Track limits are a necessary evil in racing. We all want to keep our car on track, none of us intentionally cut corners in our career mode or My Team (except maybe Tiametmarduk), but it can happen by millimetres. Which is exactly when the warning pops up with a three-second penalty and your race is thrown upside down.
At least it is on strict track limits. If you go to regular then you can go flying off track, carry far more speed, and not really worry about it. Which is bad in its own way too.
It's time for Codemasters to address this issue and create a solution for players.
It frustrates F1 fans nearly every week, but the FIA lets F1 drivers get away with a lot when it comes to track limits. Some corners are monitored every bit as strictly as Codemasters do it, but others it's almost a free-for-all.
We've seen the Parabolica in Monza, the last two corners in Austria, and the exit of Piratella in Imola monitored to the last nanometre. But then at corners like COTA turn 19 or Bahrain turn 4 the real-life F1 drivers can take lines and carry speed that we just can't on the game.
Strict corner-cutting confines the player to maintaining at least one wheel within the white lines at all times. This is what the game should offer (and arguably what F1 should enforce at every point around the circuit) but it lacks realism or any sense of forgiveness for players that marginally overstep the line for no gain in time.
Codemasters' track limits system is something of a mystery, but it appears to analyse the distance you travelled and the time you saved or lost off track and apply an appropriate penalty. Minimal gain is a warning, straight lining the first Monza chicane is 10 seconds. But It's not always consistent, you can put a tyre a millimetre wide and get a warning without gaining at all. Or you can run completely off, take your time getting back on track and receive no warning whatsoever.
This came up in my last league race at Hungary, where I could run wide at the exit of turn 11 and if I came back on right away it was a warning, but if I stayed out wide on the run off for a bit it was fine. That was with strict corner regulations too! It just doesn't make any sense.
... too relaxed
The other option players have is regular. But that's just a wild option. You can run metres wide, carry far more speed, and have no issue.
That is until you go juuuust too far and then you get a penalty. Without the white line for reference you don't really have any idea where this barrier is, it's just out there somewhere.
This ambiguity causes as many issues as strict. We need a middle ground.
It's time for Codemasters to add a third option in between these two. Let's call it the "realistic" setting.
This would allow drivers to keep a wheel on the kerb and still be legal. Or even more in some cases.
Using the exit of Ascari or the width at Paul Ricard like the real drivers do would only add to the realism of the F1 titles. F1 Esports and private leagues can still use the strict setting if they want, but give players an option for some flexibility within single-player modes.
Racking up six seconds of penalties because you were sliding wide on old tyres while the AI drives perfectly is a huge frustration. Flashbacks can undo that in My Team, but it also breaks with your immersion to rewind the race by 10 seconds just to avoid going marginally wide and getting pinged.
It's time to give us an option to use the lines that our heroes do on a Sunday. Hopefully F1 2022 can deliver it.