Formula One race director Michael Masi has denied inconsistency in applying the rules during Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix after Max Verstappen was penalised for breaching track limits but not race winner Lewis Hamilton.
Red Bull’s Verstappen was told to hand back the lead to seven-times world champion Hamilton four laps from the finish of a nail-biting race after he ran wide while overtaking the Mercedes.
Television images showed Hamilton had previously crossed the limits at the same turn four on numerous occasions before his pitwall engineer passed on a warning from race control to stop doing it.
The topic became a talking point after the race.
Masi said the two situations were “quite different” and nothing had changed during the race.
He said Verstappen had breached sporting regulations that always apply by “gaining a lasting advantage by overtaking another car off the racetrack”.
Masi confirmed also that he had instructed Red Bull to relinquish the position.
The race director also issues notes for drivers specific to each race and in Bahrain they said the track limits would be monitored at turn four during the race only in relation to gaining an advantage.
Hamilton was therefore warned only once it became apparent how often he was going wide.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told reporters the messages needed to be clear and consistent.
“At the beginning of the race it was said track limits in turn four 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 it could cause a potential penalty,” he said.
“At the end that decision actually made us win the race,” added the Austrian.
“Max ran wide in the definition of the race director, gaining an advantage, had to give back the position and that saved our victory.”