the lap.. so there is that. I just had to use that footage to illustrate what @macleod stated.

          For me, the current situation feels frustrating. I feel the solution is in your first suggestion. I’m convinced there is a ‘natural’ solution available for every situation. Sure, grass and gravel are options but those are sadly not viable everywhere. Every corner where this is a problem, there might be a different solution.

          Your second idea is for sure better than the current situation, but to me that is tweaking the policing/penalties. In itself it is not a solution to the problem. The first one is. And it’s way simpler to implement , less to go wrong.. etc

          1. Baas, yes I’d like to see a tech-free solution. There was a time when tyres used to shed so many marbles that anyone running off track got a whole load of junk stuck to their tyres and it would take them a lap to burn it off and get back to full speed. If they used the tech solution of sensors, even if it wasn’t wired in to an automated penalty, and was just a way of indicating to the stewards and driver that a limits violation had occured, that would still be better than relying on stewards to keep on top of all the bits of CCTV replay they’d need to watch, but they could still do three warnings then a five second penalty if they wanted.

            With F1, I think I’d prefer to see tech than stewards inquiries and delayed time penalties. For instance, speeding in the pitlane. When it happens, they always have a stewards investigation when it should just be automated. Speed going in and the tech could have issued the penalty before you reach your own box and the penalty could be served there and then. Speed on the way out and get an immediate drive through penalty to be served on the very next lap.

    4. They definitely did it on purpose most of the time. It’s just faster to make the corner a bit longer, and carry more speed unto the following straight. There’s a great clip of Austria in the early 2000s where everyone runs so wide that the barriers at Turn One were effectively the track limits.

      For over 20 years, the FIA race director Whiting maintained that tracks were designed such that running wide was always slower. This was not true, but everyone just went along with it. Hamilton even once specifically called him out on this in Austin, but he was apparently completely convinced.

      The current situation is fine, although some kerbs could provide better feedback; more rumbles and a greater slope (just remove them for the MotoGP). But the kerbs today are huge and can often fit an entire car. Back in the 1990s and earlier the kerbs were barely wider than a single tyre. Drivers should be able to handle them just fine.

      1. @MichaelN
        That was actually the link I posted above funny enough.
        And to elaborate on your point about older kerbs, this illustrates your point:
        https://youtu.be/BXYIhLvyAFc?feature=shared&t=87

        Some were narrow but very high, like the dreaded and dangerous sausage kerbs we now tend to avoid

  8. F1 has to be the only “sport” in the world in which enforcement of the field of play is the subject of argument.
    Football: Keep the ball on the field.
    Golf: Keep the ball in bounds.
    Athletics: Stay in your lane.
    Swimming: Ditto
    Chess: Put the pieces where they’re allowed to go.
    Rowing: The boat goes in the river.
    Tennis: If it’s not in, it’s out.
    Archery: If it’s a 70m shoot, a shot from 69m doesn’t count.

    It’s not rocket science… if no part of any tyre is between the lines, you’re out of bounds, end of story.
    If there were a sensor that detects when you’re out of bounds and cuts your engine for ten seconds, no one would go out, and you can’t tell me it’s unavoidable because if it were, no one would ever complete a lap of Monaco or any of the other street circuits. You’re supposed to be the best drivers in the world… prove it.

    1. I agree. When sports become subjective, such as awarding style marks in ice skating, skiing, or diving, it ceases to be a true sport. There is no doubt that skaters and divers are highly skilled people, but then so are ballets dancers and the people on talent shows, and I wouldn’t call those sports either. I absolutely hate the idea they use in Formula E where the audience can vote for their favourite driver to receive a fan boost. Sport should be as objective and as fair as possible. Other sports have objective rules, such as tennis with white lines and cricket with LBW, but it depends on the subjective opinion on the umpire. However, both those sports have embraced technology to use Hawkeye and video replay etc to take the human element out of it. In contrast, F1 loves having stewards interfere in races, and F1 teams love to have an army of lawyers looking for loopholes in the rules.

    2. Sailing definitely has arguments about being out of bounds, partly because nobody wants to be the organiser who put a bank high enough to run boats aground “in bounds” and partly because part of “bounds” is defined by what other boats are doing (largely to reduce the number of times one boat T-bones another).

      Open-water swimming has the same issue for similar reasons plus the part where intent is involved in some of the definitions and the fact that humans are pretty bad at spotting where markers are in the churn of a massive group of fellow swimmers – there’s a reason the 10 km swim is also known as the “10 km wrestle”.

      It does have to be admitted that if you hit a golf ball and it lands in an open-topped lorry (which proceeds to unload the ball 42 km away)… …you’re probably going to be hitting a second ball. And the time where I managed to go a kilometre off-course during a half-marathon might have retrospectively been defined as “in”, that was only because the organisers were too embarrassed that they forgot to put in the marshal that was meant to define “out” in that location.

  9. So I know that concrete walls are difficult to erect for a weekend, but in the same way they have those styrofoam braking markers, I think they should put up walls made mostly of styro, but with some kind of metal spine, making it firm enough to do car damage. You hit that, you damage your car. Then there’s nothing to police.

    1. FreeB, I know they’ve used styrene bollards on some corners in the past, on the inside of curves, so that drivers who miss the corner must go a zigzag route around the cone to avoid gaining an advantage, which sounds good on paper, but the cones last about three laps because drivers know they can hit them with impunity. A metal spine might cure that, though I suspect just a load of rubbr pylons would be enough to cause more damage tothe car’s wing than to the bollard itself. For sure F1 with its legions of bright people doing research could come up with the best compromise construction, but first they have to show willingness to address the issue.

    2. That would have required re-homologation of both the barrier type and the track, which would have taken at least 6 days. Not possible at such short notice.

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