Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc offer unique ideas on how to fix track limits complaints

Thomas Maher
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc on track at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, June 2023. track limits

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc on track at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, June 2023.

Two of F1’s front-running drivers, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, have been weighing up how to tackle the issue of enforcing track limits.

Track limits have been the hot topic of the Austrian Grand Prix so far this weekend, thanks to a monumental 47 laps being deleted during Friday’s qualifying session as a result of drivers crossing over the white line coming through the final corners of the Red Bull Ring.

Despite clinching pole position, Verstappen was one of several drivers to fall foul of a deletion (four, in fact), and the Dutch driver was heard on team radio complaining about the enforcement of the limits – the rule being a lap time deleted if a driver fails to keep all four wheels on the correct side of the white line demarcating the tarmac from the kerbs.

Max Verstappen: It makes us look like amateurs

Verstappen was particularly annoyed by the issue as he spoke to the media following the session, saying that having 47 deletions makes the drivers look like idiots.

“I think one of the worst tracks for it, with the track limits,” he said.

“Also, especially towards the end, the tyres are getting really hot so they’re not as agile anymore as well compared to the beginning of the lap. But it’s super hard to judge around here. You have all the compressions as well, where if you hit it slightly wrong, the car immediately drops away from you or understeers and then it’s super easy to go over the white line.

“I think today it looked very silly. It almost looked like we were amateurs out there, the amount of lap times that were getting deleted. Some of them were so marginal, where even we spoke about it in the briefing before that, when it’s very marginal, it’s impossible to judge if it’s out or in, and they were still getting deleted. I don’t think it was a good look today.

“Of course, people can say, ‘Yeah, well, then you just stay within the white lines’. Well, if it was that easy, then you can take my car and try it. But probably you won’t even get up to speed in time. But yeah, it is super tricky. And I think today showed that.

“I think it’s still not easy to have a clear rule about it, because on most tracks, it works really well. But on some tracks, you might need something different.

“Because of course a lot of the tracks we share it with MotoGP or whatever, bike championships in general. And of course, they want something else outside of the kerbs than what we would like. I mean, for us putting gravel there, it’s fine. But for a bike, it’s a bit different. So we need to think about maybe different solutions.

“I don’t think we’re all idiots out there, right?”

Max Verstappen suggests using a wider white line for track limits

Rather than using a narrow white line to separate the tarmac and kerb, Verstappen suggested using a wider strip of paint that would give the drivers a little more breathing room, as well as making it easier to see.

“I think we’ve already tried on a few tracks where to paint a bit of a wider white line, which I thought helped a bit because I think the white line in some places is quite narrow with the high speeds we are achieving in that particular corner, so this is maybe something we can look into,” he said.

Verstappen admitted it’s not an easy problem to fix, given that placing a physical deterrent in the form of a raised kerb is far from ideal.

“We luckily got rid of these stupid yellow kerbs in most of the corners because that was just destroying the car,” he said.

“But the problem is… It can be easily solved by just putting gravel next to the kerbs, but as I said, the bikes don’t want that. Then, this track in general, like we all said before, it’s just harder to judge the track limit.

“So it’s just a very difficult thing to come up with, because you also don’t want the promoters, you know, the track in general, that they put gravel in and have to take it away again, it’s costing a lot of money as well, so that’s not really a good solution as well. So yeah, it’s something we will talk about again in the drivers’ meeting and maybe we can find a solution.” recommends

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Charles Leclerc: My preference would be to use the kerbing as track limits

Sitting alongside Verstappen in the post-qualifying press conference, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had his own idea of how to tackle the problem. Despite not having a time deleted in qualifying, the Monégasque acknowledged the issue is an annoyance, especially given that the drivers can’t feel the white line from driving over it.

To that end, he suggested that the kerbs should be used as the track limit, a solution former FIA race director Michael Masi often used during his tenure.

“My personal preference would be to use the red and white kerb,” Leclerc said.

“I think that’s what we did some years ago here, and this is working well, because at least we can feel where the limit of the track is, whenever you are on that red and white kerb, you can feel that you are on it. And this was a good reference. The white line is only visual. And as we said earlier, we cannot see it. So it’s very easy to be five centimetres out of the white line. Whereas the kerb you can actually feel where you are. And it’s a bit easier to judge.

I agree with [Max on] everything. This track is particularly tricky, especially Turn 10, because the nature of the corner is that the car is getting lighter in the middle of the corner because there’s this drop in the track and then however the car is positioned there it has a big influence on the exit and from where we are, so low in the car, we cannot see anything.

“I think the helmet cam is very representative of what we are seeing, and we are not seeing at all the white lines, so yeah, hopefully in the future in tracks like this we can have a bit more margin and that they understand that from the car it is just impossible to judge.

Carlos Sainz agreed with Leclerc on the issue of visibility vs. feel: “We don’t see exactly where our tyres are. So it makes it very difficult to judge whether we are in or out.

“We have the issue also that we don’t feel the white line. So, if at least if we could feel a white line, if we are on top of it or not that could also help us to a judgement. It is a very particular track, for sure.

“But there are corners like Turn 1, Turn 4, Turn 6 that I got flagged also, where there is a natural limit, that is the kerb, there is a natural limit that is the gravel in those corners and still if you’re going two centimetres wide, you are in the gravel, or you are in the kerb, you’re losing lap time but still we get penalised for track limits, which for me also doesn’t make more sense because you’re not gaining an advantage by going over the track limits.

“So I think the rule of the track limits should be whether you’re gaining an advantage or not also. For me, the main issue this qualifying was how long the FIA was taking to decide.

“I mean, I went wide in, I think in Turn 1 in Q2, run two. I was P2 and because we didn’t know and the FIA couldn’t tell us whether I was going to get the flag thrown away, or the lap thrown away or not, I had to go and use another set of tyres, which obviously is quite a bit of an issue going into tomorrow. In the end, the lap was not deleted.

“So yeah, it’s like there’s so many track limits that even the FIA cannot keep up, no? So, hopefully we can improve that, because it makes our life extremely difficult in the car and we need to keep finding a solution.

“Recently, the FIA has been a lot more open to collaborate and to co-operate and find a solution. Why there’s nothing being done? I think it’s simply because we haven’t found a solution or we haven’t put enough emphasis on finding a solution. And that’s what we will have to do, because I think what we saw today with so many laps being deleted, so many drivers getting caught out, so many laps that even they couldn’t keep up with deleting so many laps, that we need to find a way to correct it. And we will sit down and hope for next year it’s done. If not, then it means we’re not making much progress.”

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