Turn 4 proved to be key to the outcome of Sunday’s Bahrain GP with Lewis Hamilton’s 29 trips over the line allowed while Max Verstappen’s one crucial one was not.
FIA race director Michael Masi explained why.
Although the stewards policed Turn 4 in all three practice sessions and qualifying, drivers losing their lap times if they exceeded the limits, it was a case of no holds barred in Sunday’s 56-lap race. Well, almost no holds.
As such Hamilton ran wide a reported 29 times during the race, prompting Red Bull to inform Verstappen that he too could do it.
Shortly after Mercedes informed Hamilton that they were “getting warnings about track limits at Turn 4 so just tidy that up”.
This has both Hamilton and Verstappen questioning why the rule was changed mid-race.
Masi has denied that it was.
“Nothing changed at all,” he said. “We had two people that were looking in that area at every car, every lap and pretty much every car bar one was doing the right thing within what we expected in a general sequence.
“There was the occasional car that had a bit of a moment and went out there or whatever it was but it wasn’t a constant thing.”
Turn 4 proved to be a decisive point in the race when, having caught Hamilton on his fresher tyres, Verstappen attacked the Mercedes driver for the lead.
With four laps to go, Max takes almost certain victory from Lewis
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 28, 2021
However, at the moment when he passed Hamilton, he was exceeding the track limits at Turn 4.
The stewards immediately informed Red Bull that Verstappen had to give the position back, which he did.
He wasn’t able to launch another attack and Hamilton took the Bahrain win by 0.7s ahead of the Dutchman.
Masi explained that Verstappen wasn’t told to give the position back because he had exceed the limits, rather it was because he had gained an advantage while off the track.
“What was mentioned and discussed with the drivers at the drivers meeting is that if an overtake takes place with a car off-track, and gains a lasting advantage, I will go on the radio and suggest to the team that they immediately relinquish that position,” he continued. “And that was made very clear.”
“Red Bull were actually given an instruction immediately by myself. I suggested that they relinquish that position as listed in the sporting regulations, which they did.
“It wasn’t for exceeding the track limits. It was for gaining a lasting advantage by overtaking another car off the race-track.”