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F1’s track limits penalties won’t change yet despite Norris controversy

The FIA has told Formula 1 drivers that there will be no immediate change to the application of track limits penalties, despite the storm over Lando Norris’s sanction in Austria.
Norris was handed a five-second penalty for running wide during his battle with Max Verstappen at the Red Bull Ring last weekend, after locking up a wheel.

The sanction caused some unease among his peers, who felt that it was not correct that Norris was penalised despite having lost time and ultimately given back a position he gained.

Norris himself said: “These sorts of things will avoid people racing. If you don’t want us to race and don’t want me to try and overtake and [want to] have a boring race, then you can have these rules.”

The matter was brought up in Friday night’s drivers’ briefing at Silverstone with a number of F1’s stars suggesting that it was not fair to get a sanction for something that was never an original intention of the track limits stance.

Several drivers agreed with Norris that it could potentially discourage drivers from wanting to get involved in making overtaking attempts if there was the chance that a mistake and running wide would trigger a penalty.

It is understood that the drivers were reminded that Norris had only got a penalty for the botched Verstappen move because he had already had three previous track limits breaches – so it was not just a one-off incident.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, battles with Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Furthermore, the FIA has made clear its long-standing stance that it is unfair to change the way decisions are made and enforced midway through a season based on single incidents – because that could trigger huge inconsistencies throughout a campaign.

Instead, it prefers for grievances that have emerged over the year to be brought up at the end of the campaign so any necessary changes can be made for the start of the following season.

Track limits and the ‘fake gravel’ solution

As well as discussions over the Norris incident, drivers talked at length with the FIA about the track limits solution that was introduced in Austria.

The move to reduce the width of the kerbs to be narrower than F1 cars, with gravel traps on the outside, was deemed to be something that was universally popular and could be rolled out elsewhere.

However, one issue that still needed some consideration was the consequences of gravel traps throwing stones up onto the track – as that can trigger damage to cars and tyres as happened in Austria.

One solution discussed was to have something similar to what Zandvoort has done at its Hans Ernst Bocht chicane, where it has glued down an area of gravel nearest the circuit to prevent it from being dragged onto the circuit.

But while this ‘fake gravel’ solution has worked well for fairly low-speed corners, there are questions about its viability for high-speed turns – and especially how tricky it could be in wet conditions.

Kerb detail

Kerb detail

Photo by: Jon Noble

The possibility of rolling out the latest track limits solution is also very much dependent on venues having the scope to invest in circuit redesigns too – with not all tracks able to make such track revisions.

Speaking after Austria, RB’s Daniel Ricciardo suggested that gravel was the biggest issue to be resolved with the latest track limits approach.

“I’d say the only downside is that obviously if you do go off you drag a ton of gravel onto the track,” he said about the Austria solution. “But I think definitely more pros than cons.”

Despite the debate over recent days about Verstappen’s moving under braking in his battle with Norris in Austria, it is understood that the topic was not brought up by drivers in Friday night’s meeting.

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