Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Know your limits - F1's backwards approach to track boundaries needs a rethink

Published by Steven Roy

Track limits

It has been in the rules of all motor racing for decades that the white line defines the edge of track. I can see no reason for it to change. This rule was always applied except for some reason at the exit to the Ascari chicane at Monza. Every year it annoyed me that the track limits were ignored. Now the rule is applied there but not in many other places.

Drivers go over track limits for one reason only. They gain an advantage by doing so. F1 officials will often say a driver will not gain an advantage going over the line at a certain point. It may be true that it is no faster but it may protect a tyre from wear or there may be some other advantage.

Track safety is based on the cars running on the track not two metres over the line. The wider a car is the less run off area there is to stop it or at least slow it down. If the authorities keep backing off on track limits at some point we will have a rule saying that the driver has not exceeded the limit unless he has to pay to get back into the circuit.

When I think about how sports are refereed I always compare two forms of football; rugby and soccer. In rugby referees set a limit and stick to it. Any player who reaches that limit is penalised. The players know where the limit is, they know that exceeding that limit will be penalised so they don't exceed it. In football referees like to use what they incorrectly call common sense. What this means, in effect, is that referees constantly back off from the limit. We now have former referees commenting on games saying that a referee made a certain decision to try to keep 22 players on the field. If you watch a match from the 70s a defender putting his hands on an attacking player will often have a penalty against him. Now there is an approximation of all in wrestling with no penalty. The rule has never changed. The referees have simply backed off so far that what was once inconceivable is now commonplace.

Sadly F1 seems to have adopted the soccer approach to officiating. The white line no longer defines the track edge. Now the whole car can be 20cm over the line but even that anaemic rule is only applied on certain corners. This unnecessarily and unwisely increases the danger and a more rugby like approach to officiating needs to be adopted fast.