McLaren boss explains why white lines can’t be used for track limits

Paul Ricard has expansive tarmac run off areas

McLaren boss Andreas Seidl has argued that using the white lines to define track limits in Formula 1 would be unworkable.

Track limits were a hot topic in the opening four races of the season, with Max Verstappen and Lando Norris high profile casualties of transgressions.

In Verstappen’s case it arguably cost him victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, while Norris had a strong qualifying lap at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix scratched for the same offence.

With Formula 1 next weekend heading to the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, the topic is again likely to raise its head.

The Paul Ricard circuit has been heavily modernised in recent years, with expansive tarmac run off areas doing little to penalise drivers running wide.

As such, there is little to no deterrent for exceeding the confines of the track.

That was demonstrated on the final lap of the 2019 event, the last time F1 visited the venue, when both Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen were judged to have gained a lasting advantage after exceeding track limits.

Criticism has been levelled at FIA Race Control throughout the early part of 2021 for perceived inconsistencies at times in the policing of track limits.

That was especially notable over the course of the Bahrain Grand Prix, when the stance on track limits changed during the course of the weekend. It then appeared to change again during the race.

Currently, officials define expected hot spots and monitor those with a judge of fact, a solution Seidl suggests is sufficient for the short term.

“In the end, I think it’s clear that there’s no short-term solution available,” he said.

“I think we simply have to accept the situation we’re in at the moment.

“We go to different tracks with different track characteristics, different kinds of corners, tracks that are also made for different categories, and in order to go around these tracks in a safe way, we need to enforce the track limits.

“But I think also you need to be realistic, and you can only enforce it in certain areas, where you actually have to do the policing for safety reasons, or to make sure that no one can get a lasting advantage.”

Advances in safety standards have seen circuits opt for tarmacked run off areas as opposed to gravel or grass verges for a number of reasons.

Key among these is the requirements different forms of racing have, plus the expense of maintenance of facilities which need to serve the venue year round.

For Seidl, the argument that the white line should be used to simplify the matter would only serve instead to complicate it.

He also acknowledged the confusion the current method of policing selected corners creates for fans.

“The idea of just using the white lines for the entire track for a more simpler way of policing track limits, I think just doesn’t work,” he argued.

“You will get millions of infringements and most of them will not really matter, so I think that’s not the way forward.

“I think as long as we always know before the sessions what the track limits are, and how they get policed, and as long as then the policing is happening in a consistent way, which from our point of view is happening, I think we are fine with it from us from a sporting side.

“I also get it that that’s obviously not ideal to always have different rules in place for different corners for the fans,” he added.

“That’s why I think it makes sense to discuss that again, between teams, between FIA, and Formula 1, and see if there’s any way for example, to install track limits in the future, on all tracks, which gives you an automatic physical track limit in terms of losing performance whenever you go off the line, but that’s a process which was ongoing.”

The French Grand Prix gets underway next weekend, opening practice beginning at 19:30 AEST on Friday.

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