Max Verstappen was the favourite going into the race, but it wasn’t long before normal service was resumed and Hamilton headed the field after the first pitstops – smashing F1’s record for laps led in the process.
Regardless of what the FIA said, Red Bull and Verstappen realistically had to cede the position. The gain isn’t just measured in time, it’s track position and if you can ‘buy’ a position for a five second penalty that’s an awful precedent.
Ideally, they will have hoped to cede the position and still be able to get ahead of Hamilton in the remaining laps. It was a surprise that this didn’t happen, but Verstappen needed to win on the track not off it.
That said, it’s clear that FIA still isn’t dealing with track limits as well as it should do given what was happening earlier in the race, so you can understand the frustration. This is an area that must improve so drivers and teams know where they stand.
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner says Max Verstappen was right to let Lewis Hamilton back through into the lead following his off-track overtake.
As the Bahrain Grand Prix reached its climax, Verstappen moved past Hamilton on lap 53, but was instructed to give the position back to the Mercedes driver as he put all four wheels off the circuit at Turn 4 while making the overtake.
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Verstappen complied in the following sector but failed to pull off another move for the lead, forcing him to settle for second place.
He expressed his disappointment over team radio, suggesting he could have built up a five-second gap in the remaining laps.
However, Horner stated the “sporting” thing to do was to give Hamilton the place once more, adding there was no guarantee of the incoming penalty being five seconds.
“I think it’s very difficult, we had an instruction from the race director to give the place back immediately,” Horner said.
“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. There’s no guarantee that we could have got the five seconds if that had been the penalty. He did the right thing.”
Red Bull appeared to have stronger pace than Mercedes throughout the grand prix, with Verstappen closing down Hamilton at the end as they both ran the Hard tyre.
However, Horner pointed out that the difference between the two teams looked to be less on the Medium C3 compound all through the weekend.
“I think on the Medium tyre Mercedes has been strong all weekend, they were quicker than us if you remember in Q2 on that Medium tyre,” he said.
“The great thing for Formula 1 is it looks like the two teams are close.
“It was a great race today, a tough race to lose, but congratulations to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton today, hopefully we can give them a hard time at all 23 races in the Championship.”
instruction race director horner instruction race director horner
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THE NEXT RACE 2021
|Bahrain ||26 Mar|
|14:30 - 15:30||Free practice 1|
|18:00 - 19:00||Free practice 2|
|15:00 - 16:00||Free practice 3|
|18:00 - 19:00||Qualifying|
|18:00 - 20:00||Race|
|Bahrain||57 laps||308.238 km|