F1 seeking solution for track limits abuse

Formula 1 teams and the FIA are working on trying to find a better solution to deterring drivers from abusing track limits.

The issue of drivers trying to seek an advantage by straightlining turns has come back on to the agenda following the Belgian Grand Prix tyre blowouts.

It has been suspected that damaged kerbs or debris off track contributed to the blow outs suffered by Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg over the Spa weekend.

F1 has long faced difficulties in trying to ensure drivers keep to the confines of the track, but the FIA has often made clear that punishments will only be handed out on occasions where it is proven a driver gained an advantage.

However, the tyre issues at Spa-Francorchamps have indicated problems could go beyond a competitive benefit – because it has highlighted there could now be safety issues at stake.

That is why the matter is now being discussed by teams and the FIA.

A safe solution

The abuse of track limits in F1 has come about because of the increasing use of asphalt run-off areas, which means drivers no longer face the risk of permanent retirement if they run wide like they used to when gravel traps were more common.

The issue the FIA has had in introducing physical deterrents – like barriers or high kerbs – on asphalt areas is that they can cause bigger problems if a driver has had a genuine problem and is off the track because of a crash.

At Spa, for example, an extra sausage kerb was initially introduced parallel to the track at Raidillon to try to stop drivers straighlining it.

However, following concern after the first day of running about the potential for the kerb to cause a bigger issue if cars were launched over it – especially in the wet – it was removed.

With no significant deterrent there any more, drivers regularly cut behind the kerb at Raidillon through the race, and that is potentially where Vettel picked up the cut that is said to have caused his tyre failure.

Tough job

Red Bull boss Christian Horner admits that having drivers potentially run through debris fields and on the wrong side of kerbs is not ideal for F1's tyre supplier.

"It is not an easy job for Pirelli," he said. "Every circuit and kerb is different in every circuit we go to.

"Now, obviously the drivers are abusing the circuits more than perhaps when there were gravel traps because they can. And any advantage a driver can find he will use. Eau Rouge is a very different corner to what it was 10 years ago."

Work on trying to find a better solution is already underway. It is understood that the issue was discussed between the FIA, teams and drivers over the Italian Grand Prix weekend as part of the review process to Belgium and work will be ongoing.

Raised lines

One idea that has been put forward is for the run-off areas to be painted with a series of parallel raised lines.

These would be high enough that, if run over, would make it uncomfortable for drivers and potentially slow them down, but not be severe enough to pose further dangers by launching them in to the air.

At Spa, for example, a few raised lines further down the corner were the cause of Pastor Maldonado's race-ending incident when he hit them with a 17G force, which prompted a car failure.

Maldonado said he thought the best solution would be for a stricter enforcement of track limits – with perhaps a two-strikes and you're out rule.

"Normally if you go wide you lose time, but at other times you can gain time," he said. "The best thing is to make sure that you can't get an advantage from running wide.

"As a driver you can run wide as the result of braking too late and having a lock up – and at those times the areas are there for safety. But some drivers are trying to go faster.

"So in the races, maybe if you do it more than once or twice in a row and you are fighting for a place, then maybe the team should be told to say you should not do it again.

"In qualifying, you should keep it as the limits of the track – two wheels on at all times and that is it."

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