FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem made it clear that the Qatar and Austrian GPs must address their F1 track limits issues – or they drop off the calendar.
The 2023 Qatar Grand Prix already sparked two major talking points with the Pirelli rubber struggling to handle the speed with which drivers were taking the kerbs, while several racers required medical treatment post-race after grappling with the gruelling temperatures.
There was a third factor though which made up the Qatar GP controversy, that being the re-emergence of the track limits debate, with a plethora of lap times deleted across the qualifying sessions and five-second time penalties galore in the Grand Prix, Sergio Perez accounting for three of them.
FIA president warns Qatar and Austria this cannot continue
The last time track limits made such headlines was back at the Austrian Grand Prix, where the result was not known for several hours after the race as the stewards addressed more than 1000 violations.
So, the message from Ben Sulayem is clear: come up with a better solution or fall off the calendar.
To the suggestion that the Qatar track limits debacle was at times farcical, Ben Sulayem, as per Motorsport.com, replied: “You’re absolutely right about it, we had the same issue in Austria, it was 1200 [offences there].
“And I have to say, congratulations to the stewards because they spotted it. But is that the solution? No.
“The solution is to improve the track itself. I know some are resistant to it, but to tell you the truth, if they don’t, there is no race. It is as simple as this. We can’t afford this.”
Ahead of Formula 1’s return to the Lusail International Circuit, it was reported that half-and-half concrete slabs, with one side featuring solidified gravel, would be used at specific corners where track limits could be an issue as a deterrent.
Clearly though the matter still has not been properly addressed, Ben Sulayem stressing that a solution must be found, with gravel traps among the concepts he brought up.
The issue with venues like Lusail and Austria’s Red Bull Ring is that with MotoGP also visiting these tracks, it creates a reluctance to have gravel surrounding the circuit.
“We have to work on a solution,” Ben Sulayem continued. “One of the solutions is to make it slippery when they go off. Nobody can stop the drivers except the drivers themselves.
“We can think of the height [of the kerbs]. Does it damage the cars? Or maybe there is a possibility of putting some gravel, but with gravel, we have to be very careful.
“How deep is the gravel? Because you don’t want anyone to get stuck. And how big is the gravel? Because you don’t want the car to be damaged. It is a balance.
“But I believe now it’s not a matter of: Oh, do we do it? We have to do it. And we have to listen to the drivers mainly, to the feedback from them.
“I will have to make it urgently because it has to be implemented for next year. We cannot afford [for it to continue], especially where we see it all the time.”
Formula 1 now has a free weekend before F1 2023 moves on to the Circuit of The Americas for the United States Grand Prix.