Alexander Albon, Williams, Circuit of the Americas, 2023

Delay in track limits warnings unfair for drivers – Albon

Formula 1

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Alexander Albon complained warnings over track limits breaches were issued too slowly after his penalty in last weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

The Williams driver was the only one to be penalised for a track limits infringement in Sunday’s race, taking a five-second penalty that ultimately had no effect on his ninth-place finish. Penalties are usually issued when a driver commits four track limits infringements.

But Albon felt he could have avoided the penalty had he been warned about his first infringements more promptly.

“I get frustrated with it,” he said. “I had one strike the whole race, and then from one lap to the next I had three strikes. So I went from one warning to an instant penalty.

“Either they’re so far behind or something’s going on. It’s the same thing, you stay in the limits, but we’ve talked about it before: it’s really hard to tell. And then if they don’t give you a warning and then suddenly chuck you three in a row, I don’t think that’s fair.”

Albon said the stewards need to take into account the lag which occurs in track limits warnings. “If they’re behind on their systems, maybe they need to put their hand up and say something or tell us that this is moving slow, and just give you a bit more leeway on it because it was my race that got ruined straight away.”

Track limits have been an especially acute problem at some races this year. Albon received two track limits penalties at the preceding round in Qatar, as well as at the Austrian Grand Prix this year.

Williams team principal James Vowles pointed out that the location of Albon’s violations at Circuit of the Americas, turn six, was a point on the circuit where fewer infringements occured.

“Track limits were being enforced all the way through the weekend, all the way through qualifying. But what was interesting on this particular occasion is all of a sudden in the space of two minutes, four or five track limits came through for turn six, a corner that wasn’t really being looked at, and didn’t give us an opportunity to correct that.

“So I think that investigation post-race will give the FIA and us enough time to understand what happened and what the outcome will be as a result of that.”

In total 35 lap times were deleted for 15 drivers during the race for track limits abuse, involving at eight different corners. Six of Albon’s laps were deleted, and the stewards considered applying more, but after reviewing his onboard camera admitted that “whilst there might be some indication for possible [further] track limit infringements in turn six, the evidence at hand is not sufficient to accurately and consistently conclude that any breaches occurred and therefore take no further action.”

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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...
RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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24 comments on “Delay in track limits warnings unfair for drivers – Albon”

  1. It apparently hasn’t been made clear enough – leave the track and you may get a penalty. It’s that simple.
    Delays in informing teams and drivers are completely irrelevant – drivers are required to make every effort to stay on the track at all times, not just when they’ve reached 2 or 3 strikes already.

    Penalty deserved.

    Perhaps removing the strikes and going straight to a minimum 5 second penalty for each and every breach would be more satisfying? No delays then.

  2. There we go, another track limits topic.. Well, queue the comments: just stay within the line then!

    1. I agree, but how do they see the line? With these tires and at these speeds it’s kinda hard to understand from the cockpit…

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        25th October 2023, 9:17

        They should be able to feel it. Not see it.

        1. Not only can they see it before they reach it, they can feel the kerbs beyond when they do reach it. For almost exactly 2 meters beyond it, actually.
          But still they persist in trying to use that last millimetre every time, completely disregarding the risks associated with exceeding the lines.
          If they can’t place their car anywhere within a 2 meter space, then they either have a massive talent problem, or an equally massive attitude problem. Both of which deserve to be penalised in F1.

          You’d think after this many penalties they’d have learned something – but still no. They just keep on banging on about how unfair it is and how hard it is.
          Well, that’s the point, guys…. It’s supposed to be hard. Either get better at it or take less risk. Or both.

      2. In the same way they would see a wall.

      3. Teams already have people to watch feeds from the cars – they can use those to warn the drivers in time. And since Albon himself states that if he were warned, he could have adjusted, it seems pretty clear that when he gets a “at turn 11 you went too wide just now” he can adjust his line to be a tad tighter there.

    2. You say that like it isn’t the only sensible response.

    3. We used to do fine without track limits. Why do we need them now?

      To head off anyone making some hyperbolic argument: short cutting chicanes and things of similar ilk were always illegal.

      1. Indeed, however if you take austin and maybe austria and some other track, I’m guessing there’s the possibility you could carry more speed by going wider in some corners and that could allow to improve laptime, so that would mean everyone going wide, which I think they didn’t want fans to see.

        1. Well, we know fans don’t care as long as it’s the same for everyone. I think this is mostly down to the overkill on eliminating every last thing that could offer even the most remote risk to safety no matter how inconsequential.

  3. I don’t think Albon has much of a point to be honest, if you go out and speed in the real world and clock up multiple speeding tickets, it’ll not wash with a judge if when facing a ban you say I’d have driven differently if I knew about the earlier tickets.

    The point is there is a regulation that says you must drive your car within the white lines, if you choose to drive past that limit then that’s entirely your fault. Sure it would be nice to get notified as soon as possible but ultimately you know you shouldn’t be driving past the limit so if you choose to push your luck then you take the consequences.

    The only loser in this situation is the drivers stuck behind those who are breaking track limits having to watch their competitors cheating and not knowing for many laps why nothing is being done about it.

    For me every track should have a penalty loop of some description whereby if you cut a corner then you have to take to the loop. If you make it so the penalty causes you to lose 3-5s instantly instead of drivers getting to race off then most of these issues of track limits would stop immediately. Also instead of getting 3 free excursions it should be one and then a penalty.

    The only reason drivers are pushing the track limits constantly is that under the current penalty system it doesn’t cost them enough if they cross the line. If you make that penalty draconian and immediate, they will stop pushing the limit so close.

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      25th October 2023, 11:25

      I think Albon’s comments and your response illustrate perfectly the problem with the FIA’s current approach.

      I believe a driver should be able to find the limits of his car and the track for themselves, by lap times they are able to produce and not by exploring the limits until they get a penalty. It’s just a bad idea and a very unsatisfactory solution for everyone.

      At the moment the drivers have a fair point when they say they have difficulty seeing whether they are over the white line, especially when the whole ethos of race driving is to push it to the absolute limit. They are guessing. It becomes Kerb Roulette.

      The Holy Grail solution for this is to make it slower to go off track. I don’t know how this could be done, but I know the FIA are working on it.

      I suspect the best solution will be negative angle kerbs on the outside of corners where safe and the current system where it is not. If it means a little more danger and risk of damage, I’d prefer that to a plethora of penalties.

      1. Coventry Climax
        25th October 2023, 14:36

        It’s been discussed before. Sensors and an immediate drop in (electrical) power, was asuggestion already made. I’d add: power drop for a time period consistent with the degree of the transgression.

        I’m sure the FiA is already working on it. I’m also sure they’ll come up with an unsatisfactory ‘solution’. And introduce yet more reason for trouble, most likely.

        1. @Coventry Climax
          I agree your solution is already better than what we currently haven. But I think we can do better: just don’t police track limits.

          Tell me this isn’t exciting
          (maybe turn sound off, otherwise it’s unfair)

          1. That’s nice, yes, and 2003 was an unusually competitive year, which I liked.

          2. Coventry Climax
            26th October 2023, 0:25

            Oh, I’m fine with that for sure. And anything from 20 years ago or more in F1 was more exciting than what we have now.
            But the FiA apparently wants to police tracklimits, and then I’d like to have them do it fair, consistent and instant.

    2. I don’t think Albon has much of a point to be honest, if you go out and speed in the real world and clock up multiple speeding tickets, it’ll not wash with a judge if when facing a ban you say I’d have driven differently if I knew about the earlier tickets.

      Not really a good comparison.
      Road drivers have a speedo* they are supposed to check, F1 drivers have to judge/guess how near they are to the line because they can’t see it when they are anywhere near it.

      * In the case of a mate’s Morris 1000 the manual wind down windows would shake off their winding rack and drop when he hit 60mph, so with two possible notifications of 60+ speeding in the 60mph bypass never happened.

      1. And if their speedo didn’t work they’d still be guilty of the offense. Funny how many drivers manage the problem perfectly fine.

  4. Motogp also monitors track limits rigidly but they seem to be able to issue the penalty quickly. There is a rule that if limits are exceeded on the last lap, a place is lost and in most cases, a rider will know before they get to the pits if they have been demoted. During the race it is rare for a penalty to be applied after more than a couple of laps after transgressing. The delays seen in F1 applying penalties appears to down to poor race management.

  5. Remove drs for the next lap if they go over the line

  6. With F1 technology, there’s absolutely no reason a light can’t pop up on the steering wheel the instant you cross the 1 meter mark from the white line. There’s already a transponder in the middle of the chassis– put timing loops 1.01 meter outside the white line, and if you cross it, BAM! Instant notification.

  7. Coventry Climax
    25th October 2023, 14:30

    I think Albon has a very good point in it being unfair, and it’s not just in the situation he describes:
    Say, during qualifying, you go over the line just before the flag drops. If you immediately know that the lap won’t stand, you can continue and try another lap. It won’t be as good probably, given the chewing gum around the rims that you’re supposed to drive on, but it might still be better than the lap before that, given the track has rubbed in more with every lap the pack of drivers do.
    So not telling you immediately, robs you of opportunity.
    Then there’s the inconsistency: some will know sooner than others, depending on the workload for the stewards. In motorsports, that’s a synonym for ‘unfair’.

  8. Its even worse in qually, where drivers sometimes get penalties for offences done in Q1 but dealt with after the session, after qualifying. Only to get a 3 or 5 places grid drop . But at the same time blocking another driver who could and should have been in Q2 and maybe even Q3 from trying

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