‘World’s best drivers need to stop complaining about F1’s track limits’

Wahey, it’s everyone’s favorite topic!

I know, I know, you probably thought that 10 days after the Austrian Grand Prix you were safe from any further track limits discussions, but here I am to ruin that for you. Because I’ve had a rant that has been brewing since Sunday night at the Red Bull Ring but that had to wait its turn after the much more important matters of last week’s column.

But it doesn’t need to wait any longer as I can finally unleash what I don’t think is going to be a massively unpopular opinion, except for among the drivers.

One driver who very eloquently made his point last week was Max Verstappen, and it was a point that appeared to have support from many others on the grid:

“I think track limits debate (in Austria) has been a bit of a joke, not only in F1 but in F2 and F3,” Verstappen said. “It’s easy to say from the outside, ‘yeah, but you have to just stay within the white lines’. It sounds very easy, but it’s not because when you go that quick through a corner and some of them are a bit blind, if you have a bit more understeer, tires are wearing, it’s easy to just go over the white line, but do we actually gain time? Maybe yes, maybe not.

22 TSUNODA Yuki (jap), Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda AT02, action, during the Formula 1 Emirates Grand Prix de France 2021, 7th round of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship from June 18 to 20, 2021 on the Circuit Paul Ricard, in Le Castellet, France - Photo Marc de Mattia / DPPI

Paul Ricard is set to bring up track limits issue once more

Marc de Mattia / DPPI

“And to be honest, there’s only two or three corners where you can really just go a bit wider. And I don’t think we should have this value on ‘one millimeter over that’s a penalty’ or whatever. Then just add a wall or put some gravel back … like Turn 6 on the exit. I think that’s great because there is gravel, you punish yourself if you go wide.

“When drivers take an extra 0.01mm, that’s the risk versus reward scenario”

“So these are things where we have to look into how we can make it better because also for the stewards and just the people involved with checking these track limits, I mean it’s almost impossible to check these kind of things because you need what… almost like one guy on one car the whole race to check the whole lap if he’s not going outside of the white line, where on this track, at least in some places, you get naturally penalized if you just you know go a bit wider and you touch the gravel. These kind of things, I think it just doesn’t look good for the sport as well and this is just one thing.”

Now, there’s a reason why it’s still relevant to talk about this week, because Paul Ricard is another venue with swathes of run-off area and flat exit kerbs that will tempt drivers to try and gain every last millimetre.

And that’s OK, that’s exactly what they should be doing. I feel like drivers kind of lose sight of the fact that there is a limit and at some stage it needs to be enforced, when they complain about how fine the margins are when they get penalized. That’s because at some stage you have to choose where you define the line, and then you stick with it. When a driver keeps it on track by just 0.01mm it is massively impressive. When they take an extra 0.01mm and get pinged, that’s the risk versus reward scenario.