F1 to use sensors to police track limits in Hungary

Using or creating technology is great but when the prime mover for doing so is the simple notion that “we can”, I get a little miffed. I’m not fan of doing tech because we can, I prefer doing tech because it’s needed or called for. The big question is, are this weekend’s track limit electronic measuring system called for or simply something to do because we can?

The FIA has decided to use a new electronic track limits system in order to penalize those drivers who do place all four wheels over the white track limit lines in Hungary. New double curbs have been installed along with timing sensors at turns 4 and 11 in Hungary.

The move has been met with some criticism from drivers however with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel saying:

“It’s the FIA to blame for building circuits that make it faster to run off the track than on the track,” he said. “It’s quite disappointing.

“The result is it’s faster to go off track than to stay on track.

“It doesn’t make much sense, does it?”

But McLaren’s Jenson Button likes the idea:

“It’s good, I like it,” he said. “The way things are, all of the kerbs are pretty similar on all circuits now, so they’re easy to run over on exits.

“We need something, we need a limit to stop us going over there.”

Jenson’s teammate, Fernando Alonso, perhaps makes the best case for the electronic track limit system saying:

“It’s good. Then we don’t rely on the marshals or on the TV and if you were broadcast in that moment or not.

“It’s technology that is there already so it’s good to use it. In Formula 1 you should have the maximum of everything.”

Even Lewis Hamilton likes the idea but a couple of seasons in Formula 1 has made a bit of a salty dog out of Russian Daniil Kvyat and he’s no fan of the system…clearly:

“Just put a normal kerb there and you don’t need all these electronic systems,” he said.

“It seems like the people who are taking these directions don’t know what to do.

“Now we have some sensors, maybe they’ll work correctly, maybe they’ll fuck everyone up.

“I personally trust my eyes more than the sensors.”

So how do you really feel Daniil? Don’t mince words. Alonso refers to the chance for stewards to interpret the situation with varying levels of effectiveness and I can appreciate that but then again, this is yet another electronic system to measure by the millimeter and leaves room for unseen or marginal infractions that could be met with punitive actions that fans at home may not fully see or agree with.

My jury is out on this but I understand the desire to stop drivers from running off track. On the other hand, I tend to agree with Vettel in that making it a negative impact by running off track on certain turns could be achieved with artificial grass, larger curbs or other features to slow the cars down should they run wide. Designing tracks that enable or promote running wide is not really the drivers fault and taking a lot of curb on certain turns is the fastest way around the circuit. The FIA just needs to make running wide the slower way around the circuit.


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Seb’s right to a point – yes the FIA should stop allowing Tilke to design tracks that it’s faster to run off the track than stay on it… But, that doesn’t mean that the right answer on those tracks is to run off the track… Track limits are the limits of play – even if there’s two miles of concrete runoff alongside the track. That run off is there because there’s a limit to how much drivers want to accept risk, because the drivers, the FIA, and the fans felt it was unacceptable for drivers to die with an alarming… Read more »

Clayton Brown

Seb’s argument doesn’t make any sense. It would be fair to say, in nearly any track every designed the fastest way will be off track. “what’s that a chicane ahead? F*** it”. NC – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this tech. It works well in tennis. Yes, at times a corner will look clean and will be “flagged”, after which we’ll get a replay and go “ouch … he just BARELY went over”. Last point – I think it’ll make the racing better. There’s an element of precision that wasn’t there before because it was always up to… Read more »


“Seb’s argument doesn’t make any sense. It would be fair to say, in nearly any track every designed the fastest way will be off track. “what’s that a chicane ahead? F*** it”.” That was my exact thought when I read Sebastian’s comments :-) Although I get what he’s trying to say – the circuit should be designed with an instant, self-policing time penalty for going off track (basically gravel traps or grass right up to the track edge). But then there’s the safety bit, and the desire to be able to use the track for other motorsport disciplines. So there’s… Read more »


Hi Andreas, I imagine that another factor in that balancing act must be the teams. I’m pretty sure that they will be encouraging the FIA to ensure that every time a car goes off track it doesn’t result in hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to the car.


You’re probably right about that. :)

Tim C.

Remove the curbs in the corners, slope the track downhill at a 20 degree angle just outside the white line and be done with it. You go over the white line at that point you will pay a price. The car won’t handle worth a flip when it hits that slope. So, you back off the gas pedal or pay the price.


Jonathan Palmer was interviewed on C4 during FP1 about this. He pointed out that many circuits had the kerbs changed for less aggressive ones so that the circuit was suitable for motorcycle racing. This then encourages car drivers to exceed track limits.

Perhaps what is needed is some temporary kerbs that can be bolted in place for F1 events and removed for Moto GP events?


Wasn’t that what the yellow “baguette” kerbs were for? Those were bolt-down, while the negative kerbs (which were the ones that caused those weird vibrations) were cast in place.


I like it. If they’re going to police track limits, make it so they will be policed irrespective of if someone’s looking or not. Having an “eagle eye” (IIRC that’s what they call it in tennis) available helps immensely with explaining to the viewer what happened. So my view is that this could actually be better for the fans at home. Of course, this weekend will show whether or not that is the case. I agree that the track itself should ideally be designed to deter off-track running – watching drivers going full tilt as close as possible to the… Read more »


The last time I checked, grass does a real fine job of keeping drivers within the track limits.

Paved runoff is no excuse. Put a 5 foot wide strip of grass on the outside of a kerb and no one ventures out there on purpose.


Ericsson’s accident in FP3 at Silverstone was because he put a wheel on the artificial grass on the outside of Stowe. Those consequences certainly discourage drivers from going there deliberately, but it appears that some decision makers in the sport believe it is unacceptable. There was certainly comments some years ago when it wasn’t unusual to have only eight or nine cars finishing a race that with so few cars running at the end ‘the show’ was suffering. Gravel traps and grass were replaced by high grip tarmac run off, so cars that went wide would not be eliminated, and… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

I would have preferred to use GPS sensors in the cars to track where they are in relation to the track. Then you can definitely see where the car goes off completely and there would be no doubts.
….then again, what do I know?


I’m not sure GPS would be accurate enough – we’re talking about fractions of an inch here. That said, from watching FP1 (haven’t got to FP2 yet), it seems these pressure pad sensors are not going to be the decider after all, at least in some corners I looked at. The cars’ full width comfortably fits within the width of the FIA-spec double kerbs (the raised red/white secion + the all red negative kerbs), so the pressure pad – which sits outside of that combination kerb – only begins screaming when the car is a good few inches off the… Read more »


They’re slowly getting to my proposed solution, track limit sensors, that automatically cut ERS and/or DRS deployment. Come on FIA, get on with it!


Early on, someone mentioned the system used pressure pads, but apparently, the sensors used in Hungary were some sort of loop system, which reacts to the car’s transponder. That’s a system that could indeed be used to instruct the car to do stuff, if you wanted to. But I suspect that’d be seen as one step too far – it will probably still be an alert to the stewards, with some kind of warning system like they had here. Interestingly, Charlie explained that they’d intentionally given the drivers a 20 cm margin (so the sensor only reacted once the car… Read more »


I thought the white line represented the “track limits”.
If it does, then why do we need sensors in only two corners?
Either the white line is the track limit or it isn’t.
If it is, get rid of all of the curbs and your silly sensors.
Ditto if it isn’t.
This entire argument by the FIA is asinine.