Fernando Alonso puts a couple wheels over the curb during practice for the Hungarian GP at the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary on Friday, July 22, 2016.
Some of F1’s leading drivers have expressed mixed reactions to the FIA’s decision to monitor track limits in Hungary by electronic means, although in general the big names are supportive of the initiative.
The FIA is using extra timing loops at Turns 4 and 11 to record instances of cars going off with all four wheels. Although such a system has occasional been utilized in the past, for example to monitor corner cutting at chicanes, this is the first time that it has been used to see if anyone is gaining an advantage by running wide over the curbs at a corner exit.
The FIA’s decision comes after extensive discussion of abuse of track limits in the last two races in Britain and Austria. FIA sources say that if the system works well this weekend, it will be used elsewhere in the future.
Article continues below ...
Lewis Hamilton, who was penalized in qualifying at Silverstone, said that he supported the idea.
“I am not taking credit for it before I say it,” said the World Champion. “But I had mentioned it before, and they had already thought about it, and they thought they might have it for the next races as it would be an easier thing for them to police.
“When we say we are gaining an advantage then I think action needs to be taken, and it is a good step forward. Hopefully it will be easier for them to manage it and not have to look on the replay and see if we are just inside or just outside, so I think it will be good.”
Fernando Alonso made the point that hitherto drivers could be unlucky if their transgression happened to be caught on TV or spotted by trackside officials.
“I think it’s good,” said the Spaniard. “Like this we don’t rely on the marshals, we don’t rely on TV, if you in that moment broadcast or not. It’s good to have an automatic system. It’s some technology that is there already, so it’s good to use it in F1, where we should have the maximum of everything.”
Jenson Button said it was a useful step as it is sometimes too easy for drivers to run wide.
“It’s a good idea,” said the Briton. “Hopefully it works correctly. I think we’d all prefer not to have to have that system, but we do have to have that system. The way things are all the curbs are pretty similar on all circuits now, so they’re easy to run over on exits. So we need something, a limit to stop us going over them.
“The funny thing is even at Silverstone when people knew they would get penalized they would still run over it, because it’s so difficult to judge, whether your tire is over the white line, or on the white line. Most of the time we can’t see, because we’re so low in the car. It’s tricky with the design of the curbs now, how much curb we can take. Maybe the curbs need to be smaller, and then you’re not going to run off as far.”
However, while most of his colleagues expressed support for the idea, Sebastian Vettel said that the fact that such a detection system is needed is an indictment of the way tracks are designed.
“I think it’s the FIA to blame,” he said, “To build circuits that make it faster to run off the track rather than on the track. I went around the track this morning, and I think it’s quite disappointing. I think a lot of money went into it which, I guess, this place had to pay to put certain types of curbs in place.
The result is that probably it’s faster to go off-track than to stay on track. So I think the target is to build tracks so that they are designed to stay on track, and not allow us to go off track, and put sensors in it and so on. If you think about it doesn’t make much sense, does it?”
Vettel also expressed his disappointment that tracks are being now asked to install similar curb designs.
“The curbs define the character, the soul of the track, and if we put the same curbs in every single track, then all the tracks feel a little bit the same, just with different types of corners. But there’s a lot more than just the layout of the corners, it’s also the bumps, the curbs that get the certain feeling and, I think, makes it possible for us in the car to really make a difference.
“If we put the same curbs, then we take a little bit away that element, and I think it’s a bit of a shame to see that, here and there, we lost the typical curbs for this track. The same has happened to other tracks. To sum it up, I’m not a fan.”