As F1 prepares to officially kick off the much-anticipated 2022 season in Bahrain this weekend, the FIA has fixed yet another long-standing issue that has previously plagued the sport – track limits.
Forthe 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix, and potentially for the rest of the season, the white line will be defined as the edge of the track. This means that drivers will have to keep at least one wheel on their car within the track at all times or risk getting penalized.
The ruling comes courtesy of the newly appointed F1 Race Director Niels Wittich, who, in his official Race Director’s notes for the Bahrain GP, wrote the following:
“In accordance with the provisions of Article 33.3, the white lines define the track edges.”
The article Wittich is referring to is Article 33.3 of the F1 Sporting Regulations, which states:
Drivers must make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times and may not leave the track without a justifiable reason.
Drivers will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with it and, for the avoidance of doubt, any white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not.
Wittich is one of two F1 Race Directors appointed by the FIA following last season’s Abu Dhabi controversy, the other being Eduardo Freitas. The pair share race directing responsibilities and are assisted by a Virtual Race Control Room, as well as advised by senior FIA official Herbie Blash.
F1 track limits have been controversial in recent past
Unregulated and partially regulated track limits have long been a source of controversy in previous seasons. In the past, the FIA took a hands-off approach to track limits and mostly expected drivers to adhere to track limits without strictly monitoring them.
Unlessa corner or a part of a track was deemed to give a ‘lasting advantage’ to drivers who ran off the track, these limits weren’t enforced. At other times, track limits were only enforced during certain sessions, such as qualifying, while drivers were allowed to run off the track during practice and race sessions.
This not only created confusion among fans and teams alike but also led to drivers exploiting the loophole to their advantage. During the season-opening 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton infamously ran off the track for the majority of the race without facing any consequences, and even went on to win.