What can F1 do to stop track limit's abuse? Here's an idea which could help.
The Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend was arguably the best season opening race for some time, with Mercedes appearing to have a genuine threat from Red Bull for the first time in the Turbo-Hybrid era.
Max’s hugely impressive qualifying performance saw him take the first non-Mercedes pole at the opening race since 2013 by four tenths of a second. In the race, Verstappen looked to have the race however Lewis, with great skill and strategy overcame the Dutchman to win the opening round of the season for the first time since 2015.
However, many fans were quick to point out that Hamilton may have gained an unfair advantage throughout the entirety of the Grand Prix as he took advantage of relaxed Turn 4 track limit rules during the race, with some noting he ran wide 29 times throughout the 56 lap race. Some fans have predicted this could have gained Hamilton as much as six seconds over the duration of the race, enough to ensure he won rather than finishing second.
Although the argument has been raised this was against the sporting regulations, the FIA and Michael Masi made it clear prior to the weekend that the Turn 4 track limits would only be in strict place for the Friday and Saturday, before being relaxed for the race itself, where the officials would observe what was occurring throughout the Grand Prix before intervening if needed.
The officials did indeed intervene however some believe this was too late, so what is solution to this problem?
Since run-offs were made safer by replacing the grass at the sides of the circuit with tarmac in the early noughties, track limits have become and increasingly complex problem. It is also one which can be considered a grey area, dependent on the circuit and even the corner the driver is taking.
While commentating for Sky, Martin Brundle noted that sensors could be used to ensure cars remain within the confines of the track. This option is a simple solution to an issue, if more than half the car goes over the white line which dictates the end of the circuit, then the car will hit a sensor which will feed information back to race control. A similar system to this is already in place on some British circuits owned by Brands Hatch, most notably at Brands Hatch on the exit of Paddock Hill Bend, as well as Donington Park and Oulton Park.
The way that this system is utilised, is if a driver does indeed go further than half a cars width over the white line, the sensor is hit, which triggers a camera pointing on that sensor to send a photo to race control. If a driver goes over those sensors three times, they are awarded a black and white flag for track limits abuse, if they hit it again, they are reprimanded further, depending on the severity of the infringement.
This would be a great start for Formula 1, but with cars going so fast and margins being so fine, could a more loop-hole proof system be created to ensure there are no grey areas on a matter which gets so many riled up? Another idea which has been suggested is the addition of a laser to the underside of each car, exactly in the middle of the chassis. If more than half the car goes off the circuit, the laser beam is broken and an alert is sent to race control.
There are many advantages for cars staying on the track, not only is the racing closer and fairer, as can be seen in championships such as the British Touring Car Championship where the system has been implemented, but also safer, as cars have to stay on the track or risk gaining a penalty. We have seen numerous accidents where drivers have driven off the road, either by choice or through unfortunate events which have then led to potentially dangerous accidents, so such system would be a deterrent for any driver wanting to overstep the mark.
F1 have recently announced that new, stricter measures on track limits will be trialled at the next meeting in Imola, we shall see what happens next!