Wahey, it’s everyone’s favorite topic!
I know, I know, you probably thought 10 days after the Austrian Grand Prix you were safe from further discussions about the limits, but here I am to ruin that for you. Because I’ve had a diatribe at the Red Bull Ring since Sunday night, but it had to wait its turn after the much more important matters of last week’s column.
But it doesn’t have to wait any longer, because I can finally unleash what I don’t think will be a hugely unpopular opinion, except among the drivers.
One driver who made his point very eloquently last week was Max Verstappen, and it was a point that seemed to have support from many others on the grid:
“I think the track limits debate (in Austria) has been a bit of a joke, not only in F1 but also in F2 and F3,” said Verstappen. “From the outside it’s easy to say ‘yes, but you just have to stay within the white lines’. It sounds very easy, but it’s not, because when you go through a corner that fast and some are a little bit blind, when you have a little more understeer, tires wear out, then it’s easy to just go over the white line, but do we actually gain time? Maybe, maybe not.
“And to be honest, there are only two or three corners where you can really go a little wider. And I don’t think we should have this value at ‘a millimeter more than that is a penalty’ or anything. Then just add a wall or put back some gravel…like turn 6 at the exit. I love that because there is clay, you punish yourself if you go wide.
“If drivers take an extra 0.01 mm, that’s the risk versus reward scenario”
“So these are things where we have to look at how we can make it better because also for the stewards and just the people involved in checking these track limits, I mean it’s almost impossible to check things like this because you need some… almost like one man on one car the whole race to check the whole lap that he doesn’t go outside the white line where on this track, at least in some places you are naturally penalized if you just know that you go a little bit wider and you hit the gravel. Things like this, I think it just doesn’t look right for the sport either and this is just one thing.”
There’s a reason it’s still relevant to talk about this week, as Paul Ricard is another venue with sections of run-off area and flat exits that will entice drivers to try and win every last millimeter.
And that’s okay, that’s exactly what they should do. I feel like drivers are kind of losing sight of the fact that there is a limit and that it has to be enforced at some point when they complain about how fine the margins are when penalized. That’s because at some point you have to choose where to define the line, and then you stick with it. If a driver keeps him on track just 0.01mm, that’s hugely impressive. When they take an extra 0.01mm and get pinged, that’s the risk versus reward scenario.