Team bosses scratching their heads over mixed messages in Bahrain.
The F1 sites have been abuzz over the last week regarding the matter of track limits and many make for interesting reading.
As I have pointed out before, one cannot criticise the actual track limits, as these are well defined lines or kerbs at all the circuits. Armco and solid walls ensure limits are not exceeded at most street circuits and many tracks still employ good old fashioned gravel traps, that normally prevent any driver repeating an off-track excursion.
The main issue is the application of the rules connected with track limits. In Bahrain officials announced track limit regulations would be strictly applied during practice sessions and qualifying, which was enforced.
But come race day a different set of instructions were applied and interpretation of these created confusion. Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner – whose driver Max Verstappen suffered due to this confusion – accepted the steward’s order to relinquish the race lead, but said: “You can’t say it’s okay to use it in the race, but you can’t overtake out there. It should be black or white, not shades of grey.”
Toto Wolff, Mercedes team chief, agreed with Horner, believing the current situation was confusing. “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.”
So what happened between the race morning’s pre-event notes and the previous evening’s drivers’ briefing? According to F1 race director Michael Masi, nothing changed.
He was reported as saying. “With regard to tolerance given with people running outside of the track limits during the race, it will always be monitored in accordance with the Sporting Regulations that a lasting advantage overall must not be gained.
“We had two people that were looking in that area at every car at 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 or went out there but it wasn’t a constant thing.”
I am totally confused, as during the race Lewis Hamilton was informed about track limits by his team, after 29 laps. Hamilton’s reply was. “I thought there were no track limits. I’ve been doing it all race.”
If that is not considered to be a “constant thing” then I would like to be made aware of the parameters employed to apply such decisions.
Let us hope as we approach Imola the enforcement of track limits will have become an issue of the past with far simpler instructions equally applied at every circuit and will hopefully no longer play a significant role in the outcome of a race
Rules and Regulations were also in the limelight after comments from Toto Wolff and Aston Martin’s Otmar Szafnauer regarding the 2021 aerodynamics, suggesting the new rules were aimed at specifically slowing down the Mercedes.
They claim the new rules favour the “high rake” cars, those where the underside of the car is higher at the rear, as opposed to the “low rake cars” where the rear is much lower.
The Aston and the Mercedes are the only two cars running the lower rake and are both experiencing problems with rear chassis dynamics.
Wolff explained it was not possible to simply change the rake and they will have “to make the best of the options we have”. The Austrian also believes the Honda power unit has improved and both Red Bull and Alpha Tauri now have an advantage over the Mercedes power unit. This could create problems for the team at the next two races, Imola and Portimao where the power differential could be an issue on the high-speed sections.
Maybe you are wondering what caused the overheating rear brakes on Fernando Alonso’s Alpine. It appears someone, whether official, team member or one of the limited number of spectators after a snack failed to secure the remaining food packaging.
On examination it was found a discarded sandwich wrap entering the rear brake duct and damaging the braking system causing the Spaniard’s retirement.
There are still many questions regarding the pecking order for the 2021 season. I believe it will be a few more races before we really begin to see one team take a solid advantage, if it should ever happen. There is still a very long way to go and the chase for the titles is liable to be the most hotly contested we have seen for many a year.
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