F1 drivers and fans told to get used to Michael Masi’s replacement

There are over 100 different variations of the Circuit Paul Ricard.

Former Formula 1 driver Alex Wurz fears that track limits will be an even bigger issue at this weekend’s French Grand Prix than they were in Austria.

Niels Wittich, one of two new race directors this season alongside Eduardo Freitas, had a lot to deal with in Spielberg a fortnight ago as he wrestled control of first Sebastian Vettel, and then drivers going over the white line over the course of the weekend.

There were over 40 instances of track limit violations in Styria, as well as several in the support events, and Max Verstappen labelled the stringency as a “joke.”

The confusing regulations were suggested as part of the reason for Michael Masi’s downfall last season, so Wurz sympathises with Wittich in that the German is simply doing his job as per the regulations.

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“Drivers and fans just have to get used to a new race director now,” he told Kronen Zeitung Newspaper.

“You can’t blame Niels Wittich, he just executes the regulations he’s been given.”

The Circuit Paul Ricard is a test track by trade which is why there are so many different layouts.

It is also the reason there is so much run-off; it is easier to accommodate different variations, but it is also tough to maintain gravel beds when the circuit is being used frequently.

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The leisurely space the drivers will have in which to work could cause more problems than Austria.

“Yes, it can get even worse there,” said Wurz.

“Paul Ricard was actually designed as a test track and for amateur races, so gravel is extremely expensive to maintain on a daily basis.”

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As such, the former Benetton, McLaren and Williams driver prefers circuits that do not have asphalt on the exit, as it acts as a natural punishment for drivers that venture off.

“Natural track limits are best, so grass or gravel, where mistakes are punished immediately,” explained Wurz.

“I would choose a strict but pragmatic path.

“So where there is a gravel behind the line, don’t be so strict, and where there is asphalt behind the kerb, be strict.

“It’s about whether there’s an advantage or not.”

What the 48-year-old, who scored three podiums during his time in F1, does not like to see is exactly the same metric used for circuits with different surfaces on corner exits.

“Now we’re like tennis, where the line is the clear limit, but it’s been an issue that has been discussed since the introduction of asphalt run-off,” he conceded.

“That goes hand-in-hand with the introduction of standard FIA kerbs under Charlie Whiting, as nobody needs these sausage kerbs as dangerous ramps.”

Ferrari dominated Friday practice at Paul Ricard as Charles Leclerc and then Carlos Sainz set the quickest lap times.