Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Track limits policy did not change during race despite Hamilton’s warning, says Masi

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Formula 1 race director Michael Masi insisted there was no change in how track limits were enforced during the Bahrain Grand Prix, following Lewis Hamilton’s claims to the contrary.

The Mercedes driver said race control “changed their minds” about how the boundary of the circuit was defined at turn four.

Revised race director’s notes issued on Friday stated that during Sunday’s grand prix “the track limits at the exit of turn four will not be monitored with regard to setting a lap time, as the defining limits are the artificial grass and the gravel trap in that location.” This definition did not apply during qualifying.

Hamilton was seen running wide repeatedly at the corner during the race. Red Bull observed the line he was taking, and advised their driver Max Verstappen to do the same to gain time.

However Hamilton was later told by race engineer Peter Bonnington they had been warned they were running wide too often at turn four. He advised Hamilton to revert to using the qualifying line at the corner:

Bonnington:Lewis we’re getting warnings about track limits at turn four so just tidy that up.
Hamilton:Understood. I thought there was no track limits?
Bonnington:Yeah copy that on the track limits Lewis but we are getting the messages from race control so you will get a black-and-white flag next time, then five seconds.
Hamilton:OK can you be clear what the rule is?
Bonnington:Affirm, let’s do it as we were doing in qualifying.
Hamilton:I’ve been doing the same thing all race, it’s bullshit.
Bonnington:Yeah they’re just getting a bit bumpy about it now.

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Masi insisted there had not been any change in how track limits were enforced. While he did not mention Hamilton by name, he did indicate one driver had not complied with their interpretation of the rules.

Red Bull told Verstappen to copy Hamilton’s line
“Nothing changed at all,” said Masi. “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.”

Masi said drivers were made aware of the track limits policy when he met them on Friday. “It was mentioned very clearly in the drivers meeting and in the notes that [track limits] would not be monitored with regards to setting the lap time [during the race], so to speak, however it will always be monitored in accordance with the sporting regulations, being that a lasting advantage overall must not be gained.”

When Verstappen strayed beyond the track limits while overtaking Hamilton, this was considered gaining a lasting advantage, and Masi was quick to advise the team to hand the position back.

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“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. And that was made very clear.”

“Red Bull were actually given an instruction immediately by myself,” he added. “I suggested that they relinquish that position as listed in the sporting regulations, which they did.”

“It wasn’t for exceeding the track limits,” Masi clarified. “It was for gaining a lasting advantage by overtaking another car off the racetrack.”

Verstappen told his team afterwards they should have declined to give the position back to Hamilton and accepted a penalty. Masi indicated that had they done so, a five or 10 second time penalty would have been the likely outcome.

“If the team hadn’t chosen to give that position back the matter would have been referred to the stewards and it would have been up to the stewards what they deemed appropriate in the circumstances.

“It’s generally a time penalty that’s imposed, from what we’ve seen can be five [seconds] or could be 10.”

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2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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96 comments on “Track limits policy did not change during race despite Hamilton’s warning, says Masi”

  1. Just put a gravel trap there. They’ve clearly got enough money to make it a temporary one just for the GPs i.e. they could remove it for the bikes or trackball days.

    1. @frood19 A small piece of gravel trap or other physical deterrent at all slow-speed corner exits.

      1. Exactly, it doesn’t need to be acres of gravel. Just something on the outside of the turn that makes it naturally slower than staying on track.

    2. Would be a bit hard since the part where they go most widely off track at that turn is the start of the outer loop of the track @frood19.

      Having a gravel trap in the middle of that would not work :-)

      1. Can’t they find an abrasive material they can just (un)screw there for the GP, or low grip strips or whatever, some form of deterrent should be possible to implement.

        1. Not really. They have enough trouble welding down drain covers, and those aren’t expected to do anything during race weekend except remove water and stay put…

  2. So what actually happened was Red Bull told Max to go wider on turn 4 as that was what Lewis was doing, and then Mercedes (perhaps worried the stewards would react to the Red Bull ‘hint’) then told him to stop doing that? With no messages from Masi about track limits there at any stage? At least it ruins the conspiracy theory that FIA shifted the rules during the race. More a case of Red Bull trying to lever pressure on Hamilton.

    1. If the track limits policy did not change during the race, how come Hamilton was ‘running wide repeatedly at the corner’ but received a warning only after ‘Red Bull observed the line he was taking’?

      Was his line somehow okay right until then, and suddenly not okay after Red Bull hinted at it?

      This Masi guy is a disgrace, a self-justifying incompetent.

      1. I’m trying to understand what happened first. Mercedes claimed that they were in contact with race control about the limits to turn 4 all race. So maybe they started getting ‘bumpy’ as Bonnington puts it only after the Red Bull message to Verstappen. Reading it again, you’re probably right and Masi is being less than honest about changing policy mid-race. They went from ‘OK’ to ‘yeah, you’d better stop doing that, Red Bull are complaining.’

    2. I actually think that what happened was that Red Bull noticed Hamilton doing this consistently (29 laps) @david-br. So they contected race control “asking to clear what is ok” and asked Max on (broadcast) team radio to do the same to force the issue getting due attention.

      Since, as Masi mentions, almost all drivers largely kept to the track there, and only Lewis seems to have been consistently using it there, it seems that they all did get the message that while your times won’t be deleted constantly, it is still not allowed to go off track there before the race.

      1. @bascb I do wonder if anybody has verified the claim that Masi has made there and done a detailed analysis of the laps of every other driver, or if nobody can be bothered to check – I suspect the latter and that few would complain to the same degree if it turns out that drivers lower down in the points were doing the same thing.

        What muddies the water is that, according to Leclerc, the drivers were told in the pre-race briefing that race control would not be penalising drivers for going off the track at Turn 4 with all four wheels, seemingly implying that the line that Hamilton was taking would be considered OK. If that is the case, then that might suggest that Masi left a bit more ambiguity in the rules during the pre-race briefing than he seems to be saying is the case after the event.

  3. That doesn’t really seem to have cleared anything up.

    Masi says “pretty much every car bar one was doing the right thing” — meaning that one car consistently was not doing the right thing? Which car was that, and why were they not penalised?

    If it was Hamilton, and race control “had two people that were looking in that area at every car, every lap”, then it seems odd that he was permitted to exceed track limits on 29 laps.

    The ambiguity of the direction to drivers before the race regarding gaining an “advantage” doesn’t really help either.

    1. Exactly @orrc. Masi just does not want to call Lewis out on this one by name.

      I do think that they actually did not really start looking at it until after RB pushed the matter into public view with their team radio message to Verstappen.

      1. Estimated profit from turn 4 is 0.2 sec.
        Approx 30x results in a lasting advantage of almost 6 seconds.

    2. @orrc Also, given multiple cars were known to be gaining a lasting advantage by repeatedly leaving the circuit, what exactly was the boundary between “valid” and “invalid” here? None of the documents spell it out in a manner consistent to what actually happened in the race.

  4. Martin Elliott
    28th March 2021, 23:12

    As lewis implied, he’ll drive the the Race Control interpretation.

    The question is why RC changes their interpretation of a fairly clear rule.

    It would be even easier if all the strange exceptions were just removed.

    The track is defined by a 100mm White line. Not artificial grass. Not kerbs. Not as long as you don’t get an advantage.

    Just all tyres outside the white line is an infringement. Then you can discuss how many warnings you get and penalty.

  5. And why is Vettel so rubbish? Nobody knows!

  6. “Red Bull were actually given an instruction immediately by myself,” he added. “I suggested that they relinquish that position as listed in the sporting regulations, which they did.”

    “It wasn’t for exceeding the track limits,” Masi clarified. “It was for gaining a lasting advantage by overtaking another car off the racetrack.”

    Verstappen told his team afterwards they should have declined to give the position back to Hamilton and accepted a penalty. Masi indicated that had they done so, a five or 10 second time penalty would have been the likely outcome.

    “If the team hadn’t chosen to give that position back the matter would have been referred to the stewards and it would have been up to the stewards what they deemed appropriate in the circumstances.

    “It’s generally a time penalty that’s imposed, from what we’ve seen can be five [seconds] or could be 10.”

    That’s surprising. I’d have thought deliberately ignoring a direct instruction from the race director might have carried a greater punishment than the basic, weedy little time penalty. Following the race director’s instructions shouldn’t be optional, but he’s more or less told the teams that is it…

    1. @neilosjames Completely agree. A totally dysfunctional approach. The penalty should be “give the advantage up” for, say, one full sector of the racetrack (to avoid Spa 2008-type controversies). If the penalty is not observed, the driver is DSQ.

      1. I guess since Red Bull complied, it has become a bit more academical, and not about that team, or Verstappen specifically (or maybe almost irrelevant, until the next time it comes up, and Masi’s answer remains a bit unsatisfying!)

    2. I don’t think it is quite as big a suprise @markzastrow, @neilosjames

      That’s surprising. I’d have thought deliberately ignoring a direct instruction from the race director might have carried a greater punishment than the basic, weedy little time penalty.

      I think the thing here is that Race control is NOT the one in charge of handing out penalties. So Masi just states what the standard is (we’ve seen 5 second penalties, but indeed no cases where it was done blatantly ignoring such an instruction) and he mentions that the Stewards have other otptions.
      BTW, Horner also mentioned that while we’ve seen 5 second penalties, the stewards CAN give harsher penalties.

      I would expect the stewards would take circumstances in account and actually give a harsher penalty for doing this KNOWINGLY and ignoring chances given to correct the mistake on track.

      I.E. Since it is not MASI who can decide on penalties, he is not in a position to give a defenitive answer on what penalty would be given @bosyber. He cannot just state a penalty, that would be race control getting in the way of the “judges”

      1. @bascb @markzastrow @neilosjames There’s also the part where the stewards are at liberty to hand out any penalty, up to and including disqualification, for ignoring race control instructions. Presumably this is to allow a distinction between reasonable misinterpretation, a minor delay, serious insubordination and acts that are actively dangerous to other competitors.

        1. Presumably this is to allow a distinction between reasonable misinterpretation, a minor delay, serious insubordination and acts that are actively dangerous to other competitors.

          Exactly @alianora-la-canta. It is the stewards who, like judges do, decide on the exact penalty that should apply to a case, weighing all evidence and all circumstances of the case (there are only specific things where the FIA has exactly defined little room for deviating from standard penalties)

          1. @alianora-la-canta @bascb You’re exactly right, but I think you both have far more faith in the stewards to judge the situation harshly than I do — especially considering it would mean they would need to be harsher than they have been in similar situations previously, like when Hulkenberg passed Perez in Abu Dhabi in 2017 off the track and pulled a 5-second gap before the next pit stop.

            I certainly agree with you that the penalty given should be harsh, but there’s no guarantee the stewards would have done so — which Masi made clear, and also Ross Brawn in his column.

            If Verstappen had pulled out a sufficient gap after an infringement and won the race, that would have left a nasty taste. We don’t want to see races won in that manner.

            I agree with Brawn completely, and the rules ought to ensure that we don’t.

          2. Sadly, I don’t really have that faith in the stewards @makrzastrow either, just like you don’t.

            They have shown too often that many of them feel too reluctant to “decide the race after the race” in the past, and restrict themselves to these “standard” penalties even when a differen one would be more appropriate in the past.

            But Masi can hardly go and tell them that they SHOULD do so in a specific case (he/the FIA can off course sit down with stewards and talk about better balancing penalties vs. what happened in general though), since he would be stepping into the stewarding process, something RC should defenitely not do.

            If I read it right, Max actually mentioned to Red Bull and after the race that he would have been more happy passing Hamilton and then losing the race due to the 5 second penalty than having to give it back. I get what he says, and exactly because of that Brawn is right, it is far better that the lead was handed back on track, immediately.

          3. @markzastrow The duties of stewards including trying to predict how much lasting advantage was gained, and to tailor the punishment accordingly. Thus, Max might have thought he could get a gap large enough to cancel out the likely penalty, but he could not guarantee it and should not have assumed so on the radio prior to the penalty being issued. Such assumptions are a recipe for getting a larger penalty, as much to squash that sort of thinking as to more fairly cancel the advantage gained.

            At this point, I have more faith in the stewards than I do in Race Control or their respective bosses (the only other people qualified to make that sort of value judgment). At no point on Sunday did the stewards get to decide anything, and it’s worth remembering the entire mess was due to race control conduct, aided and abetted by problems caused by their superiours’ previous conduct.

  7. One rule to start the weekend, a 2nd one for FP2 through qualifying and a 3rd one for the race, and now Mr. Masi claims it is not a mess … well there you have it, 3 different rules for the same thing it’s NOT a mess.

    Keep it within the white lines or a time penalty will hit you, use deterrents like gravel, bolted down big and punishing kerbs (removable), etc., same rule for all places for the hole championship

    1. @rafaelperez And a 4th one if Race Control feels like it for you specifically.

  8. Masi is quoted as saying “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“, so 2 stewards saw a car going wide at turn 4 on almost every lap, but did nothing about it.

    But when another team realised what the first car was up to and that they could do the same and get the same speed advantage, it was suddenly an issue and clamped down on.

    This is either complete incompetence by Masi and the other stewards, or a deliberate bias towards that first car. If it had been stopped after the first instance, the race may have ended the same, but at least it would be on a level playing field.

    1. This is either complete incompetence by Masi and the other stewards, or a deliberate bias towards that first car.

      @Tambeau I guess we hoped we could allow ourselves not to bother, and with 1 car/team doing it that was okay, but when other(s) noted, we felt we had to get of our bums falls under imcompetence, right?

      Yeah, preferably just don’t allow it from the start, or allow everyone (when not overtaking).

    2. I think this pretty much sums up my opinion too.
      Seems like the 2 people watching T4 were essentially a pointless waste of 2 people’s time.

    3. One small point there, that IS important to note @tambeau – Masi is NOT a steward. He cannot decide on penalties, only refer things he sees to the stewards for them to decide on.

      But apart from that, yeah, it does show how the FIA is doing their best to just not bother. I wouldn’t even be surprised if those two people only started looking (using playback) AFTER the issue was brought up by the RB team radio which was broadcast for the world. A mess indeed.

      1. @bascb So according to this theory, if Max had been paying attention to the track briefing notes (which were made public on Thursday), none of this would have happened?

        If a general enforcement policy ever depends on one driver failing to read/understand a policy and admitting it, the policy needs revising!

        1. So according to this theory, if Max had been paying attention to the track briefing notes (which were made public on Thursday), none of this would have happened?

          Sorry @alianora-la-canta, I completely fail to unserstand the point you ae making there vs. my comment.

          Do you want to argue over whether Masi is part of the stewarding? Or do you want to say that you agree with me that this is a mess? I really don’t get it.

          1. @bascb The relation is this: if Max had paid attention to the track briefing notes, he wouldn’t have needed to ask about whether he could go off at Turn 4, he’d have just done it like everyone else did. (I’ve now seen video that indicates all 19 other drivers were routinely going off there, to some extent or other, within the first 10 laps).

            According to your comment, had Max not asked whether he could go off at Turn 4, the stewards would never have enforced the rule that the FIA had previously said they were suspending at that corner for the race.

            Now, also consider that F1 drivers rarely admit to ignorance on any matter relating to their own craft unprompted, especially if it involves admitting they didn’t know something in a document their team would reasonably have expected them to have read and understood prior to the weekend. (It’s understandable that Max didn’t – the demand from teams is that they read and understand a lot of documents, without knowing which information will show up on the “test” or in what context).

            I’m agreeing with you that it’s a mess, and trying to explain (badly) exactly what sort of mess your (plausible) notion of what happened we are dealing with.

          2. I do think it is possible the the FIA only started policing this after RB (THEY went on the radio to max to tell him to go wider, it was not Max “needing to ask whether he could go off”) purposly called it out in a team radio message to go with their request to RC “to clear whether this was ok”. The stewards have been haphazard enough that it is possible. But i do not know if they were monitoring it or not. I just state that it would not surprise me if they wereren’t.

            I don’t understand why you feel it is needed to paint max as stupid/lax in preparation “had he read …” – I think he also drove over that kerb much like most others were doing (as shown in many videos), but not as far out as Hamilton was doing. He did get the message, just as most of them.

            Only Lewis interpreted that to go a lot further than the others, pushing the limits of what one can get away with, as that is what F1 often comes down to. Until the FIA stewards finally felt they had to put an end to that overly blatant track limits abuse. No change of rules.

    4. @tambeau It’s also not true, since at least two drivers, and probably more, were doing it for large chunks of the race. If it was being monitored all race (which by the way blatantly contradicts 22.1 a) ), then either Masi knew that, or the stewards chose not to communicate the other offender(s) to him. Neither puts Masi in a good light.

  9. Keith M Crossley
    29th March 2021, 0:35

    There seem to be a lot of confused people.

    There’s exceeding track limits (2 wheels or 4) and there’s passing while being off the track.

    Please be clear about which you are claiming the race director is incompetent.

    1. If Lewis was continuously using that part of the track, it means it was legal to use it to overtake too, I suppose

      1. That is nonsense J3D89. If you speed but do not get caught, until you DO get cought, it also does not mean that you were allowed to drive too fast all the time. Just that you were not apprehended and punished. You were still going against the law all the time.

    2. There’s a bit of logical tension between the two, though. How can they be overtaking off the track if there is no limit to the track being enforced?

      It is needlessly complicated for F1 to be in a situation where violations of track limits are not enforced but those same track limits are used to police “overtaking off the track”. It is, of course, possible to use a system in which track limits are recognized in enforcing one rule but ignored in another at the race director’s discretion — after all, that is the system we have now, and the sun comes up and the world still spins — but it is hardly ideal.

      1. So if your forced off track while overtaking on a course with no limits to prevent contact and come out ahead you are rewarded by being the sole benefactor of a penalty and must cede your fortune of surviving the irresponsible actions of the “Bad Actor”… I’m sure this has not been lost on Max.

      2. MotoGP has put pressure sensors just outside the curbs and any triggering of it by a bike is considered to be a violation leading to automatic deletion of qualification times and an automatic long loop penalty if violated thrice in the race.

        They used to do it with a camera previously and it was slow and inconsistent. Quite amazing that F1 continues to be vague about it and implements more complicated solutions like timing loops which are still inspected manually and then scrapped over a weekend.

        I think this is more a case of FIA incompetence than anything else.

    3. The confusion lies in the fact that there is no difference between the two as far as the regulations are concerned.

      It’s just section 27.3:

      Drivers must make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times and may not
      deliberately** leave the track without a justifiable reason.

      Drivers will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with it and,
      for the avoidance of doubt, any white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part
      of the track but the kerbs are not.

      Should a car leave the track the driver may re‐join, however, this may only be done when it is
      safe to do so and without gaining any lasting advantage.

      **This word is still in, but marked with strike-though, in the 2021 rules

      There is no mention of overtaking. According to the regs, there is no difference between Hamilton straying off-track, and Verstappen passing off track– unless Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage (in which case, why was he doing it?).

      This is all the result of a botched memo from Masi laying out a ridiculously convoluted committee style “trying to please everyone” directive. Had the limit been place for the race, then Hamilton would have complied. Since they specifically stated they didn’t care about lap time advantage, they shouldn’t have given Hamilton grief about it after 30+ laps– and for that matter, how do you say “Track limits will not be enforced for lap times, but section 27.3 applies”– which specifically says you can’t gain an advantage.

      Enforce track limits, or do not. There is no try.

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        29th March 2021, 14:25

        Well they (Whiting) came with the story during a USA weekend that taking a wider line would be ok since they essentially driver a longer distance and would not win time, but cutting a corner would be considered getting an advantage.

        Overtaking outside the white lines has always been considered getting an advantage. No matter of it’s on the inside or outside.

        So taking a wider line through a corner is not considered getting an advantage even though the drivers clearly do it for a reason.

        1. But as you well know, the overtaking happened on track. it was after the overtake he left the track ( just like Lewis did 29x times)

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            30th March 2021, 10:22

            No. The overtake happened because Verstappen braked (too) late. So it was crystal clear he had to give the position back. As has happened probably 29 times before also.

            Otherwise what would be stopping drivers from just going straight through a chicane. They would be ahead before going off.

        2. Note though @f1osaurus, that since Whiting is not with us anymore, that FIA/RC emphasis on “lasting advantage” has gotten far less prominent.

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            30th March 2021, 10:18

            @bascb No it hasn’t. It’s just that people don’t (want to) understand that “lasting advantage” has never been about a little time won or something like that.

            The stewards have always only seen “lasting advantage” as “gaining a position and keeping it”.

            Rosberg straight-lining a chicane to avoid being overtaken on multiple occasions was already not penalized while Charlie was still around. Going slightly wide through turns neither. Unless they specifically state not to do that before or during a session.

          2. I do not think that is correct though @f1osaurus, nor was it what I meant to say.

            In the past, for most of the latter Whiting years, it was pretty clear that they would all too often ignore track limit abuse, exactly because the driver was not (proven) to have gained a lasting advantage. Just like Rosberg not getting passed was not penalized, because they argued that it was not possible to prove that advantage (he did not get ahead).

            In recent times, right at the end of the Whiting era, and for most of Masi’s spell, the FIA has started to penalise drivers for gaining an advantage in lap times. They went AWAY from having to prove the lasting advantage, since it was clear that if drivers do this constantly, they get some advantage out of it.

            But they never went with a clear line on this issue. The few times when they actually put in sensors to consistently monitor (but still only at a few corners and only haphazardly at some tracks and not others) everyone started complaining about how annoying the endless penalties were (“a farce”), wrongly critisizing not the drivers abusing track limits, since we had grown accustomed to allowing that, but citisizing the stewards for having to try and fight agains this.

          3. F1oSaurus (@)
            30th March 2021, 16:02

            @bascb It is exactly what Masi said and exactly how the stewarding happens.

            Clearly Rosberg gained a lasting advantage by straight-lining a chicane. Both time and in keeping his position. No penalties whatsoever. That’s just an example. Things like that happen all the time. Especially drivers taking a racing line partly off track.

            If you feel that’s not how it works, just give an example of a driver penalized for gaining a few tenths by going off track. Not while overtaking and not while under specific instructions not to go off track for that session.

  10. I am annoyed by how RC and the stewards handled this track limits issue.
    And I am annoyed how F1 handles this in general.

    Firstly, we all know what a race means: get to the finish line first, which is use the least time doing so. Exceeding these track limits many times over will get you a lasting advantage. Two even: faster laps times and less tire wear which indirectly also translates into faster lap times. This should have been penalised and it should have been done within 10 laps: it was not occasional, and maybe worse, with the intention to gain an advantage not allowed by the rules. According to RC and by admission of Hamilton, Hamilton was doing so. Not only did he get to the finish line earlier than otherwise, he arguably also wins the race because of it: just 0,7s separating winner from first loser.

    Secondly, ignoring track limits in certain situations and not others irritates me extremely. It logically invites everyone to try and use leniency to their advantage, and results in endless debates afterwards about right and wrong when the rules already state it’s wrong. Of course it’s wrong, why else would you draw lines to create a track? If the lines would not matter, you would not have a track, and you would not have a race to begin with. It should not matter if stewards think it gives or does not give an advantage. If it’s not allowed, it should be penalised, and if that happens every time, we would not have these silly discussions that distract from both Hamilton’s and Verstappen’s performance.

    To clarify: I understand leniency to a very limited degree. Let’s say you have none: every time you leave the track, for every second you leave the track, you’ll get an extra second added to your time, with a minimum of 1. It’s the same for everyone, it’s always applied and if you maintain that tally in real time, it would be transparant. But the position on track then would not necessarily be your real position, so that sucks. So you allow the occasional and not successive infringement, and over a race distance, this will generally balance things out, and if it doesn’t, wouldn’t give one driver a sizeable advantage over another. Deliberate use is prevented, and regular infringements, even accidental will be penalised to remove the advantage.

    F1 really needs to change this acceptable infringement nonsense.

  11. In law, desuetude (/dɪˈsjuːɪtjuːd, ˈdɛswɪ-/; from French désuétude, from Latin desuetudo ‘outdated, no longer custom’) is a doctrine that causes statutes, similar legislation, or legal principles to lapse and become unenforceable by a long habit of non-enforcement or lapse of time. In this case the two monitoring stewards set the basis of acceptance by not warning Hamilton. Therefore Every car not gaining a long term advantage had right to straight line most of the course curves and especially turn 4. The race director has left open an area of influence for the race director’s personal use as a drama management tool.
    What happened in turn four was that Hamilton opened up his turn radius and paced Verstappen until Hamilton’s outboard wheels were less than 50Cm from the white line, effectively leaving no room on the course without causing Verstappen to have to make contact to prevent being punted off course. Verstappen made immediate action to return to the race line and spent less that 20m off line to prevent contact. This action wholly ignored by the race director has now set up the precedent of defending position through actions directly in conflict with the prescribed codes of driver conduct.
    Today was one of the best races of the last decade, let racers race and stop trying to manufacture drama or determine outcomes in live sport. Perhaps the race director needs less inspiration from the World Wrestling Entertainment company and to tighten up his job description, he single handedly ruined one of the best contests in recent history, proving F1 will always belong in someone’s pocket. Another embarrassing fail.

  12. All sports have white lines and have to abide by them, so why should F1 be different. The track is defined by two white lines , one on left and another on right, so why should these drivers who are supposedly the best in world not be able to drive between them. Simply enforce these rules and issue penalties if someone exceeds track limits. End of story.

    1. @mikejtw I agree that simply saying that you need to have some part of the car on our within the white lines at all times is a reasonable position. Adding a subjective caveat such as ‘lasting advantage’ opens up potential for all sorts of accusations unfair rule application. There isn’t a provision in football for allowing the ball to go outside the line but as there is no ‘lasting advantage’ the ball is still defined as in.

      You would think that having a bollard similar to Barcelona at turn 2 should fix this easily but there is no suitable place to feed cars back into the track as the racing line covers both sides of the track. This isn’t an issue as much in Barcelona as there is a long stretch of track which is not the racing line.

    2. I agree. As Martin Brundle said, drivers go beyond the track limits because there is an advantage to them if they do. F1 decides where to put their track limits, and then says it is okay to ignore those limits and go beyond them freely and consistently, and then suddenly, when one of the teams decided to let their driver break the rules like the driver ahead was doing, F1 decided it didn’t like that idea.
      I recall not so long ago a team was penalised because the had cut the corner on a barge board incorrectly, yet here F1 has a rule that says you have to drive this way around the corner, but it doesn’t care if you drive a different way around that corner, and then suddenly changed their mind and decided they did care. If you put a track limit here, then stick to it, if you don’t want it here and want to let drivers go as far out as there, then put the white line over there so they can do that. It is biased and unfair to allow one team to interpret a hard and fast rule liberally and then tell another they are will be strict about it. From a casual glance it looks like the guy that finished second was the one who was observing the track limits and the one who was flouting them finished first.
      This problem comes up regularly. There is a simple way to fix the problem: consistently punish people who consistently flout the rules.

  13. policy did not change

    BS from the race director. Even after warning Mercedes of an impending penalty for repeating the offense, they did nothing when it happened. In reality it decided the race outcome.

    Contrast this with the extreme strictness from qualifying with grid drop and penalty points for going fast under green flag after a double waved yellow, and it’s really just a joke as usual.

  14. Masi needs to avoid any inconsistency and contradictions. Max didn’t overtake off the track but merely maintained the position that way as he was already ahead.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      29th March 2021, 14:27

      @jerejj He overtook by not slowing down enough for the corner and therefore couldn’t make the corner. So he overtook by going off track.

      There have been plenty penalties given for exactly the same situation.

      1. He had to leave the track because lewis did not gave him enough room. He already passed lewis completely.

        Nevertheless a correct reaction to give back the position. But lewis did it 29x getting a lasting advantage of about 6 seconds.

        A stain on the excellent driving by two of the greatest drivers.. FIA can be proud.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          30th March 2021, 10:22

          No he left the track even before Hamilton closed up. Stop lying.

  15. You cannot get more artificial racing conditions than this. What a mess Masi and F1 have made of track limits. It is worse than WWF wrestling and the scripted team wins again.

  16. Hamilton went off at that corner 29 times!

  17. One of the fundamental reasons for track limits is to stop people gaining a lasting advantage. If I can save two tenths every lap by running wide at the exit, then I’ll gain ten seconds by the end.

    So the distinction between what the “one driver” was doing and what Verstappen was doing ends up irrelevant. They both gained an advantage. But one of them got away with it for most of the race.

    Track limits are track limits. Just stick to the rules Mr Masi!

    1. But now you are using basic logic. That obviously doesn’t have a place here.

  18. So resuming: Gaining an advantage by exceeding the track limits is no problem. Just don’t overtake doing it. Uh…

    1. @pietkoster Even though both confer lasting advantage, and therefore either both are illegal or both are legal. There’s no reading of the quoted rules that permits one to be treated differently than the other.

  19. Sounds about right and probably why they didn’t penalise Max for the number of times he exceeded track limits at T13; giving him a clear advantage all the way down to T14.

    Although I think a more obvious ‘rule’ would be if you have an issue with another driver exceeding track limits, give the stewards a call. Don’t broadcast a message that will wind up the Race Director and Stewards, because it may backfire on you later in the race.

    1. iain, the only way the stewards can be contacted is via Race Control. This is to avoid possible manipulation by persuasive teams.

    2. He never left the track in that turn!

  20. I don’t really get why track limits are suddenly seen as such a big thing that get complained about constantly.

    Just looking at T4 at Bahrain for instance, They have been running wide with all 4 wheels off track at that part of track since the circuits introduction to F1 & nobody ever complained about it until the last 2-3 years.

    I can think back to the 70s/80s where drivers were running beyond the white line at certain corners on certain tracks (Paddock Hill at Brands, Exit of Ascari at Monza been 2 examples) & it was just seen as drivers pushing the limits & using all the track. At times drivers were even praised for doing so (Mansell at La Source at Spa in 1989 for instance).

    At the Austrian Gp in 2003 drivers were running almost to the barrier at the T1 runoff & nobody batted an eyelid at any point all weekend because it was again just seen as drivers using all available real estate.

    I wonder how much of the outcry the past decade is down to the fact Sky/David Croft bang on & on & on about track limits during every session at every weekend. When you hear the same thing drummed into your head constantly it’s bound to start to influence your views. This is the key point of advertising for instance, Drum the logo & message at people as often as possible to get your product stuck in there heads.

    1. Yes, it was a pleasant change to have Natalie Pinkham doing lead commentary in FP1 and not have to listen to crofts whinge list. Cool to watch drivers exploring track limits during practice without having to listen to croft demanding that they be punished.

    2. They are banging on about it because of how modern tracks are designed that create an advantage going off track. In older days going off track wasn’t an advantage, and some over takes off track were just great driving. I remember one spa race start Raikkonen completely avoided turn one to avoid a possible collision instead of braking and losing time. He then instead gained like 5 places, but if there was sand on the exit…. The clampdown on track limits is good, but it isn’t consistent so it has led to its first major debate after a race result was possibly affected by the rules not being clear.

    3. F1oSaurus (@)
      29th March 2021, 14:30

      @roger-ayles I remember being at Hockenheim in the stand at the start of the start finish straight. Villeneuve figured out that by going over the drag strip he could be faster than when staying on track. It took forever until they told him (and the others that followed) to stop doing that.

    4. @roger-ayles Drivers look for advantage anywhere they can. Stewarding is a potential advantage point, so of course drivers will consider using it if they know how to do so. Even if I prefer the Stirling Moss method of erring on the side of defending fellow drivers who might have a credible defence for their actions, I understand why that is not the modern way of doing things in F1.

  21. There are certain corners at certain tracks where the natural racing line is slightly outside the track, and when it is allowed the drivers use that line. But rules can be applied to force drivers to stay inside the track. Hamilton thought he was allowed to go off track in that turn, so used that line until told not to. I think passing outside the race line is different though… But what all the teams, drivers and fans need is proper clarity, because on one particular day Hamilton was the winner, while the same race replicated with proper clarification before the start of the race then Verstappen maybe is the winner. We don’t want to see results where some people say Hamilton or Verstappen did something wrong, when the they can be interpreted in 2 ways. For me, I don’t think either driver had any intention to do wrong, but I’m glad Verstappen actually gave the position back, unlike back in Mexico vs Vettel. That shows to me he is learning respect.

  22. We knew on Thursday that during the race, Turn 4 would be unmonitored (22.1 a) ). Any other reading puts it into conflict with 22.1 b) of the same directive, or else against the use of that run-off by (at minimum) Lewis for 27 laps and Max for almost 20 laps during the race. Both gained lasting advantage many times from going off at Turn 4, and they were only told to stop it mid-race (Lewis) and near the end (Max). Michael pretending only one driver wasn’t driving it like qualifying is laughable, as he knew or should have known otherwise.

    The de facto track is whatever boundaries are being enforced. The de jure track is what the rules define as such. Treating them differently always causes problems. Treating them differently in different sessions causes worse problems. Blatantly treating them differently partway through the same session, without using any pre-agreed method of communicating the change (e.g. yellow flags mean monitoring of conduct even where that’s otherwise been waived)? A trip hazard waiting to happen.

    We also know that Mercedes were told this had changed mid-race, but Red Bull had not. Both teams said so. Race control had control of that messaging, which means Michael Masi knows he not only changed the policy mid-race, but only changed it for part of the grid at a time. In doing so he created the mess that was the Hamilton/Verstappen encounter. (I posit that Max would have taken a different approach had he been informed, and that we don’t know enough about that change to say who would have won). He, and him alone. By trying to claim the policy remained the same for everyone at all times during the race, when it was patently obvious it did not, Michael implicitly blamed the stewards (the only other party potentially empowered to make that call, and then tenuously) for his own actions.

    Michael Masi owes the stewards (and the teams and drivers, and the rest of us) an apology for that blatant lie. The stewards don’t volunteer to get blamed for Race Control misconduct. Before this article, I was upset that both Lewis and Max had been cheated by the FIA’s handling of the matter. Now, I’m more upset that the stewards are being taken advantage of as some sort of implicit scapegoat. I may have had issues with Charlie Whiting, but he would never have allowed that sort of underhanded buck-passing to happen.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      29th March 2021, 14:39

      Charlie Whiting did the same thing when Verstappen had his overtake on Raikkonen by cutting a corner penalized.

      He came up with some vague story that taking a wider line would not give an advantage. When clearly the drivers only do this to get an advantage.

      I don’t get all the fuss though. Simply going a bit wide for a corner has never been an issue and if the drivers overdo it they get a warning.

      Overtaking with all four wheels off the track has always been penalized.

      So what is there even to explain?

      Besides it’s often a risk to be to liberal with track limits. Vettel used to be extreme in his kerb riding antics. It cost him plenty of destroyed tyres and front wings.

      Last year in Styria, Verstappen was going too wide in his panic to stay ahead of Bottas and damaged his front wing. Which actually cost him the position he was so desperate to defend and which he would easily have kept if he just had kept his head cool. Albon did against Perez. While Perez was faster than Bottas at that stage.

      So it’s not just always a tiny bit of laptime gained, it could also be a huge chunk of time lost.

      1. @F1oSaurus Charlie Whiting did some weird things regarding track limits occasionally, but he never attempted to give others the blame for his personal actions. (Of course, he didn’t say they were mistakes either…)

        The fuss is that drivers were specifically told to go wide here, then only told not to after they were denied any opportunity to get clarification. Then they were only told not to do it piecemeal (so Max didn’t know the policy had changed because Masi had not thought to tell him, but Lewis knew it had because Masi had told him). That is bad rule enforcement.

        Now Masi has given a sequence of events that only holds up for people who didn’t watch the race, or didn’t understand what was happening in key parts of the race. The commentators on Channel 4, some of whom were new to F1 commentary, noticed it had happened. I’m sure other commentators in other channels spotted it too. So denying the events isn’t renable for Masi.

        Overtaking with four wheels off the track has not always been punished – especially when off-track was explicitly made part of the circuit (and Austria 2019 proves that even this is not always necessary. Yes, the consequences of that decision may have fed into this one).

        This isn’t a question of whether to be liberal or strict about track limits. It’s about making the rules accurate, compliable and compatible with F1 being a sport rather than keyfabe minus the narrative coherence. Masi failed on all accounts here. He stated in his narrative that he didn’t make the obvious change (even though that’s the most logical source), and implied therefore it must have been the stewards. Who don’t volunteer for that sort of throwing-under-the-bus.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          29th March 2021, 19:01

          @alianora-la-canta They were never specifically told to go wide. They were told that there was no specific penalty for going wide and in the same time they were reminded that normal rules were still valid. ie Don’t go off track deliberately.

          The reason this is confusing for people is because they don’t understand the rules, don’t know what was actually in the directors notes or both.

          1. @f1osaurus The two halves of your second sentence contradict each other.

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            30th March 2021, 15:57

            @alianora-la-canta No they don’t.

            There have been races with SPECIFIC instructions not to go off track in some turns. Then you get an immediate penalty or after a number of breaches. If there are no specific instructions then the general rules apply.

          3. @F1oSaurus This was a race with specific instructions that going off-track at that turn was fine. In the same document that forbade it at others.

            You have not only failed to defend the inherent contradiction of your second sentence, but demolished your own argument.

          4. F1oSaurus (@)
            1st April 2021, 16:10

            @alianora-la-canta The fact that you cannot understand the difference seriously makes me doubt why you bother posting here. Well you don’t really you just complain

        2. Austria 2019 was not a case of overtaking outside the track..
          And VER only used turn 4 a handful of times ( not 20x as you suggested!) after the call form the pits it was allowed.
          The moment VER used it, MERC got a call to stop doiing it ( after 29X times a 0.2 sec lasting advantage!)

          1. F1oSaurus (@)
            30th March 2021, 10:24

            “Lasting advantage” has never been about a few tenths gained. Just stop pretending that it is. It only shows how little you understand of F1 stewarding and that you should not be commenting on it.

          2. @f1osaurus False. “Lasting advantage” is about an advantage that was maintained, and has been enforced for things of dubious advantage whenever the FIA has felt like it. This is because the scope to do so exists in the regulation.

            Don’t tell people off for having better understanding of F1 stewarding and the regulations than you.

          3. F1oSaurus (@)
            30th March 2021, 15:53

            @alianora-la-canta Well you’re wrong. Masi said that’s how it works and it’s abundantly clear from the stewarding too.

          4. @F1oSaurus If Michael wants the rules to be changed to that, he needs to learn to start applying them that way. “Lasting advantage”, as it stands, does not support the concept of “oh, only some types of lasting advantage matter”, and especially not given precedent of how it’s been enforced over the past 2 years.

          5. F1oSaurus (@)
            1st April 2021, 16:12

            @alianora-la-canta Again, the lack of comprehension is on you. Masi gets it, all the drivers get it, I get it, the stewards get it. Just some random people watching F1 don’t understand it. Ah well

  23. It should be either A) no track limits or B) The white line is the track limit. 5 second penalty for the fourth abuse, another 10 seconds for the fifth. Drive-through for the 9th. 10-second stop-and-go for the 13th. And it’s irrelevant whether the four abuses happen in one corner or in four different corners.

    In the meantime: Modify the tracks so that there is no need for track limits monitoring. We’ve been talking about this for 10+ years now, in all kinds of autosports.

  24. At last, we have a real fight on our hands. But then inconsistent stewarding and inconsistent race manager stained it.
    Why fiaa!

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      29th March 2021, 19:06

      There was nothing inconsistent really. The directors notes are perfectly clear.

      It wasn’t just Hamilton going wide in certain places. Verstappen was all over the track limits too. In other corners but still. For instance you could see Verstappen straight-lining turn 3 (outside the track).

      Nothing inconsistent about that, this happens at every track. When the drivers are told to stop they usually manage to stop doing it.

      Overtaking off track has always been penalized. There is no inconsistency there either.

      1. He did not pass outside the track, he passed Lewis completely on track but left the track when lewis did not concede.
        He used some corners only a handful of times ( quite normal in these races) but not to the extend as Lewis did in turn 4. Lewis did it at least 29 times a received a lasting advantage of about 6 secondes as a result.
        So very inconsistent indeed!

        But i know, your view of the reality has some problems ;)

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          30th March 2021, 10:26

          Braking late to make an overtake and then going off as a result = overtaking off track.

          “lasting advantage” = “overtaking and keeping the position”. Give the position back and the advantage is no longer “lasting”. Go a bit off track without overtaking and nothing is made of it (unless there were specific directors notes in place). That is how is has been for decades.

          But I know, your view of the reality has some problems ;)

  25. So, the rule is one can´t exceed track limits to gain a lasting advantage. By consistently exceeding track limits, Hamilton actually did gain a lasting advantage. This was a very arbitrary and unfair decision because the consistently allowed Hamilton to gain an advantage on that turn. Somehow he always seems to benefit from these decisions. They did the same thing to Vettel in Canada in 2019.

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