Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2023

Verstappen expects more track limits trouble in Austin: “We need to do better”

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen says it’s a “shame” modern circuit design leads to so many penalties for drivers exceeding track limits, as happened at the last round.

A total of 51 lap times were deleted for track limits infringements at the last grand prix in Qatar, leading to 10 time penalties being issued to drivers during and after the race.

The Losail International Circuit was refurbished ahead of the race. The many wide, flat kerbs at the exit of its corners, plus the high speeds many of its turns were taken at, meant the majority of drivers were unable to ensure they kept within the track’s confines during the qualifying sessions and races.

Verstappen pointed out that disputes over track limits are far less common at other circuits which have fewer asphalt run-offs and more physical deterrents to running wide, such as grass, gravel and barriers.

“At some tracks there’s just a lot of run-off, so naturally you find the limits a bit easier,” he said. “We never really talk about track limits for example in Suzuka and that’s probably a bit more of an old-school track.”

The Red Bull driver blames the generous run-off on many modern and recently refurbished tracks for F1’s track limits problems.

“For sure the latest track standards, they have a thing to do with it. It’s a bit of a shame because I feel like with some of these new tracks that you’re more focussed on a quali lap not to go over a white line than actually finding the limit or just the pure enjoyment of pushing. It’s more like you’re looking ‘oh, did I make it or not?’ and then ‘ah yeah, I made it’. So it’s a bit odd.

“But we need to do a better job because I think this weekend will be the same story.”

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He dismissed the suggestion drivers could easily manage to stay within track limits by reducing their speed. “I will happily let anyone else drive my car and see if they can do better with track limits,” he said.

Charles Leclerc, who lost a points finish in the sprint race at Losail due to multiple track limits infringements, also believes the problem is circuit-specific.

“There are some tracks that are much more difficult to manage than others,” he said. “I think Qatar was one of those, here it probably will be one of those, too.”

Until 2022 F1 operated a varied system of track limits enforcement where different limits applied at different tracks, different corners on the same track, and even from session to session at the same track. The arrangement was simplified at the beginning of last year, since when drivers have been told they must remain within the white lines at all corners at all times.

However Leclerc said the old system was advantageous as it allowed drivers to run to the edge of kerbs, allowing them to judge more easily where the limit was.

“I’ve always preferred in the past to use the red-and-white kerb [as the limit] because this is a reference that we can actually feel inside the car. Whereas the white line, we are so low in the car that it is very difficult to see exactly where we are. If we are two centimetres out or exactly on the line is very difficult, whereas with the kerb you can feel it much more what’s going on and it’s a better reference.

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“But now it’s been quite a long time that we are staying on the white line and it’s the way it is at the moment. We just need to try and find a way, especially with the way the kerbs are done and the tracks are made in order to help each other for it to become less of an issue in the future.”

A pair of track limits penalties in Qatar cost Lance Stroll what would have been his first points score since the summer break. He also expects it will be a factor again this weekend.

“There’s a few corners here you’ve got to watch out for,” said the Aston Martin driver. “So I think it’s something to think about at a lot of tracks now with the track limits being a challenge.”

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18 comments on “Verstappen expects more track limits trouble in Austin: “We need to do better””

  1. Coventry Climax
    19th October 2023, 22:41

    Max did 57 laps in Qatar, but some drivers did less. So let’s say the 20 cars did some 1000 laps altogether, of which apparently 51 laps had the time deleted. That’s a little over 5% of the laps. So in numbers, it doesn’t sound all that bad.

    What makes it a mess though, is that it takes the stewart ages to review it all and reach a decision.

    I’ve said it before, a track is not designed with cars going over and outside the curbs in mind, it is designed with the idea that cars stay within its boundaries: on the black and between the white lines.
    Let’s be done with this mess and automate the track limits supervision.

    1. In Qatar the FIA was actually pretty solid on getting the info out timely, even showing some replays (be it, those replays of in car footage rather highlighted how the drivers have little chance of seeing exactly where they are, the ones from the outside were more conclusive).

      But I do feel the issue is the track design, and how to configure the edge of the track. What if there were kerbs right behind the white line and going ON the kerbing with more than one wheel (2 wheels on one side) would be the limit?

      What Leclerc says is interesting, but given that running on the edge of the Kerbs was the issue there, his “solution” would not have helped at alls in Qatar, but rather heightened the issues even more.

      1. In Qatar the FIA was actually pretty solid on getting the info out timely, even showing some replays

        The only ‘timely’ detection is ‘instantly’ and should ideally be remedied instantly as well.
        It’s fairly easy to implement with sensors and PU management, both of which FIA mandates already for different purposes.

      2. Coventry Climax
        20th October 2023, 16:08

        I don’t agree with your definition of timely, @bascb. When there’s laptimes showing up on screen, only to disappear again after some time, that time may either be two seconds (which it certainly exceeded) or two hours, I don’t care. To me, neither are ‘timely’, and there’s no need for that.

    2. @Coventry Climax
      That sounds to me a call for an automatic mopping machine. It sure beats manually mopping the floor, correct. But I wish we could aim a bit higher. Like fixing the actual leaking faucet. Then no mopping would be required, automated or manual.

  2. He dismissed the suggestion drivers could easily manage to stay within track limits by reducing their speed. “I will happily let anyone else drive my car and see if they can do better with track limits

    Ooooh, oooooh! Pick me! Pick me!

  3. “But we need to do a better job because I think this weekend will be the same story.”

    “We” – meaning the drivers.

    He dismissed the suggestion drivers could easily manage to stay within track limits by reducing their speed.

    Spoken like a true racing driver… Not the smartest one, however. Slowing down just the tiniest bit ensures the car stays on the track and isn’t penalised, after all…

  4. I also expect a similar story this weekend since COTA is regularly among the hardest circuits for track limits.
    Better solutions for the matter exist, though, so they should be the general resort & I’m not even referring to gravel or grass.

  5. It is fairly dumb isn’t it, to have a limit the drivers can’t see or feel. And then the delay detecting it. Or perhaps they think it spices up the show with a mystery jeopardy, like the ‘safety’ cars everyone seems to have fallen for, so the commentators can wind up some tension with how near the brink a driver is!!

    And I mean, Max nearly lost the win to Lewis with it last time, so you can’t say it doesn’t work, can you? A bit fake of course, but hey, Vegas

    1. but hey, Vegas

      I hope you didn’t plan to attend the race this weekend ;)

    2. The drivers know exactly where the lines and the car are. That’s why they’re trusted to drive them in the first place. Putting the car exactly where you want is the key to a fast lap.

      1. Maybe you forgot they said the tyre blocks the view to see if they are hitting the line or not. It’s NOT the control of the car but they can’t see the line next to there tyre…

        1. Maybe you forgot that by the time they are on the edge of a track limits breach, they are already almost two meters outside the line with the outside wheels.

          I seriously hope you aren’t suggesting that F1 drivers can’t place their car within 2 meters of, well, anything

      2. Tickets have a date on them, you see. You should get out more! Bit of a squeeze, I know :)

    3. Coventry Climax
      20th October 2023, 16:11

      Yep, it’s as stupid as teams in ballsports being required to wear blinkers.

  6. I’m sick of drivers whinging about this and pretending it’s everyone else’s fault. Start taking points away and issuing bans. “drive as fast as you can within these lines” is literally the basis of the sport. No track, no sport, you might as well do doughnuts around the start/finish line and call it a day.

    1. Strange enough the old tracks don’t have these problems and the white line is something to show the drivers the end of the asfalt is here not the track limits. Just chance the corners so it cost time leaving the asfalt and you never see any tracklimits anymore.

    2. @Hairs_
      You’re being obtuse. Through recent years some tracks have changed. They changed the playing field and this is the result. Don’t blame the players, do a better job at designing the playing field.

      Let’s put a huge fan in the hall where they play badminton. Turn it on and off every now and then. See smashes go out.. Blame the players.

      Let’s go to a football pitch, add an acre of grass on every side of the pitch and then paint the lines a shade of green. See them kick the ball out all the time. Blame the players.

      Let’s look at track and field. Go and paint the hurdles a nice rust brown/red color. See them trip and blame the runners. Let’s also paint the take off board for the long jump in the same color. See a huge amount of disqualifications.. blame the jumper.

      I can go on if you like?

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