The 2023 Austrian Grand Prix qualifying session has sparked controversy and criticism over the track limits rules at the Red Bull Ring. Since the new approach to track limits was implemented by the FIA in 2022, the final two corners of the circuit have become a contentious issue. The previous inconsistency in rule application has been eliminated, leading to a significant increase in laps being deleted in qualifying. Last year, 16 drivers had their times deleted, while in 2023, this number rose to 47. The increased number of laps being deleted can be attributed to the teams’ pursuit of improved ride platforms to eliminate porpoising.
Max Verstappen, who clinched pole position, expressed his frustration at the number of laps being deleted, stating that it made the drivers look like amateurs. However, Verstappen acknowledged the difficulty of judging the track limits in Austria, especially considering the challenge of the short and rapid layout, as well as the compressions that can cause the car to understeer or go over the white line. He also mentioned that some deletions were marginal, making it impossible to judge if the car was within the limits.
The difficulty of navigating the track limits in Austria was evident in Charles Leclerc‘s final lap in Q3. Despite his impressive performance, Leclerc lost out on pole position by a mere 0.048 seconds. He mentioned that his lap was compromised by mistakes in Turns 1 and 3, highlighting the challenging nature of the circuit.
The drivers who had their laps deleted for going too wide in Turns 9 and 10 should not be condemned, as they were attempting a difficult task. Verstappen himself had a time deleted early in Q2 but managed to set a faster time despite being more cautious. On the other hand, Sergio Perez did not adapt and paid the price for it. Verstappen argued against installing temporary gravel traps at the contentious points on the track, citing safety concerns.
Despite the criticism and comparisons to other circuits, it is important to focus on the challenge that the drivers face in Austria. The rules regarding track limits have improved since 2022, providing a clear definition of the white line. It adds to the spectacle when the drivers push the limits and face the consequences if they go too far.
In conclusion, the track limits debate during qualifying at the Austrian Grand Prix should be seen as part of the challenge that the drivers must overcome. The difficulty of judging the track limits adds excitement and adds to the spectacle of the event. Instead of criticizing the rules, it is important to appreciate the skills and determination of the drivers.