An important and a particularly nagging detail noted by all fans of the sport was the numerous times the race directors penalized drivers for exceeding track limits throughout the weekend. In the practice and qualifying sessions, lap times were deleted of nearly all the drivers. In the sprint race and main race, drivers were subsequently warned and shown the black flag on multiple occasions. Lewis Hamilton was heard saying on his radio “That’s BS man! Are other drivers getting this?” during the race when he was shown a Black & White flag.
Indeed, many drivers were going through those penalties. On Sunday itself a total 43 such violations were made note of. Few repeat offenders, namely Norris, Vettel, Guanyu and Gasly were handed a 5-second time penalties. In addition to this, a penalty was also added to their Super License. Even before the race on Sunday, Sergio Perez was penalised during the qualifiying session, having all of his Q3 and Q2 lap times deleted and relegated to 12th place.
FIA claims that the supervision of the track limits was in accordance with the rule book Article 33.3 of the Sporting Regulations, which states that the drivers are given two strikes for crossing the white lines with all 4 wheels, followed by a black and white flag, followed by an adequate penalty with reference to the stewards. The organization also asserts that the decision making has been consistent throughout the season, in all the past races as well. But it is clearly apparent that the interpretations of the rules are stricter this year, as compared to the previous years, where specific instructions were applied to few specific corners. In Austria especially, drivers were scrutinized closely at Turns 9 and 10. For a Turn 10 violation, their next lap time was deleted as well.
Fans and drivers alike have criticized this authority. Max Verstappen and Lando Norris were particularly vocal about their thoughts and called it “a joke”. Max also pointed out that too many F1 track limit penalties “was not a good look for the sport”.Lando Norris on the other hand expressed his dejection with the fact that he could have secured P6, if not for the track limit penalties.
HAAS driver Mick Schumacher also acknowledged that the matter should be debated after what was witnessed at the Austrian GP as it will have severe repercussions in the upcoming French GP. He added that drivers may or may not gain time at specific corners, and that a 5-second time penalty was a bit too harsh, as at most corners, drivers would obviously lose time if they went wide, and that was a natural penalty on its own, especially the ones with the sausage kerbs. Several fans also took to social media to call out the race directors. However, FIA has ruled that the track limit laws will be maintained for the subsequent races as well.