Formula 1 race director Michael Masi has taken the unusual step of abandoning lap time deletions for track limits offences in Bahrain following a discussion with the drivers on Friday.
For the opening day of running, track limits were monitored at Sakhir’s Turn 4 for the first time, with the regular threat of the loss of a lap time for any offence.
There were 33 deletions over the two practice sessions, with Lewis Hamilton topping the list on five, followed by Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi on four apiece, and Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen on three.
At the drivers’ briefing, the subject was raised by Vettel, who noted that there had never previously been a need to monitor limits at Turn 4.
Hamilton and others supported the GPDA director, pointing out that policing limits in the grand prix itself could spoil the racing, as the corner can potentially create passing opportunities.
It was also felt that there was little to be gained in terms of lap time by running wide.
Masi agreed to review the situation and, in the latest version of his race director’s notes issued ahead of FP3, he confirmed that lap times would no longer be under threat.
He wrote: “The track limits at the exit of Turn 4 will not be monitored with regard to setting a lap time, as the defining limits are the artificial grass and the gravel trap in that location.”
Although the drivers see Turn 4 as a potential passing opportunity, Masi also made it clear that anyone gaining an advantage could have to give the place back, pointing out that “in all cases during the race drivers are reminded of the provisions of Article 27.3 of the sporting regulations”.
That article states: “Should a car leave the track the driver may rejoin, however, this may only be done when it is safe to do so and without gaining a lasting advantage.
“At the absolute discretion of the race director a driver may be given the opportunity to give back the whole of any advantage he gained by leaving the track.”
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