Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton Bahrain Grand Prix controversy addressed by F1 steward

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Formula One steward and former F1 driver Emanuele Pirro believes Max Verstappen would’ve at worst been given a five-second time penalty, had he not decided to comply with race director Michael Massi at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Verstappen didn’t actually have to follow the instructions from race control to give back the place as he overtook Lewis Hamilton for the win in the closing stages of the race, however Massi may have referred it to the stewards to investigate after the race had he not.

The Red Bull driver yielded and gave Hamilton back the the place, handing Mercedes the first win of the 2021 season.

Pirro was acting steward during the Bahrain Grand Prix and explained that Verstappen and Red Bull were not necessarily under strict instruction to give up first place.

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“It was clear that both in the practice sessions and in qualifying, the driver who would come off the track at turn four would lose his lap time. That happened several times to several drivers,” Pirro told Corriere dello Sport.

“Hamilton went over the track limits a little too often, creating a repeated advantage. That’s why [FIA race director Michael] Masi, the only one with the authority to talk to the teams, called Mercedes to warn them that if Hamilton did it more often he would get the black and white flag. That could eventually result in a punishment.”

And when it came down to reviewing the Verstappen overtake on Hamilton, Pirro said the rules were very clear.

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He continued: “There can be no misunderstanding there, according to the sporting regulations paragraph 27.3 it is very clear: You cannot make an overtake where you go over the track limits.

“Verstappen did, although he didn’t do it on purpose, he simply went a bit wide. At that point Masi warned Red Bull and advised that Verstappen could give his position back.

“A race director will never oblige anything, because he is not allowed to, he can only suggest it. Verstappen gave the spot back and so we no longer had to deal with the case specifically.

At the time Verstappen was heard on the radio asking for clarification as to why the team felt he should give the place back.

“Why couldn’t you just let me go?” Verstappen asked his team over the radio after taking the chequered flag.

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

However Pirro confirmed had he decided to do that, “he would always have been punished by up to five seconds”.

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