The much-discussed track limits are back for round two of the 2021 season at Imola – and the stewards, it seems, plan to get tough.
As tracks on the Formula 1 calendar have moved away from gravel traps in favour of more run-off areas, track limits have become vital to prevent drivers from heading out of bounds to gain an advantage.
But at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, track limits, and in particular the inconsistency in enforcing them, became a huge topic for debate after they had a major impact on the result of the race.
Sir Lewis Hamilton was alleged to have gone beyond track limits 29 times, with the stewards then warning Mercedes against the actions of their driver.
But later, when Max Verstappen went wide at Turn 4 to pass Hamilton for the lead, he was told to give the place back for breaching track limits.
After the dust had settled on the Bahrain Grand Prix, Red Bull boss Christian Horner called for an end to the grey areas of track limits.
“It’s a tough one,” Horner told Red Bull’s Talking Bull podcast.
“I think before the race was very clear – if you managed to get a lasting advantage, i.e. an overtake, then you would be asked to give the place back, which is absolutely what happened and what Max immediately and very sportingly did.
“I think what was a little bit greyer in the early part of the race was, you know, the abuse of those track limits. I think everyone just wants clarity, ‘can you use it or can’t you use it’. But I think the worst thing for the fans, for the drivers, for the teams is where you can use it in this instance but not in another.
“I think in all other sports it’s binary, you’re either in or out. And I think it would be, in many respects, easier to deal with that.”
Thursday's published guidance on track limits. How many times will they change before the end of the weekend? pic.twitter.com/ua0ZwLsEPS
— The F1 Word (@f1word) April 15, 2021
And the latest set of track limits have now been published, this time for the Made in Italy and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Imola is an old-school venue where gravel very much remains, but track limits will still be fully enforced at the Turn 9 exit, Turn 13 apex and Turn 15 exit.
“A lap time achieved during any practice session or the race by leaving the track on the exit of Turn 9 will result in that lap time being invalidated by the stewards. A driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track,” the ruling reads.
“A lap time achieved during any practice session or the race by leaving the track on the exit of Turn 13 will result in that lap time being invalidated by the stewards. A driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track.
“A lap time achieved during any practice session or the race by leaving the track and cutting behind the red, white and green kerb on the exit of Turn 15 will result in that lap time being invalidated by the stewards.
“Each time any car fails to negotiate Turn 9 exit, Turn 13 apex or Turn 15 exit by using the track as described above, teams will be informed by the official messaging system.
“On the third occasion of a driver failing to negotiate Turn 9 exit and/or Turn 13 apex and/or Turn 15 exit by using the track during the race, he will be shown a black and white flag. Any further cutting will then be reported to the stewards. For the avoidance of doubt, this means a total of three occasions combined, not three at each corner.”