Despite their fierce battle on the track, Mercedes and Red Bull left Bahrain agreeing on one thing, rules should be set in stone, not “a Shakespeare novel”.
There was some confusion during the race regarding the track limits at Turn 4 with the drivers allowed to exceed the limits during the grand prix only to then be warned against it.
Halfway through the 56-lap race, Max Verstappen was told by Red Bull that he could run wide at Turn 4, after all Lewis Hamilton was doing it.
Shortly after, Pete Bonnington came over the radio to Hamilton, telling him that they were “getting warnings about track limits at Turn 4.”
Hamilton replied: “I thought there were no track limits.”
There weren’t, at least not according to a race director’s note issued on Friday that stated “the track limits at the exit of Turn 4 will not be monitored” during the grand prix.
Wolff was “equally confused” as his driver.
The Mercedes motorsport boss told Motorsport.com: “At the beginning of the race it was said track limits in Turn 4 wouldn’t be sanctioned and then in the race suddenly we heard that if you would continue to run wide it would be seen as an advantage and could cause a potential penalty.
“And then at the end that decision actually made us win the race. Max ran wide in the definition of the race director, gaining an advantage, he had to give back the position and that saved our victory.
“So we need to be consistent in which messages are being given. They need to be clear, they need to be sacred and not a Shakespeare novel that leaves interpretation.”
He added: “I think the learning of this is it needs to be simple, so everybody can understand it and they don’t need to carry the document in the car to read it and remind themselves what actually is allowed and what not.”
Here is the sequence between Verstappen/Hamilton at Turn 4. Should Verstappen have kept P1? Did Hamilton squeeze Max off the track? Was the FIA not clear enough on track limits rules? You be the judge! #BahrainGP 🇧🇭 pic.twitter.com/NYa0DAUieJ
— BackMarkers F1 Show (@TBMF1Show) March 28, 2021
The race director, Michael Masi, did add in his race notes that while Turn 4 would not be monitored for exceeding the track limits, “a lasting advantage overall must not be gained” in the process.
That’s what caught out Verstappen as he passed Hamilton off the track at Turn 4.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was unhappy about the “shades of grey” in the rule as he feels the drivers can’t be told they can use that part of the circuit, they just can’t use it to pass another car.
“Well it’s frustrating when you can see as soon as Mercedes started to push they just use that part of the track,” Horner told The Race.
“And we questioned with race control ‘if that’s the case, can we do it?’ Because when you’re in a nip and tuck battle, there’s a two-tenth advantage using that part of the circuit. So they did it lap after lap.
“The race director then asked them to respect the limits, otherwise they’d get a black and white flag.
“And obviously Max then ran wide on the pass there. It had been made clear before the race that if somebody got an advantage by going out there they’d have to give it back.
“And he did that immediately and the team instructed him to do it following race control instructing us.
“With these track limits they’re always going to be contentious but we do just need to have a consistent situation.
“You can’t say it’s OK to use it in a race but you can’t overtake out there.
“They should either be black or white, they shouldn’t be shades of grey.”
Hamilton won the grand prix by 0.7s ahead of Verstappen.