Formula 1 Track Limits

Throughout the 2020 and 2021 seasons, every race weekend, track limits was a contentious issue. It’s always a topic for commentators, and not just that drivers are exceeding track limits, that’s not the problem, rather that track limit rules are being made up on the go.

Despite the rules already doing so, race direction defines the limits of the track at each circuit each race weekend. Different corners have different definitions. Sometimes the white line, sometimes the red and white curb, sometimes the green area beyond the curb. Even worse, these definitions change during the course of the weekend. And if it weren’t true it’d probably be unbelievable, sometimes definition of the edge of the track changes mid session.

The track limit rules are somewhat clear in the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations. Part of article 27.3:

Drivers must make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times and may not 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.

Unfortunately, that the white line is the edge of the track is not the main point of the only sentence that defines the edge of the track. It could easily be a lot clearer, but the intention that the white line is the edge of the track is definitely there.

Imagine if during a grand slam tennis match, the umpire says actually from now on where going to the use doubles' line for the edge of the court. Oh and from now on on the line is out. If that happened at the Australian Open it would rain beer cans, or plastic cups or whatever they serve there.

So what’s the solution? Change the rules to reflect what happens in the real world so race direction can decide willy nilly what the edge of the track is? Doesn’t sound very good, but it would actually be an improvement on the current situation, at least race direction would be within the rules.

The obvious-when-you-see-it solution is to adjust the track before the race. If there’s a need to have cars running wide at certain corners, decide that before the race weekend, get the paint can out and paint a new white line. Then stick to the rules.