F1: Red Bull's Verstappen gets in shape for new season
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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has rued “brutal” track limits restrictions that have hampered their races over the opening three weekends of the Formula 1 season.
Max Verstappen in particular has fallen foul of the track limits regulations, surrendering a win in Bahrain and losing out on a championship point when his fastest lap time in Portugal was wiped out.
At the end of the race it seemed Verstappen had bagged an important extra point in the driver’s standings for the quickest lap of the race.
But as the drivers were climbing out of their cars in parc ferme, a message appeared from race control that his lap time was deleted after it was deemed he had exceeded track limits.
At the time Verstappen called the decision “odd” and claimed the FIA had not been monitoring that corner for track limits.
“Really?” exclaimed the Dutchman. “That’s a bit odd because they were not checking track limits at turn 14, but whatever.”
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Horner echoed his driver’s thoughts as Mercedes bagged a win, a third place and the extra point for the fastest lap.
“The whole track limits debate is just frustrating,” said Horner.
“It’s been brutal for us across the first three events. The win in Bahrain, the pole position yesterday and now the fastest lap. So it’s been pretty expensive for us.
“[Lando] Norris passed Checo fully off the track. Again, another track limits inconsistency.
“We didn’t see anyone else have the penalty that Max did today. He would’ve achieved that (fastest) lap.”
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The result now leaves Verstappen eight points off Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ standings heading into Barcelona for round four of the championship.
But the FIA’s race director Michael Masi did address Horner’s complaints after the race.
“Following a review of what happened on Friday in particular, turn 14 was being used far more,” Masi said.
“It wasn’t an issue in 2020 but became one in 2021. So as a result, I gave all the drivers the latitude to use the red and white kerb at that corner in a similar manner to turn five.
“However, they were told that if they gained a lasting advantage out of each of those (by) overtaking a car, (being) faster in a mini sector, whatever it may have been, that it will be looked at.
“Having looked at it post-race, it’s very clear that Max was off the track (and) that he was faster in that mini-sector than anyone and as a result got the fastest lap of the race, which is a world championship point.
“There were a number of lap times that were deleted during the race. Also, there were a few that were deleted during qualifying. And obviously, we had a greater number – where there was less of an impact – during the practice sessions, that were deleted.
“So I think that shows that we were policing the track limits for everyone equally. In addition, it was consistent with the manner in which the event notes were portrayed, particularly the additional version three that went out on Saturday morning, and that was following the discussion at the drivers’ meeting about what would and wouldn’t be tolerated.”
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