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Brundle: F1 drivers struggling to see the white lines at high speed

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Martin Brundle touched on the matter of track limits, at Circuit of the Americas, during the 2023 United States Grand Prix weekend, suggesting that from the confines of the cockpit of Formula 1 cars, they are struggling to see the white lines.

The saga got negative press once again in the wake, of course, of the shenanigans during the Qatar Grand Prix weekend. The venue in Austin, with, its rises, slow and fast sections and sharp turns with acres of run-off was always going to be an issue, and so proved to be with 35 track limit infractions recorded during the 56-lap race on the 5.5 km track

In his Sky F1 post-US GP reflections, Brundle writes that a solution to track limits infringements needs to be found: “Track limits reared its ugly head again, as they always do at COTA, and pretty much everywhere these days. The white lines defining the edge of the racetrack in the three most critical corners were cheekily widened overnight on Friday.

“This meant that in the race there were 35 recorded track limit infringements in the eight corners monitored. Given that 17 cars finished the 56-lap race, those corners were navigated successfully over 7600 times, to put it in perspective.”

Brundle is an F1 driver himself. knows that every inch counts out on track, especially in this era when the tiniest margins, a tenth or so, can mean a front-row grid or not making it out of Q2 in Qualifying.

The Sky F1 pundit continued: “The conundrum remains the same, drivers will always push the outer limits because it’s faster. High kerbs can damage cars and tyres, and launch them dangerously into the air. Big tarmac run-off areas give options to avoid incidents and to keep cars in the race, avoid safety cars and red flags. There wasn’t even a yellow flag let alone a safety car in the race.

Martin: Gravel, grass, or artificial turf just the other side of the kerb can be effective but…

Kamui Kobayashi of Japan and Caterham gets off the track after his crash with Felipe Massa of Brazil and Williams during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit on March 16, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Vladimir Rys)

“But often [dirt] comes up and gets spread all over the race track,” argued Brundle. “What’s good for car racing with regard to run-off areas is often bad for bike racers, or may well restrain an F1 car but is laughed at and ignored by other categories.

“All the support race categories in Austin had more lenient interpretations of track limits and it didn’t look especially professional, and certainly not acceptable in F1. It’s a problem that’s easily fixed with the unyielding walls and barriers of a street circuit, but much more difficult for the many different circuits of the world.

“Specific and more colourfully painted zones which must be driven over and have sensors or a permanent camera observing for instant feedback may be one solution.

“The drivers are clearly struggling to see the painted white lines at high speed while peering out of a cluttered cockpit, so bright zones and a touch more leeway would help reduce the issue. Something slippery and uninviting just the other side of the kerb may have to be a solution,” suggested Brundle.

With Mexico City, Sao Paulo, the unknown Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi left on the schedule, Brundle predicts Yas Marina could provide problems again: “Turn 1 in Abu Dhabi interests me because there’s a slight drop down onto the run-off area which compromises the drivers into the high speed turns two and three, and so they tend to be more accurate there.

“Whatever the fix, letting drivers make up their own racetrack is not one of them,” concluded Brundle.

Big Question: How to sort out F1 track limits?