Grand Prix 2023 Austrian Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Red Bull Victory Discussion

I know exactly what you’re thinking! You’re thinking there’s less than 24 hours to go until we get to watch the next race weekend of this thrilling Formula 1 season and there is yet to be a PQR thread posted. Well worry no further for here it is.

Hold on to your hats race fans, it’s going to be another one of those awesome Sprint race weekends where we get to see the worlds best drivers complain they can’t push on maximum attack because of tyre wear. There has been a slight rule tweak for the tyres in sprint qualifying this weekend to enable drivers who make it into the final sprint qualifying session to use another set of new or used softs. This was due to Lando running out of fresh sets in the sprint qually session in Baku and therefore not being able to take part.

The Red Bull Ring once again hosts the Austrian GP and will no doubt also be win number 9 of the season for the Red Bull Racing Team. It’s very strange though, ever since the Miami GP where Sergio Perez in the second car. set pole and finished second, his form has gone mysteriously off the boil. Its as if the driver who won the Baku sprint race and GP and at that point was only 4 points behind Max in the championship, can no longer find the same level of speed to challenge his renowned teammate. I wonder what’s changed?

Alonso at Aston and Hamilton for Merc are locked in a battle for the scraps on the podium table with both having beamed their smiling chops down on the crowds from on high. Alonso has been the more consistent so far but after the Canada upgrades Lewis seems a lot more comfortable in his car. Both of their teammates however, in Stroll and Russell are letting the side down.

What that means is that Ferrari, are getting away with being utterly awful but are still not too far off the Merc powered motors in front of them. Let’s be honest, Ferrari are in deep doo doo unless they can work out what’s going wrong with their car. It was only by looking at the championship table on Wiki did I see just how off their performance has been. A single podium and 2 fourth places compared to multiple top four finishes for RBR, Aston and Mercedes.

Interestingly, from the start of the 2022 season until the Hungarian GP, Red Bull had taken 8 wins to Ferrari’s 4. From the Belgian GP where the ground effect anti-porpoising rules were introduced, Red Bull have won 15 out of the next 16 races, with Merc taking the only other win.

Williams will be hoping that Albon’s performance in Canada was not a one off and that the upgraded car is now genuinely among the middle of the pack and will go on to be a regular points finisher. What it did show however, was that while the cars can run closer together, overtaking with or without DRS remains as impossible as ever. While the commentators may guff on about the “DRS Train”, with all due respect to Albon’s drive, he didn’t have DRS at the head of that pack and had the oldest tyres in that group. The fact that at various times, Ocon and Stroll couldn’t even get close to passing the Williams shows how big the problems of racing still are.

Anyway, for those who wish to put themselves through yet another lights to flag Red Bull victory, the broadcast times are as follows:

First Practice30 June12:30
Qualification30 June16:00
Sprint Shootout1 July11:00
Sprint1 July15:30
Race2 July14:00
which means everyone would be black flagged

Interesting to see who did not get warned and should have
i know this from F2, that it is possible to be black flagged. because i feel like i watched a race where this happened or very nearly did. where i believe it goes like this
3 strikes
- 5 seconds
3 strikes
- 5 seconds
3 strikes
- 10 seconds
3 strikes
- 10 seconds
3 strikes
- black flagged
That seems simple, but if you don't or can't inform the team or driver they are exceeding the limits, such are the fine margins they shouldn't proceed to 10 sec or black flag. The problem is that the track is not fit for purpose for car racing, if they wish to continue MotoGP then a wider track outside of the gravel for cars needs to be constructed in the run off areas, there seems to be enough room. Red Bull own the track and it's part of their marketing so they'd best put their thinking hats on.
Things like the Mickey Mouse track limits BS are turning F1 into a joke, affect the racing (and spectator enjoyment) and are so unnecessary (from a fan’s view, there’s just no need to cut it so fine—it just adds further complications). Before this obsession with track limits, drivers just found the quickest way around the circuit, using as much curb as they wanted toward this end and that was that. I saw nothing wrong with that (and the curbs are, after all, a part of the circuit) and enjoyed watching the drivers finding the quickest way around. The logic that F1 is using to justify this ridiculous strict adherence to track limits is flawed in that it’s easily reversed. F1’s claim is that if a driver exceeds (what they are designating as) track limits (notably by using more curb while exiting a corner) then that driver is gaining an unfair advantage. Quite simply, if drivers are again allowed to use as much curb as they want then there is no unfair advantage to worry about since all drivers will then be doing it. No need for race officials to impose any penalty because the penalty is inherent: if a driver uses anything other than the optimal amount of curb (such as running wide and using too much curb) he is automatically penalized by losing time. Then, the only related things race officials need concern themselves with is if a driver cuts a corner or goes off the track to execute a pass. I think I speak for the majority of F1 fans when I state that the less influence and interference that race officials have in affecting the outcome of a race, the better. Just let the drivers drive and race, and hand out penalties only for what truly are egregious sporting and technical offenses.

A few more points re. the Mickey Mouse nature of this track limits issue. The penalty seems much too harsh for the “crime.” In so many of the cases the driver exceeded the track limit by such a ridiculously small margin that the most he could have gained is a few tenths at most. Yet (and this is especially significant in qualifying, particularly if the driver utilized the best lap from his set of tires) the driver is docked the entire lap. Often with these miniscule margins the driver wasn’t aware that he had exceeded track limits—and this is quite understandable given that the driver sits so close to the ground in a cockpit in which his view is limited and he is at speed. So, if officials are going to enforce this stupid rule then they need to inform the team (who can then inform the driver) of each infringement. What was done in Austria (checking for them and assessing penalties after the race) was particularly unfair because it denied the penalized drivers the opportunity to cover their time penalty because they didn’t know of the penalty. With the post-race 10 sec. penalty, Lewis lost his 7th place by a mere fraction of a sec.—something he could easily have covered had he known about it during the race, given that he was running quicker than GR. Ditto for Sainz, who lost out to Alonso by just 1 sec.—the Ferraris were quicker than the AMs here and Sainz probably could have covered that one sec. had he known of the penalty during the race. If the sport lacks the technical means to keep current on these infringements during the race then that’s just all the more reason to scrap this unnecessary rule. By continuing to come up with things like this strict track limits BS, F1 and the FIA seem determined to ruin their sport.
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I think the problem is that due to the "Mickey Mouse" nature of the track there actually is no loss of time or it's in hundredths of a second, there may not be an advantage in overtaking off the circuit due to the rules but the advantage of coming off the corner with more speed is certainly pertinent to an overtake just after the corner. The question is then how much the run off can they take without penalty, another white line just increases the track width and we are back where we started
Wombat its not a good look the track limits & to still not know by 9pm who was actually finishing in the points is not what we want, i know what you mean about scrapping track limits but the problem is for me is that wouldn't we be swapping 1 embarrassment for another embarrassment. we dont want to be indycar. when they had the same idea. as is always said they wouldn't be out there if there wasn't time to be gained. isnt that penalising Russell, Alonso, Norris, Verstappen, Leclerc who all finished in the top 10 without getting any penalties

I agree its harsh, but just look at the cost cap for a recent example F1 team will abuse any loophole they can. as they will always break the rules if the punishment is worth the crime. thats F1
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Things like...
Track limits have always been an issue, but until the great tarmacked runoffs became the norm, drivers who went over the track limits found themselves punished.

Where track limits were not covered in gravel, in the not-to-distant past, drivers either were disqualified (Senna, Suzuka '89), or had to stop, and wait to be allowed back onto the circuit (Prost, Hockenheim '91).

The only reason that it's an issue is that, unless there is a punishment, drivers will push the limit of what they are able to do. Inevitably, without the penalties, drivers would spend half the race on parts of tarmac that are definitively not parts of the racetrack.
I did find it amusing when Lewis was warned about track limits in Austria and his excuse was that the car wouldn't turn fast enough. Here's a thing Lewis, if you were going more slowly the car would turn through the corners within the track limits. But as you didn't bother with them, Lando Norris couldn't get close enough to overtake you.
It seems that some of the posters here have either misunderstood what I’m saying or perhaps are so new to the sport that they haven’t seen F1 races prior to this more recent period of what I consider to be absurd and unnecessarily stringent policing of track limits. All I’m saying is that they should just dispense with this absurdity and go back to how it was before this (and that wasn’t long ago). I’ve been following F1 since the 1960’s and track limits were never such of an issue until now (the two cases noted by The Artist involving Senna and Prost were not track limits issues and I’ll discuss them in a separate post). Basically, the track limits issue took care of itself—the drivers found the quickest way around, generally taking as much curb as was optimal, and that was it. Furthermore, it was self-policing. If a driver took too much curb, went over the curb and ran wide, etc., he automatically suffered a penalty in lost time—and this is all that is really called for; there was no need for race officials to intervene by assessing a penalty that could interfere with the racing. Finally, (a point I made which some seem to have missed) without that strict track limits rule no single driver gained an advantage because all were allowed to do the same thing. Some people seem to have the impression that without the Mickey Mouse ‘strict adherence to track limits rule’ the races would be chaotic affairs with cars running wildly all over the circuit. The point I’m making is that such wasn’t the case in those past races (note that this strict track limits BS rule was only fairly recently implemented so these include races held at modern circuits which contain large asphalt runoff areas instead of gravel)—they went on just fine as they would continue to do if this anal restrictive enforcement was scrapped.

Every patron of this site knows racing well enough to know that drivers will take the quickest way around and this lies on the circuit proper (which includes the curbs) along the clean racing line where a base of rubber has been laid down that even increases the grip. The drivers will not want to stray from this line and that’s why I say the track limits issue takes care of itself. So what if the drivers go a bit over the white line and take a bit more curb because it’s quicker (again, if all are allowed to do it then there’s no advantage to any single driver). It’s no big deal! And we all know that if a driver runs wide out onto an asphalt runoff area he will lose time because there isn’t as much grip there and the tires can temporarily lose some grip by picking up dust and dirt out there (I'm not speaking here of deliberate attempts to short-cut the circuit, a situation which will draw a penalty on its own account). Given all of the above there just aren’t any worries that without the strict track limits enforcement F1 will degenerate into something chaotic with cars wildly going all over the circuit. It will just be the way it always had been. It’s not necessary and the racing and the sport are better off (and more enjoyable) without it. For example, consider the battle between Lewis and Lando. Instead of hearing Lando repeatedly complain about Lewis going over the line and having to worry about Lewis getting a penalty and a good battle thus being ruined, without the strict track limits rule we could instead have enjoyed an unfettered battle with both drivers taking the optimal amount of curb and just going as quickly as they could without any worry about needless, nit-picky restrictions and intervention by race officials. I find this to be immensely more preferable. There’s no need to define track limits so strictly; just allow the drivers reasonable leeway.
Wombat i think we would all love drivers to be self policing, but i think the realistic ambitions are that if you let drivers get away with it they will because their is no disadvantage to kerbs any more because back in 80's & 90's the kerb were bigger but because we share with moto gp they have to be flatter now
I'd suggest not starting posts suggesting that posters here have "just started watching F1" - as you aren't going to make any friends that way.

You say you've been watching F1 since the 60s - back in the 60s, drivers were self-policing on track limits because (due to the design of the cars, and the design of the circuit), going off line would lead to cars retiring, or even leading to the drivers being killed.

In the 80s, gravel traps were de-rigeur.

Your argument that drivers would never go off onto the (tarmac) runoffs because it's dusty is also a bit specious - the racing line is only more grippy because more drivers drive there. If there are tarmac run-offs, and track limits are not enforced, then what happens is that drivers simply ignore the track, and drive the route round the track that (in the long run) will be fastest. The runoff area starts to be gripped up with more and more rubber, and the actual race track becomes dusty and unused.

It's not even as if it's controversial to suggest that sports should stay within the playing surface...
  • Athletics - if you run outside of your lane (or even touch the line), you are disqualified.
  • Football - if the ball goes outside of the playing surface, the ball is out of play, and play has to be restarted with the opposing team
  • Sumo wrestling - you step outside of the ring, you are defeated
  • (Floor) gymnasics - if you step outside of the floor area, you are penalised.
  • If you step in front of the service line in tennis, you make a foot-fault, and lose the point
In F1, the track is defined by the white lines. Going outside of it (just like these other sports) should lead to you being penalised - whether by going slower due to a change in surface (gravel?) or by the governing body. For much of its history, F1 has had no incentive to go off track, because going off track would either be crashing, or being beached in the gravel.

The only reason that people are complaining about Austria is that the drivers pushed the envelope - they decided that in the cost-benefit analysis, that the cost of potential penalties was outweighed by the benefits from driving off track. Had the stewards followed a more draconian set of penalties such as:

  1. 2 strikes - Black and white flag
  2. 3 strikes - 5 second penalty
  3. 4 strikes - 30 second penalty
  4. 5 strikes - disqualification
then maybe drivers would be much more likely to respect track limits. There is a very strong motivation for disqualification, as if the car cannot stay on the track, either there must be something wrong with the car (meaning that it is dangerous to be on the track), or the driver cannot control the car (meaning that it is dangerous to be on the track).

There are motorsports where there are no track limits (Desert rallys, for instance).
Where track limits were not covered in gravel, in the not-to-distant past, drivers either were disqualified (Senna, Suzuka '89), or had to stop, and wait to be allowed back onto the circuit (Prost, Hockenheim '91).
The Japan, 1989 incident wasn’t really a case of exceeding track limits and certainly wasn’t the kind of Mickey Mouse case that I’ve criticized in which drivers were penalized for crossing over the white line while exiting a corner. Not unsurprisingly, both of the cases cited here were incidents that involved Senna and Prost running side by side while approaching a corner, with Senna having the inside line (and thus, by convention, the rights to the corner) in both instances. The first one cited is, of course, the first of the two infamous incidents between Senna and Prost at Suzuka. Late in the race Prost was leading but with Senna right on his tail looking to pass. Senna got a good run out of 130R and on the approach to the final chicane he made his move. Prost took the normal outside line, leaving a gap on the inside. With a brilliant late braking move, Senna shot into the gap and pulled alongside Prost as they neared the turn in point. At this point, by racing sporting convention it was Senna’s corner but Prost nevertheless turned right into Senna (Among Prost’s absurd post race comments he claimed that he had moved over and closed the door on Senna. However, when the other car is already alongside it’s not closing the door—it’s then a case of crashing into it! He also claimed that he took the normal turn in point but the overhead replay clearly showed that he pulled over into Senna well before that.) The two cars then interlocked their wheels and went straight on, locked together, missing the turn in and coming to a stop at the edge of the track, just before the escape road (i.e., still on the circuit). The engines on both cars stalled. Prost got out of his car and walked away, thinking that the race was over for both of them with he then clinching the title since Senna needed to win to keep his title hopes alive. However, determined as ever, Senna stayed in his car. It took some time for the marshals to separate the cars and clear them from the track. As they cleared Senna’s car and pushed it into the escape road he was able to restart his engine (at that time it was legal for a driver to restart his engine in situations where the car was being pushed out of a dangerous location) and proceeded through and rejoined the circuit. Senna went on to win the race but was later controversially disqualified, the reason given was for missing the chicane (in other words, for cutting the corner). For reasons too numerous to mention here (notably, the extenuating circumstances), there were many who felt that this ruling was wrong and unfair. Regardless, Senna is the only driver I am aware of who was disqualified from a race (rather than just given a penalty) for missing a corner (perhaps some of you might know of another such DQ?).

As was noted by The Artist, the incident at Hockenheim involved no penalty but was nonetheless interesting. This time Senna was ahead (in 4th) with prost closely trailing him. As they approached the first chicane in the long back section Prost pulled alongside Senna but on the outside line. They were side by side when they reached the turn in point. With the inside line it was clearly Senna’s corner. However, Prost stubbornly refused to concede (absurdly expecting Senna to concede his right to the corner, which was never going to happen) and locked his wheels when, at the turn in, Senna rightfully held his line. Thus being unable to make the chicane, he went straight on and took to the escape road and in the process managed to stall his engine and retired from the race. Yes, the race rules there stated that he would have needed to wait for the marshals to signal his return to the circuit but this was irrelevant this time given that he stalled and retired on the spot. These two certainly created some memorable moments in F1 history!
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