Frustration Mounting Over F1's Officiating of Track Limits

·2 min read
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images

No one was more surprised about a recent Formula 1 track limits violation at the Portuguese Grand Prix than the offender himself, Max Verstappen.

Verstappen, who finished third in Portugal, hit the pits late for fresh tires and a shot at the fastest lap of the race and the bonus point that goes with it. Timing and scoring showed that he indeed turned the fastest lap. The stewards, however, said otherwise, pointing out that Verstappen exceeded track limits in Turn 14.

The fastest lap was voided.

"That’s a bit odd because they were not checking track limits in 14, but whatever," said Verstappen, after he was told that he did not get credit for the fast lap.

Formula 1 should seek a simple solution to the controversy about track limits, according to Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. The issue has been prominent in 2021 so far, with FIA officials now regularly accused of being too harsh, too lenient or too inconsistent with their rulings and penalties.

Some believe F1 should instead take an extremely hard interpretation of track limits based on the white lines, while others think the drivers should be free to use the track as they wish.

Another option is to install natural track limits at the circuits, such as much higher curbs, grass or gravel, or Monaco-like barriers.

"It would be great if we could put guardrails everywhere next to the circuit, like in two weeks in Monaco, or later this year in Baku," F1 race director Michael Masi said. "From a safety point of view you have to strike a balance. Besides, every circuit and every corner is different and track limits can be a big issue somewhere one year and not the next."

Ferrari boss Binotto said that his fellow team principals discussed the issue when they got together for a meeting in Barcelona.

Photo credit: Bryn Lennon - Formula 1 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bryn Lennon - Formula 1 - Getty Images

"The question was raised about modifying the tracks, but this cannot be done overnight," Binotto said. "But we do need to find a simple solution that will be understandable to the fans. It does nothing good for the show when there are constant disputes about the track boundaries during the race or even after the finish.

"What can be implemented right now? I don't even know. Give the riders complete freedom? Maybe that would cause the discussion about the boundaries of the circuit stop.

"I do believe that if we find a simple solution to this issue, that would be the best for everyone."

Autoweek's Mike Pryson contributed to this report.

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