With the Dutch flags of the orange army presenting a colourful backdrop around the Red Bull Ring this weeeknd for Championship leader Max Verstappen, the FIA were producing flags of their own; in the form of black and white, for track limit infringements.
Multiple drivers committed transgressions, including race winner Charles Leclerc and second place Verstappen in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix. Though it was Pierre Gasly, Zhou Guanyu, Sebastian Vettel and Lando Norris who each received a 5s time penalty, plus 1 penalty point for breaching sporting regulations.
The FIA issued a Stewards Notice to the AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin and McLaren team managers stating they had determined the following:
“The car left the track on multiple occasions without justifiable reason.”
Post-race, the FIA issued a statement to the media:
"The checking of the track limits at the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix was consistent with all previous events this year. At every circuit, the white line is used to indicate track limits. This was implemented following discussions with the drivers and teams to improve consistency and clarity for the competitors and fans.
“The number of penalties today is proportional to the number of infringements of Article 33.3 of the Sporting Regulations, with drivers during the race given two 'strikes' for crossing the white line with all four wheels, followed by a black and white flag for the third infringement, and referral to the stewards for each subsequent infringement.”
In the post-race press conference, Verstappen had this response:
“I think the track limits debate this weekend has been a bit of a joke, not only in F1 but in F2 and F3. It's easy to say from the outside, but you have to just stay within the white lines. It sounds very easy, but it's not because when you go that quick through a corner and some of them are a bit blind, if you have a bit more understeer, tyres are wearing, it's easy to just go over the white line. But do we actually gain time? Maybe yes, maybe not. And to be honest, there's only two or three corners where you can really just go a bit wider.
“I don't think we should have this value on 1mm over, that's a penalty or whatever. Then just add a wall or put some gravel back where we… like Turn 6 on the exit. I think that's great because there is gravel, you punish yourself if you go wide. So these are things where we have to look into how we can make it better because also for the stewards and just the people involved with checking these track limits.
“I mean it's almost impossible to check these kind of things because you need what… almost like one guy on one car the whole race to check the whole lap if he's not going outside of the white line, where on this track, at least, in some places, you get naturally penalised if you go a bit wider and you touch the gravel.
“These kind of things, I think it just doesn't look good for the sport as well and this is just one thing. Then the other thing is racing incidents and stuff. Yeah for sure we can do better. I think we will work on it - we’ll try to make it better.”
Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate, Sergio Pérez’s weekend was significantly affected by exceeding track limits in Q2 on Friday. A nine-place grid drop was applied post qualifying, dropping him down to P13 for Saturday’s Sprint Race.
Numerous Formula 2 drivers also received similar notices and penalties from the F2 race stewards, as multiple drivers left the track at turns 1 and 9 across the feeder series race weekend.