Max Verstappen, the current championship leader in Formula One, has secured pole position for the Qatar Grand Prix. If Verstappen scores three points in the Saturday sprint race at Losail, he will walk away with his third title. However, the qualifying session was not without controversy.
In Friday night’s qualifying session, Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton managed to secure second and third place, respectively. It is important to note that they were only able to move up the grid after McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri had their final lap times deleted for track-limit violations.
During the post-qualifying press conference, Lewis Hamilton expressed his opinion on track limits and the kerbs at the Losail Circuit. He believed that Norris, instead of himself, should have been in third place given the deleted lap times. Furthermore, Hamilton praised the Qatari kerbs, which immediately penalize drivers for running wide. He proposed that these kerbs could be implemented at other circuits, eliminating the need for track limits.
According to Hamilton, the new kerbs at Losail are effective in discouraging drivers from exceeding track limits. When drivers go beyond the highest point of the kerb, they lose time. In his view, this makes track limits unnecessary at the Qatar Circuit. Hamilton also argued that these kerbs could serve as a valuable learning experience for other tracks in terms of dealing with track limit infringements.
Hamilton drew attention to the Austrian Grand Prix earlier in the season, where the FIA had to assess numerous track limit infringements. Over 1200 possible infringements were considered, resulting in 83 cases and 15 time penalties. The British driver suggested that the layout at Losail, where drivers naturally lose time for running wide, could be replicated at other circuits. This would help avoid similar scenarios and the need for track limit regulations.
Interestingly, Hamilton also mentioned that MotoGP, which races at the Losail Circuit, is comfortable with the current kerbs. He proposed using similar kerbs at circuits like Austria. The idea is that drivers should be able to utilize as much of the kerbs as possible without crossing them. Going beyond the kerbs would result in losing time rather than relying on a specific white line to define track limits. However, Hamilton emphasized that this decision is not for him to make.
Max Verstappen, currently leading the championship, echoed Hamilton’s sentiments about the kerbs at Losail. He shared that the new kerbs are an improvement as they discourage drivers from gaining an advantage by running wide. Going slightly beyond the kerbs can cause damage to the car and result in time loss. Verstappen agreed that the kerbs at Losail could serve as a benchmark for other circuits.
The Qatar Grand Prix qualifying session highlighted the ongoing debate about track limits in Formula One. Both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen support the idea of using kerbs as a solution to regulating track limits. They believe that implementing kerbs similar to those at the Losail Circuit could eliminate confusion and ensure fair competition in the sport. Only time will tell if their opinions are taken into consideration by the FIA and other stakeholders in Formula One.