In this blog we are going to look at some of the FIA’s inconsistencies regarding the track limits during U.S Grand Prix. Now let me start with saying that the penalty for Max Verstappen would have been the correct decision, if they followed their own rules. The problem is that during the free practice runs, qualifications and during the race we saw a lot of drivers going over the track limits without being penalized. So, there is a big inconsistency with the FIA stewards applying their own rules. The way the stewards currently work is getting ridiculous and the FIA should start working on fixing their problem, instead of damaging the sport.
But before we can give our opinion we need to know what the FIA rules say about track limits.
Drivers must make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times and may not deliberately leave the track without a justifiable reason.
Drivers will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with it and, for the avoidance of doubt, any white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not.
Should a car leave the track the driver may re-join, however, this may only be done when it is safe to do so and without gaining any lasting advantage. At the absolute discretion of the race director a driver may be given the opportunity to give back the whole of any advantage he gained by leaving the track.
As specified in the FIA rules the drivers are not allowed to leave the track to gain an advantage. This advantage can be a faster time, keeping speed or winning a place. There was a lot of talk on social media that leaving the track is slower. But that isn’t true. With leaving the track you can keep higher speed, breaking later and keep more speed during the corner. This will affect the lap time, and that is already gaining an advantage. The rules are pretty simple and clear. You are not allowed to leave the track and gain an advantage at any moment during the race weekend.
When we look at the qualification we will see the following position of Lewis Hamilton during the Q3 in the round that give him the pole position.
Lewis Hamilton totally left the track with all four of his wheels. During this action he was able to clock the fastest lap of the whole qualification phase. The correct action here should have been to delete the time of this lap. To be honest, Lewis would just do a new track without running wide in turn 19 and got the pole position. But according to the steward’s decision on Max Verstappen, this is clearly leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
When we go to the race we can start directly in the first corner with Vettel taking the position on Hamilton. Now we can say that he was running wide, and that would be a “different case”. But Vettel was running wide and therefor breaking late, and win a position on Hamilton. So this is clearly leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
Carlos Sainz and Danill Kvjat
When we go a little bit further in the race we can see Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvjat both over the white line, and both the cars gained a position. By the FIA rules, both those guys should have gotten a 5 second penalty. Now there will be people saying this is the first lap, and the FIA is a little bit easy during the first corners. It doesn’t really change the fact that both drives left the track and gained an advantage.
When we go one lap further we have Valtteri Bottas running wide on Daniel Ricciardo. Because of him running wide he is able to keep up with Daniel Ricciardo. Now this could be a little bit of an grey area with the rules as he didn’t win a position. But as he was able to keep his own position by running wide, and keeping Ricciardo from gaining a position. This way he still got an advantage as he didn’t lose his position.
Carlos Sainz again
When we go even further in the race we come to a situation that is almost identical of the move done by Max Verstappen. As you can see below Carlos Sainz is clearly cutting the corner in an attempt to gain a position. The grey area with this one is that Carlos Sainz didn’t really win his position very long, and this can be seen as not gaining an advantage. But However, during the short period he did gain an advantage he should have got a penalty if we followed the rules very strictly.
The big issue that the FIA isn’t giving the penalties consistence for the track limits. And the FIA should really need to look better at the rules, and not just whenever they think it would be “fun” to give a penalty. They should give everybody a penalty that crosses the track limits, or just decide drive wherever you want, there are no track limits anymore. But the current way is just very frustrating and it is destroying the sport. We are looking at a race and somehow the stewards want to make it feel like driving on a road or something. Race drivers should take some risk. If the FIA keeps letting the stewards make decissions like this it would be more intresting to view a traffic jam for two hours…
And even Joey from the television serie Friends had his opinion about the track limits 😉