Track limits played a vital role in deciding the eventually winner of the opening Grand prix in the 2021 season.
In what was one of the most fascinating races in recent times, Lewis Hamilton established his credentials as one of the best to have graced the sport as he held off Max Verstappen to clinch the opening race.
It was not smooth sailing for Mercedes though. The team has had its fair share of struggles during the pre-season period and Verstappen started the race in pole position.
With fresher tyres, Verstappen was constantly making time on Hamilton as the race entered the final five laps. he got his chance with four laps to go and even overtook the British driver.
However, he had to hand the lead back to Hamilton following a team instruction from the Red Bull control room.
Following this, he never got an opportunity to overtake Hamilton again as the Stevenage-born man won the opening race of a season for the first time in 5 years.
There was significant drama, as you can imagine. In qualifying, track limit transgressions in Turn 4 led to deleted lap times, but drivers were allowed to cross the kerbs without consequence initially on Sunday.
Only after this had taken a place a number of times by Hamilton was the team told by race control to stay within the white lines. This eventually led to becoming the biggest factor in the British driver’s triumph.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff urged FIA to be clearer and more consistent with respect to its rules.
“I’m equally confused like you,” Wolff said.
“At the beginning of the race it was said track limits in Turn 4 wouldn’t be sanctioned.
“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.
“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.”
The team had, of course, been in touch with FIA race director Michael Masi during the race to seek clarification of what was going on. Wolff revealed he and Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows were in contact with FIA race director Michael Masi during the race to seek clarification.
“The message that reached the drivers was that very simply track limits in Turn 4 wouldn’t be sanctioned in the race,” Wolff said.
“Ron and I were speaking to Michael [Masi] during the race. Michael referred to the note saying, ‘Yes, but only if you’re not gaining an advantage’ and that was in the notes. I haven’t seen them.
“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.”