F1 team principals have called on the sport to end the ambiguity and confusion over track limit rules after it proved a decisive issue at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Mercedes principal, Toto Wolff, decried the rules as being the length of a “Shakespeare novel” and Red Bull’s Christian Horner said they should be definitive rather than “shades of grey”.
Lewis Hamilton won the season opener for Mercedes after a thrilling battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. During the final laps, Verstappen had overtaken Hamilton but was obliged to hand the place back immediately, because he had gone beyond the track limits at turn four during the manoeuvre.
He and Red Bull immediately accepted the instruction from race control was correct, because the Dutchman had gained a “lasting advantage” in passing, but there was considerable controversy over the confusing application of the rules during the race at the same corner, where it appeared Hamilton had been gaining an advantage by taking the wide line.
Hamilton had been taking the wider, faster line on the understanding that it was acceptable because of the FIA instruction that track limits would not be monitored for lap times at that corner. Horner believes Hamilton’s line may have been worth as much as two-tenths of a second per lap. However, Hamilton was warned by the FIA over taking that wider line in mid-race.
Horner argued that there should be no room for interpretation in how the rules are applied. “With these track limit things, they’re always going to be contentious,” he said. “But we do need to just have a consistent situation. You can’t say: ‘It’s OK to use it in the race, but you can’t overtake out there.’ It should be black or white, it should not be shades of grey.”
Wolff agreed, citing the complexity of the instructions drivers and teams receive. “We need to be consistent in which messages are being given,” he said. “They need to be clear, they need to be sacred and not a Shakespeare novel that leaves interpretation.”
When Hamilton was informed he would face a warning and then potentially a penalty he stopped going wide but questioned why the rule had apparently changed mid-race.
The FIA race director, Michael Masi, insisted that the rules had not changed. He explained that the rules that stated turn four would not be monitored also warned drivers were not permitted to gain an advantage by going wide. However, that ‘advantage’ appears to mean in the context of overtaking or defending rather than lap time: certainly that seems to be how the majority of teams interpreted it.
More straightforward and clearly defined instructions for drivers were required, insisted Wolff. “At the beginning of the race it was said track limits in turn four wouldn’t be sanctioned,” he said. “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.
“The lesson 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.”
Courtesy: The Guardian