Track limits have been a major issue for F1 this season. We saw a number of drivers get penalties in tracks like Austria, Qatar, and Austin. Although they gave a number of penalties for track limits, the FIA was not able to catch them all in time. As a result, the FIA has decided to lean on AI for assistance.
During the 2023 Austrian GP, a lot of cars exceeded track limits during the race. However, the FIA was not able to keep track of it in real time. As a result, the FIA was not able to give out the penalties in time for the chequered flag. Hence there was a lot of confusion after the race to the actual finishing order of the driver. A couple of hours later, the FIA and Formula 1 released the final finishing position of the Austrian Grand Prix.
It was clear that the FIA had to look at other ways to monitor track limits. Now they will be using the assistance of “Computer Vision” to monitor track limits. They will be inaugurating this technology in Abu Dhabi for the season finale.
⚠️ | The FIA has revealed plans to use Artificial Intelligence to better police track limits in Formula 1, with trials of new technology taking place in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
As part of a bid to improve the speed by which track limit checks are processed, the FIA is to… pic.twitter.com/H2CeMtQOmX
— Fastest Pitstop (@FastestPitStop) November 23, 2023
Previously, track limits have not been a problem at the Abu Dhabi Circuit. However, the cars keep changing every year. So it is difficult to predict how the 2023 cars will respond to the track. Two out of the three practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been completed. Although track limits were not an issue during these 2 sessions, we did witness a number of drivers have issues with bottoming.
If Computer Vision turns out to be successful in Abu Dhabi, the FIA will use the same tech in the races for the upcoming season. It will be interesting to see how AI will monitor the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
When was track limits introduced in F1?
Track limits have always been a part of F1. Without track limits, drivers can take the car anywhere with no questions asked. In order for a valid lap to be completed, a driver will have to go around the circuit without exceeding track limits.
To mark the track limits of a circuit, there are white lines that run on the edges of the track. The rule states that a car cannot have all 4 wheels outside of the white lines. This constitutes a track limits violation. However, a penalty or warning is not given if the driver spins the car out of control or is forced to leave the track. As long as the driver does not gain lap time by leaving the circuit, it will not be ruled as a violation of track limits in F1.
During the 1980s, we saw Ayrton Senna get disqualified from a race due to a controversial incident with Alain Prost. This was when Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna crashed out of the race during the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix.
Why was ‘track limits’ such a big talking point in Austria? 🔎
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 2, 2023
Prost had to retire the car. However, Senna was able to restart the engine and get the car running again. But while joining the track, Senna cut the corner where both the cars crashed. After the race, the FIA decided to disqualify Senna as he did not respect the length of the race. This incident was followed by a lot of debates and controversies.
The FIA has since modified the penalty system for track limits. According to the current rules and regulations, during the race, the driver will get 3 warnings for every track limit violation. After these 3 warnings, the driver will get a black and white flag which will be the final warning. The next time the driver violates track limits, a 5-second penalty will be given. However, if the driver violates track limits to get a big advantage, the FIA may choose to penalize the driver immediately.