Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Verstappen was right to let Hamilton pass him for lead – Horner

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner defended Max Verstappen’s decision to let Lewis Hamilton overtake him in the final laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix – even though it cost him victory.

Verstappen overtook Hamilton for the lead of the race with three laps to go. But he crossed the white line on the outside of the track as he did, and race control told Red Bull he had to give up the position to Hamilton.

“We had an instruction from the race director to give the place back immediately,” Horner confirmed. “Max was very sporting and did that. It was frustrating, and Lewis had just enough to retain his position to the end of the race.”

Verstappen told the team on the radio they should have stayed ahead of Hamilton. He believed he could have pulled out a five-second lead over the Mercedes driver in the remaining laps, which would be sufficient to ensure a five-second time penalty did not cost him the victory.

However Horner pointed out race control could have issued a stiffer penalty, and Verstappen may not have been able to build up enough of a lead.

“There’s no guarantee we could have got the five seconds, if that had been the penalty,” said Horner. “So he did the right thing.”

The policing of track limits at turn four was a point of contention throughout the race. On Friday, drivers were told they could not use all of the run-off in qualifying, but would be allowed to during the race.

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This caused some confusion for Red Bull, who at one point told Verstappen to exploit the run-off area more at turn four. “Both Lewis and Valtteri [Bottas] using the exit at turn four, so feel free to do the same until we’re told not to,” he was told. “Yeah how is that legal, man?” he replied. “The whole weekend we couldn’t do it.”

“We could see as soon as Mercedes started to push, they just used that part of the track,” said Horner. “We questioned with race control: If that’s the case, can we do this? Because when you’re in a nip-and-tuck battle, there’s a two-tenth advantage using that part of the circuit. So they did it lap after lap. The race director then asked them to respect the limits, otherwise they’d get a black-and-white-flag [for unsportsmanlike conduct].”

Drivers had been told they would not be allowed to keep any positions gained by overtaking beyond track limits at turn four, said Horner.

“Obviously Max then went wide on the pass there, which had been made clear before the race that if somebody got an advantage by going out there, they’d have to give it back. And he did that immediately and the team instructed him to do it following race control instructing us.”

Horner said race control must be more consistent with its guidance to drivers on track limits.

“With these track limits things, they are always going to be contentious. But we do just need to have a consistent situation.

“You can’t say ‘it’s okay to use it in a race, but you can’t overtake out there’. They should be black or white, they shouldn’t be shades of grey.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
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26 comments on “Verstappen was right to let Hamilton pass him for lead – Horner”

  1. Its so funny that Lewis and Valtteri could use the extra space for half race distance but when others noticed it this was stopped for everybody! So anyone can let us know how much time did they gain or how much better front-left degradation they had because of that! Maybe that equals a pass missed by Max!

    Anyway Michael Masi is proving to be FAR below F1 standards for another race! Not only making rules during the race, but enforcing them unequally! Lets hope he goes away fast!

  2. I agree with him that the messaging should be more clear-cut rather than contradictory to any extent.

  3. “With these track limits things, they are always going to be contentious. But we do just need to have a consistent situation.

    “You can’t say ‘it’s okay to use it in a race, but you can’t overtake out there’. They should be black or white, they shouldn’t be shades of grey.”

    Indeed, thrack limits are the white line on the black tarmac. The FIA should finally get consistant at monitoring them to make sure drivers stop abusing the track limits wherever they can get away with it.

  4. There really should be a clear cut singular rule that’s applied each and every race. All these pages of directions and now even differing rules between qualifying and the race is just confusing and nonsensical.

    Just make a general rule that -extraordinary circumstances such as avoiding a crash, or a spin, etc- you are only allowed to leave the white line on the side of the track with all wheels a maximum of 4 times during a race, after which you’ll get a black-and-white flag and an instant 5 second penalty for each subsequent infraction. No matter which race, no matter which corner, you have to stay within the track limits as denoted by yhe big white line on the edge of the track. It really shouldn’t be that hard.

    Alternative to penalties, put detecting loops in said white line, along with sensors in each cars rims or brake ducts that instantly cut 20bhp (or x percentage if need be) from any car that has all four sensors outside of the detection loops for 5 seconds and have that be the penalty instead.

  5. Hamilton is in a league of one!

    If Verstappen and Red Bull want to win, they need the Holy Ghost for their next upgrade!

    1. Not sure if you mean he misused the track limits tot the full extend.
      As Bottas did the same he is not in a league of one, but two ;)

      1. I agree with you erikje. The FIA needs to be as consistent as you are with the Lewis love. Dont let up.

      2. LOL. Maxiboys still can’t get over their idol getting schooled by the best driver on the current grid.

        1. These Max fans just don’t like me for what I did after Baku 2018.

          1. Apologies… sent report instead of Reply. Was an error

          2. I think you just pushed that secret button instead of Report.

  6. I don’t know why but for me it felt like Verstappen/Red Bull let Lewis win this race. They know their car is fast and Verstappen is only 7 points behind Hamilton and we still have 22(?) races to go. Don’t get me wrong it was an epic battle.

    1. Nah, don’t see why they would have given up a chance to win the first race, surely after how close verstappen got in the last stint.

      1. Also they had nothing to gain by letting hamilton past, if they had the slightest doubt about getting a penalty or not they could’ve let verstappen “win” and try to get 5 seconds, he’d have got a 5 sec penalty, no more than that, so no worse than 2nd place.

        1. I suspect they thought Max would breeze past again easily.

    2. @qeki Yeah, good luck explaining to Max Verstappen, of all people, that he needs to concede defeat in a race.

  7. And another race that is surrounded by politics over simple regulations the FIA refuses to apply consistently and clearly.

    It’s so sad…

  8. Fittipaldi1101
    28th March 2021, 20:05

    Drivers had been told they would not be allowed to keep any positions gained by overtaking beyond track limits at turn four, said Horner.”

    Why are the armchair experts still arguing then? THey had been informed that they could exploit but could NOT overtake. That seems pretty clear, RedBull knew, Max knew.

    1. Vuyo Boltina
      30th March 2021, 8:29

      Thank you. . .

  9. I applaud F1 in leaving enough wiggle room in the “rules” that allows them to change the track layout each lap.

    1. Win No 96 – ENJOY xxx

  10. Verstappen did very well with a not perfectly working
    car Just to show why he is the best driver.

  11. Oh, the irony. Horner and Red Bull shot themselves in the foot with the turn 4 complaint on track limits. No doubt Toto was straight onto race control to inform them that Max overtook outside track limits, you guessed it, at turn 4!

  12. Real Madrid…always in my heart.

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