FIA management of Formula 1 inaugural weekend forces changes in regulations – The ambiguity of the FIA and F1 race director Massi’s judgment of race regulations of the Bahrain GP appears to be epitomised by the F1 written press as an utter joke.
The ambiguity of the FIA regulations and F1 race director Michael Massi’s interpretation of them for defining the track at the Bahrain GP appears to have been generally couched by the F1 written press as an utter joke.
On every level this failure was arguably a miss of epic proportions.
Surely a multi-billion dollar sport’s regulator/chief enforcement event officer should be able to adjudicate what is ‘in and out’. This was spectacularly not evident in Bahrain’s F1 season opener
Lewis Hamilton was presented with a nigh on impossible task, as Mercedes strategists quite rightly realised they had to go seriously contra to the Pirelli pit stop timing recommendations based on tyre wear analysis.
Such was Mercedes desperation it saw them put Hamilton on a final long run on a set of hard tyres way outside the Pirelli pit stop and lap projections.
The Brackley strategists gamble was even more desperate given the normative expectation of a late safety car in the inaugural race of a season due to car failures. A safety car deployment anytime in lap 45-56 would’ve made Mercedes strategy a complete fail.
Yet the race result saw Sir Lewis (not yet actually given the sword treatment due to thesmall matter of Covid and the isolation of The Queen), exploit the incompetence of the FIA regulators to regulate the track limits properly. This mitigated the extreme Mercedes strategy allowing Lewis to recover 4-6 illegal seconds of lap time over the course of the race.
Dutch F1 analysts suggest this Hamilton flagrant disregard for track limits – a matter for which he was eventually warned to stop or suffer sanction – created lap time benefits of no less than 2/10ths per lap. Turn 4 was specifically discussed at the driver briefing, and the drivers agreed to not repeatedly transgress those T4 curbs.
Clearly some people need legally binding edicts and Michael Massi would do well to remember this in future.
So lap after lap eaked out this turn 4 track limits advantage. The FIA and Merc argued this lap by lap violation of track limits delivered each time a mere ‘minimal time advantage’. Not “a significant advantage” – which the rules prohibit.
Yet Max Verstappen’s one off transgression on the same corner saw the FIA race director instruct Red Bull to relinquish his one lap 0.2 second track limits breach as illegal and force Rd Bull to allow Hamilton to retake the lead position. Lewis has been stealing this 0.2s time lap after lap without sanction.
Moot is the point that Verstappen had actually fully completed his pass on Hamilton before leaving the track, which was partly cause by a back marker inside Lewis forcing him to run wide.
The race result of the 2021 season opener is now fixed. There are other issues we could discuss, like RB protesting Verstappen the instruction from Massi to back the place. This would have created more time to allow Max to give up the place in a more appropriate area of the track.
Though since initially drafting this article, Max Verstappen has been reported as saying he had thought about handing the place back on the pit straight but decided against it because it wouldn’t be fair on Lewis.
(Who said the spirit of sportsmanship as demonstrated by true greats like Sir Stirling and Graham Hill is dead).
In conclusion, the glaring failure of the FIA and its F1 officers to properly regulate it’s own sporting events has filled millions of column widths around the globe today. It is the FIA’s job to deliver a consistent and reliable level playing field for the drivers to enjoy fair parameters of competition – and make it easy for the fans to follow. They must change this ambiguity in the regulations over track limits – after all there is plenty of white paint on the ground to define it.
As an aside, also sad is that many in the British F1 TV media, reviewed the Bahrain GP as an acceptable and ‘exciting first race result’ rather than rail against FIA race weekend rulings, which is clearly were beyond understanding and competence.