[How the FIA avoided post-Qatar GP track F1 limits penalties
At July’s Austrian Grand Prix, eight drivers were penalised – Alpine’s Esteban Ocon four separate times – post-race after the FIA had sifted through 1200 potential track limits transgressions.
Although the Qatar event included a similar heavy focus on the number of track limits infractions the drivers were accruing in the event won by Max Verstappen, the need for post-race investigations did not occur after the FIA had worked to improve its football VAR-like Remote Operations Centre system.
As was the case for the Austria race, Motorsport.com understands that a team of officials was manning screens in the ROC that showed only the corners of the Losail track where track limits were a particular problem all weekend.
Back in July, each time a driver went off track, these officials had to zoom in on a possible offence clocked by automated systems within the cameras monitoring certain corners, to then flag it to another official working in race control.
The second official then assessed whether a penalty – either one of the allowed ‘strikes’ or the sanctions that followed drivers exhausting that tolerance – was necessary for where the car in question was positioned.
This led to lengthy delays between drivers even being flagged for going over track limits at the Red Bull Ring and teams being unable to warn them they were close to risking penalties, which then built up significantly as the race wore on and then dragged on once the event had concluded.
Perez was penalised three times for track limits violations
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
For the Qatar race, the system was refined so that the ROC officials only had to quickly flag that a possible violation had been detected by the automated systems, with that information then being assessed by a larger team of track limits-focused officials in race control – understood to be twice the total number working on this element for the Austrian event.
In total, the FIA estimated that the majority of track limit violations in the Qatar race were assessed within a lap of the offence occurring or not.
The governing body had also built in a contingency policy in time for the Qatar event that would have informed the teams it was behind on assessing track limits incidents via F1’s official timing pages, which then would have allowed the teams to warn their drivers generally to stop abusing track limits further.
In total, 51 laps were deleted in the Qatar race, following 83 in Austria.