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F1 drivers question 'harsh' penalty rule change

Formula 1 track limits have been the subject of controversy for some time and it now seems that overstepping the mark will incur even stronger punishments going forward.

F1 Press Conference Saudi Arabia
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Several Formula 1 drivers have questioned the prospect of implementing a more severe penalty for track limit breaches going forward.

In recent years, a driver has traditionally been issued a five-second time penalty for overtaking a rival car while placing all four wheels across the white lines that define the edge of the track.

The same punishment has also been used to enforce track limit breaches during races, with a driver allowed three strikes before being hit the penalty.

However, it is believed that the default penalty for the same breach will now result in a 10-second time penalty, which will be served at a driver's next pit stop or added to their final race time.

Drivers raised concerns last year that it was too easy to overcome a five-second time penalty, particularly if the offender breached the rules against a slower car, allowing them to build up the necessary gap and nullify the penalty.

Drivers' verdict

Speaking ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc highlighted that drivers often struggle to adhere to track limits due to their position within the cockpit.

“It sounds quite harsh, it is quite harsh,” Leclerc said of the 10-second time penalty.

“The main priority should be fixing or at least helping us respect those track limits better.

“At the moment, the way the white lines are, we don't really see it. So I felt like five seconds was quite painful already. 10 seconds is, in my opinion, too much.”

Mercedes' George Russell mirrored Leclerc's comments: “I think it's difficult to really comprehend from television how difficult it is from within the car.

“You're sat so low, you only see the top 15 centimetres of your tyres. The cars are running 70 millimetres from the ground, even less at the end of the straight. So we need a kerb that we can feel and ultimately, some tracks we go to there's no track limit issues whatsoever.

“It's only a handful of circuits that we see a lot of track limit issues. So we just need to find a way to solve it.”

Aston Martin's Lance Stroll highlighted that track limit breaches could be eradicated by having a more punishing surface off the circuit such as gravel.

“I think it's a bit harsh, if you go off the track you get a penalty,” he said.

“Whether it's five seconds or 10 seconds, I think we're all pushing and trying to stay in the track limits. I think some of the bigger issues is actually how the track limits situation is.

“A lot of the tracks we go to, if we change that the actual nature of a lot of the tracks and make it a little bit easier to stay in the track limits but also maybe more penalising, if you go off the track limits of gravel or grass, we'd have less of these issues in the first place.”

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