Red Bull unhappy with 'shades of grey' approach to track limits in Bahrain

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Red Bull boss Christian Horner criticised the "shades of grey" policing of track limits during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Despite having the quickest car with Max Verstappen, strategy left the Dutchman playing catch up to Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps of Sunday's race.

With less than four laps left to go, Verstappen made his move for the lead around the outside of Turn 4 but went all four wheels off the track in doing so, triggering an immediate message from race director Michael Masi to let the Mercedes back through.

Despite his superior pace, however, the Red Bull driver wouldn't get close enough to launch another attack.

“Why couldn’t you just let me go?” Max asked over the radio on the cool-down lap, questioning why he let Hamilton back through.

“I could’ve easily pulled the five seconds. I prefer we lose a win like that than be second like this.”

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Speaking post-race, however, Horner defended the decision to follow Masi's message.

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

The Red Bull chief also didn't argue with the stewards' deeming Verstappen's move illegal.

“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," he said. "And he did that immediately and the team instructed him to do it following race control instructing us.”

What was frustrating, however, was the uncertainty over how track limits at Turn 4 were policed, as Hamilton was seen going wide almost 30 times during the race at least.

“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].”

On Friday, the stewards had confirmed lap times would be deleted in practice and qualifying for running off track in Turn 4, but would not in the race, citing the artificial grass and gravel trap as the "defining limits".

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

“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.”

As for Verstappen, though it was seen as a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, he was upbeat.

“It’s, of course, a shame, but also you have to see the positives,” he said. “We were really bringing the fight to them and I think that’s great to start the year like that.”