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Max Verstappen

Former F1 driver on track limits: Race director has little choice

The row over track limits is still proving a key talking point of the 2021 F1 season. Former Formula 1 driver Alexander Wurz has defended the role of race direction though, arguing that in some circumstances there is not much else they can do.

Article
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

Formula 1's race direction might have come under fire from some over the use of track limits, but former driver Alexander Wurz believes that in some circumstances they have little choice.

The first two races of the 2021 season have seen several controversial incidents linked to the topic. In the Bahrain Grand Prix, Max Verstappen was forced to give the lead back to Lewis Hamilton after his overtake on the Mercedes was deemed to have exceeded track limits.

Meanwhile Lando Norris saw a potential third place on the grid taken from him in qualifying at Imola after he also went beyond the track boundaries, meaning that he instead started the race from seventh.

Turn 9 at Imola - otherwise known as Piratella - proved to be the undoing for many including Norris, but Wurz believes that the current conditions at the bend mean there was no alternative for the stewards than to penalise drivers.

"I could imagine that the track limits would be removed, but then the cars would drive two metres further to the right," Wurz told broadcaster ORF.

"And then there's no runoff at all and as FIA race director you'd be making a nonsense of your own safety calculations. And that's why the race director actually has little choice."

With the issue showing no signs of dying down, Wurz believes that the tracks need to be redesigned in a way so that no advantage can be gained from leaving the track.

"I have always been an enemy of artificial track limits, you need natural track limits," the Austrian - who is the chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association - explained.

"There's grass or gravel, that works easily."

There has been confusion over seeming inconsistencies in track limits rulings since the start of the season. An example of this was in Bahrain, where Verstappen's penalised overtake at Turn 4 came after Hamilton had been regularly running wide there during the race. This was because FIA race director Michael Masi previously stated that policies over track limits would not apply there in the Grand Prix as they had in qualifying and practice.

When Red Bull queried this with race direction, Hamilton was given a warning over team radio. The suggestion that the policy changed mid-race led to calls from the likes of Verstappen to make things clearer.

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