A major debate has erupted following Max Verstappen's latest F1 victory, after a raft of drivers were hit with post-race penalties after the Austrian Grand Prix. Verstappen and Red Bull firmed their stranglehold on the championship with the latest victory, however the issue of track limits emerged as a major talking point after multiple complaints throughout the race and a protest following the chequered flag.
A total of eight drivers were handed five-second penalties after Aston Martin protested the provisional results of the race, with some drivers handed multiple penalties for going beyond the limits of the track too many times. Alpine driver Esteban Ocon was hit with an astonishing 30 seconds worth of penalties, however it did not end up affecting his finishing position, with the Frenchman finishing outside the top 10 regardless.
The news wasn't as good for Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Alpine's Pierre Gasly, all of whom dropped places in the top 10 as a result. Sainz was hit particularly hard, dropping from fourth to sixth as a result, while Hamilton fell from seventh to eighth.
The issue was also a feature in last year's race at the Red Bull Ring, however the dramatic increase in 2023 has prompted the FIA to renew their recommendation for changes to be made at the circuit. However, many fans have questioned why it was so difficult for drivers up and down the grid to keep between the white lines painted on the edge of each circuit.
Many drivers reported their rivals for track limits breaches throughout the race, prompting a degree of mockery from fans watching on at home. The bevy of post-race penalties was of most benefit to McLaren's Lando Norris, who secured fourth as a result, as well as Aston Martin pair Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, who both gained a position after finishing in the points already.
More than 1200 total track limits violations were reportedly recorded throughout the grand prix. The FIA has called for gravel traps to be installed at the final two corners to discourage drivers from running out wide, however such a feature is unlikely to come into effect given the circuits use for motorcycle racing.
“In order to address the issue for future events we will renew our recommendation to the circuit to add a gravel trap at the exit of Turns 9 and 10,” an FIA spokesperson said. “We note that while this is not a straightforward solution in relation to other series that race here, it has proved to be very effective at other corners and circuits with similar issues.”
— Lucy 🍃🏁 (@LastLapLucy) July 2, 2023
FIA currently reviewing 1,200 instances of breached track limits footage during the grand prix. If you want black and white regs and consistency rather than just the natural flow of racing, this is logically where it takes you. #accountacynotracing
— Mark Hughes (@SportmphMark) July 2, 2023
The FIA will get a lot of flack and sure they need to implement more technology to improve going forward
But the drivers need to take some accountability
Yeah the white lines are difficult to see but thats the points of having track limits
Serious skill issue today
— Aldas🇱🇹 (@Aldas001) July 2, 2023
Still baffling to me that if @AstonMartinF1 hadn't protested, we would have likely had a result that would've been incorrect, unfair (because of unfair treatment of track limit violations).
We've had proper racing yesterday, IMHO, the whole debacle with track limits ruined that
— MultiViewer (@f1multiviewer) July 3, 2023
Austria is one of the best circuits on the calendar imo, but the track limits situation makes it one of the worst
— Alex Gillon (@Alex_Gillon) July 2, 2023
Personally don’t see an issue with the track limits saga, black and white rule for everyone. If you don’t keep it between the lines and you get a penalty then thats your fault.
In football you cant dribble the ball off the pitch but its ok because it was only a little bit
— Haydon Gullis (@HaydonGullis) July 2, 2023
Verstappen cruises to win amid F1 track limits chaos
After a first-lap clash with teammate Sergio Perez in the earlier sprint race, Verstappen cruised off the line in the grand prix to leave the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in his dust. A safety car was quickly required however, after Yuki Tsunoda lost chunks of his front wing on Esteban Ocon following an ambitious Turn 1 move. With the debris swept up, Verstappen once again launched clear of any challenges.
Leclerc was some way back from the reigning champion when a virtual safety car was called for Nico Hulkenberg’s retirement. A Ferrari double-stacking attempt was fumbled to drop valuable seconds for both of their drivers as Red Bull kept their man out.
That allowed Leclerc to swoop into first place by lap 25 when Verstappen did pit, yet the Monegasque driver’s resistance was quickly swept aside even with the knowledge he still had to pit again anyway, having taken a second set of medium tyres under the VSC.
With the lead effectively decided, there was plenty of jeopardy unfolding behind with track limits returning to plague drivers as it had during Friday’s qualifying. Lewis Hamilton was an early victim and took a five-second time penalty before Sainz, Ocon and Alex Albon were among the six stung by breaches.
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