F1 2024 Austrian GP Preview: Track limits changes set stiff task

The issues of track limits is a major talking point heading into Round 11 in Austria, where Red Bull will be hoping to win at their home race

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As the shortest track on the 24-race F1 calendar, the Red Bull Ring offers the perfect test for drivers to take themselves to the limit at the Formula 1 2024 Austrian Grand Prix.

But with key changes made following the track limits debacle in 2023, the task of winning the Austrian GP has become even challenging.

Track organisers at the Spielberg venue have added new gravel ‘strips’ beyond the red-and-white curb at Turns 9 and 10, a move designed to stop drivers from trying to gain an advantage by going beyond the white line and gaining more momentum to finish the lap.

Instead, the gravel traps now offer some potential jeopardy for the drivers if their cars run wide, as the gravel is designed to slow down their momentum and it could damage the rubber on their tyres.

Leclerc backs Austrian GP track limits changes

It comes after there were more than 1,200 track limits violations reported to the stewards during the entire 2023 race weekend. As a consequence, Austrian GP chiefs agreed to address the issue to encourage drivers to stay within the white lines in the crucial final sector.

Charles Leclerc was one of the drivers asked about the changes in the drivers’ press conference on Thursday, and the Monegasque believes the slight modification will help to eradicate those issues for the race weekend this year.

“It’s interesting, I’ve seen pictures and it’s these two corners that were quite tricky already before the the gravel trap that we have now in those corners into Turns 9 and 10,” Leclerc told the written press at the Red Bull Ring, including Total-Motorsport.com.

“But I guess that now is pretty clear where the track limit is and we won’t have these type of problems anymore, which is a good thing. But again, I still got to drive the track to tell you exactly what I think of it. On paper, it looks positive.”

Verstappen hoping for Red Bull improvement

It will be an important weekend for Red Bull as the team celebrate their home race in Austria, with the knowledge that they could be the third-fastest car at the circuit behind McLaren and Mercedes.

That proved to be the case in Barcelona, and Verstappen admitted that with only one practice session due to Austria being one of six races to host the F1 Sprint, it will be a tougher challenge to determine how quick their car is around the 2.6-mile circuit.

Max Verstappen Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“On the performance side of things, the sprint weekend is always a bit more difficult, a bit more tricky, I think for everyone to get everything right. But that’s fine. It’s a different challenge and we’ll try to do the best we can.

“We’re pushing as hard as we can to keep on improving, so that’s what we’ll try to do now in in the coming races, which I think are very important to see where we’re at.”

Sainz keeps Zhou waiting

Going into the Austrian GP, F1 fans learned that Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll have secured their places on the 2025 grid with Alpine and Aston Martin respectively, but there are still seven spots yet to be decided ahead of next year – and the catalyst for the dominoes to fall could be Carlos Sainz.

With Alpine, Sauber and Williams all waiting on the 29-year-old’s final decision after leaving Ferrari, it also means the other drivers are having to be patient while the Spaniard makes up his mind. One of them is Zhou Guanyu, who confirmed his desire to spend a fourth season with Sauber.

“I want to stay here, it’s very clear. But of course we’re talking to different options and as well as with Sauber,” Zhou said.

Zhou Guanyu is waiting to hear if Sauber will retain him for 2025 | Kick Sauber F1 Team

“Nothing has been decided, it’s very easy to say we’re all waiting for what Carlos wants to do at end of the day. But hopefully he can make his decision sooner, and then I think that will dictate a lot the driver market.

“But before that I think the guys who still haven’t signed doesn’t really can give any clear direction [about] where they want to [go], but we’re talking and there’s options. We need to wait and see.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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