Formula 1 Racing

Has “perfect” track limits fix created an opportunity for foul play in qualifying? · RaceFans

Gravel, turn nine, Red Bull Ring, 2024

The FIA has responded to concerns over track limits abuse at the Red Bull Ring by installing a pair of gravel traps at the final two corners.

Small strips of gravel have been added behind the kerbs at turns nine and ten on the Austrian circuit. Last year 83 infringements were recorded at the two corners and the FIA took hours investigating over 1,200 potential cases.

FIA Formula 1 race director Niels Wittich described the new arrangement as “the perfect set-up” as it should mean any driver who goes beyond the white line marking the edge of the track will touch the gravel, both slowing them down and making the transgression obvious.

However Tsunoda pointed out the problem of having a gravel trap so close to the racing line is that drivers can drag the small stones back onto the circuit if they go off. This is already a problem at other circuits.

Gravel from turn nine could affect entry to turn ten, says Tsunoda

“It’s a good modification but hopefully it won’t be like Monza’s second chicane [Variante della Roggia],” said Tsunoda.

“There, all the gravel is coming onto the race track and increasing the chance of the puncture,” he said.

“Also the gravel might also cause floor damage as well,” he added. “The speed difference between Monza and here is quite a lot different, so it might not happen. But if that happens it’s pretty hard to avoid, that gravel.”

However the configuration and location of the two corners at the Red Bull Ring adds a further dimension to this problem.

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Drivers tackle the two high-speed corners which conclude a lap at the Red Bull Ring in quick succession. Tsunoda pointed out that a driver who makes an error at turn nine could spread gravel onto the final corner, causing problems for those behind them.

“Especially in qualifying, when someone drives on the kerb and the gravel comes into the track, for sure it will compromise the coming corner,” he said. “Which will be the last corner, which is still a high-speed corner and you still need good rear grip. So that’s the only thing, probably, you can consider.”

Red flag, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024
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This might happen by accident easily enough. But in the circumstances of a qualifying session a cynically-minded driver could exploit it to gain an advantage.

For example: A driver goes quickest of all on their first run in Q3, leads the field out for the final runs, but drops a…

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