Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has called for Formula 1’s track limits rules to be clearer and not a “Shakespeare novel that leaves interpretation” after the Bahrain Grand Prix.

A thrilling season-opening race at Sakhir was overshadowed by a post-race debate over track limits regulations following confusion over what was and wasn’t deemed illegal after a mid-race intervention from race control came amid Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s titanic late battle for the win.

Verstappen was told to relinquish the lead having passed Hamilton by going over the track limits line at the exit of Turn 4 with four laps remaining in Sunday’s race.

Drivers exceeding the boundary of the track saw their lap times deleted in FP2, FP3 and qualifying following a track limits U-Turn by the FIA after first practice on Friday, but they were not officially monitored during the race.

Hamilton was among a number of drivers who repeatedly ran wide at Turn 4 in the early stages of the race before he was warned by Mercedes at mid-distance to stop or risk a penalty after the team received instructions from race control.

"I'm equally confused like you," Wolff said. "At the beginning of the race it was said track limits in Turn 4 wouldn't be sanctioned and then in the race suddenly we heard that if you would continue to run wide it would be seen as an advantage and could cause a potential penalty.

"And then at the end that decision actually made us win the race. Max ran wide in the definition of the race director, gaining an advantage, he had to give back the position and that saved our victory.

"So we need to be consistent in which messages are being given. They need to be clear, they need to be sacred and not a Shakespeare novel that leaves interpretation.”

The ambiguity over what was allowed caused confusion for the teams and drivers alike, with Hamilton and Verstappen both initially criticising race control for changing its policy mid-race.

In an attempt to clarify the matter, F1 race director Michael Masi insisted that “nothing changed at all” during the race itself, explaining that Verstappen’s off-track pass was illegal because of a key distinction in what was deemed as ‘gaining an advantage’.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner accepted the punishment but was left frustrated by the “shades of grey” in the rules, while Wolff also called for  the situation to be properly addressed moving forward.

"The message that reached the drivers was that very simply track limits in Turn 4 wouldn't be sanctioned in the race,” Wolff added.

"Ron [Meadows, Mercedes sporting director] and I were speaking to Michael [Masi, F1 race director] during the race. Michael referred to the note saying, 'Yes, but only if you're not gaining an advantage' and that was in the notes. I haven't seen them.

"I think the learning of this is it needs to be simple, so everybody can understand it and they don't need to carry the document in the car to read it and remind themselves what actually is allowed and what not."