FIA race director Michael Masi says the Bahrain GP stewards did not change their approach to track limits at Turn 4 during Sunday's event, although Lewis Hamilton was instructed mid-race to stop running wide at the corner.
Track limits were all the talk after F1's season opening round at Sakhir which saw Hamilton hold off Red Bull's Max Verstappen in the closing stages of the race.
The Dutchman had seized the lead from the Mercedes driver with four laps to go but in the process ran wide at Turn 4 and was ordered to give back the position to the Briton, a move that sealed the race's fate and Hamilton's 96th career win in F1.
While the Red Bull camp didn't dispute the call from the stewards to hand back the position, there were questions on why Hamilton had been allowed to run wide at the corner 29 times earlier in the race until he was instructed out of the blue to respect the track limits.
"Halfway through the race they basically changed their minds and all of a sudden you’re not allowed to go outside that white line," said Hamilton. "Which is fine for me, it’s actually I think faster in the end for me, and helped me look after my tyres, actually. So I’m grateful for the call."
Amid the confusion and bickering, Masi attempted to clarify the issue, insisting that Verstappen was forced to give back the position after "gaining an advantage" over Hamilton at Turn 4.
Masi explained that it was made very clear in Friday's drivers' briefing as well as in the pre-event notes that "if an overtake takes place with a car off track and gains a lasting advantage, I will go on the radio and suggest to the team that they immediately relinquish that position.
"With regard to tolerance given with people running outside of the track limits during the race, that was mentioned very clearly in the meeting and the notes that it would not be monitored with regard to setting the lap time, so to speak, but it will always be monitored in according with the Sporting Regulations that a lasting advantage overall must not be gained," he added.
The Aussie's comments did little to shed light on why the stewards had suddenly intervened to rein in Hamilton's off-track excursions or why no "lasting advantage" was gained by the Briton by running over the limit on 29 consecutive laps!
Masi denied both Hamilton and Verstappen's suggestion that the rules policing track limits at Turn 4 had been changed during the race.
"Nothing changed at all," insisted Masi.
"We had two people that were looking in that area [Turn 4], every car every lap, and pretty much every car, bar one, was doing the right thing within what we expected in a general sequence.
"There was the occasional car that had a bit of a moment and went out there but it wasn't a constant thing."
It was however "a constant thing" for Hamilton for 29 laps, much to Max Verstappen's confusion...