The 20 human beings that are afforded the most exclusive privilege in motorsport – to compete for the Formula 1 world championship – are almost entirely unparalleled in their transcendent abilities behind a steering wheel.
For ‘drivers’ is a misnomer – what these athletes truly are, at their core, are ‘racers’.
Through years of karting, honed by hundreds of races in junior formulae and complemented by hours in simulators either at the factory or at home, a champion is forged through their racecraft. It is their ability to keep composed under the most impossible of pressure. It is in applying an iron will to succeed, molded by unshakable self belief. It is in making millions of decisions throughout a two hour race – and have none of them be the wrong one.
The 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will always stand out in the annals of the sport’s history. Regretfully, to an unfortunate extent, not for the most deserving of reasons.
But cast aside the controversy over race control and put appeals and protests out of mind, because what those thousands at the track and many millions watching witnessed, beyond a new world champion crowned, was a demonstration of phenomenal racing prowess from all of the key protagonists.
A race – and title – almost lost at the start
As the only two racers who had ever held any realistic chance of competing for the championship in 2021, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton had regularly represented two deeply contrasting philosophies on-track throughout the 6,103 kilometres of racing completed through the season before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Ahead of their ultimate encounter around the Yas Marina circuit, the final qualifying session of 2021 ensured that they would be taking a differing approach to the most important race of the season – and arguably, of both their careers.
Verstappen had secured pole position, but at the cost of using the soft tyres in the second session of Saturday’s qualifying hour. An uncharacteristic lock-up into turn one earlier in Q2 had flat-spotted his medium tyres. That raised rival Hamilton’s suspicions – was this a Red Bull ruse, intended to disguise their preference for the softer rubber?
Unintentional or otherwise, Verstappen was now likely locked into an early first pit stop for the opening phase of the race, whereas Hamilton had more freedom to extend at his leisure. Not that Verstappen was bothered. “I felt good [on Friday] on the long run on the softs,” Verstappen said. “So it was not a difficult decision to make to say ‘okay, we will focus on the softs.’”
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Unlike most sporting pursuits, motorsport is unusual in how the start of a contest can often prove its most critical point. With Verstappen on the less-durable compound compared to Hamilton, he was not only under pressure to hold onto the lead on the short sprint down to the first corner to maintain the crucial track position he needed to make the best of his strategy, he had the benefit of grippier tyres off the line to do so.
But his practice starts had not gone well. And as Verstappen lined up on the prime grid slot for the tenth and final time in his most successful ever season, waiting for the rest of the field to join him, he knew that of the hundreds of competitive standing starts he had experienced in his racing career, this was the most important of all. When the five red lights extinguished, however, he almost instantly realised he had been bested.
On the short run to turn one the Mercedes’ rear wing was beyond the Red Bull’s front wing before they had even reached the braking zone for the first corner. Hamilton could afford to take an easy line through the left-hander as the Mercedes garage roared their approval, just metres away.
Behind, Lando Norris’s third place – won through a remarkable qualifying performance the day before – was taken by Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull. At least Verstappen would have the luxury of his team mate covering his six. That could not be said for Hamilton, however, as his wingman, Valtteri Bottas, only helped to further justify his team’s decision to replace him with younger blood following that weekend when he surrendered sixth to Charles Leclerc, then seventh to Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri.
Verstappen had spent too many races over his many years at Red Bull watching Hamilton disappear into the horizon to be under any illusion of how urgently he needed to reclaim the early advantage. The remodelled Yas Marina offered better opportunities to do so. Verstappen took a deeper entry into the widened turn five compared to Hamilton, priming himself for a strong exit along the protracted back straight.
With no DRS to assist him, Verstappen had to rely on the the superior purchase of his tyres, the punch of his Honda power unit and the slipstream generated by the Mercedes to pull him near. He was not close enough to pass. Not even in the realm of where one should consider trying a pass. But this was for a world championship and this was the moment to call on every measure of his late-braking ability not to fail him now.
Verstappen flung his car to the inside, hammering down the gears and only just flirting with the apex before running outrageously deep into the corner. But as the world held its breath, Hamilton was forced to make space for the charging Red Bull. Unlike so many instances this season, however, Verstappen kept to the confines of the turn while Hamilton tweaked his steering wheel to the right, choosing to bail out to the safety of the copious run-off before opting out of turn seven entirely.
“He has to give that back!,” Verstappen promptly ordered over team radio. But with race control satisfied that Hamilton had relinquished enough of the advantage he gained, it was up to the Red Bull driver to reclaim the position himself.
Such a task is challenging enough at the best of times in Formula 1, but especially so when it is a seven-time world champion who must be overcome. With clear air in front of him, Hamilton quickly settled into a rhythm, lapping in the mid 1’28s while his adversary behind tried to match him without burning through his softer tyres in the dirty air.
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Perez’s best defence is Red Bull’s best offence
It was not long before Verstappen began to feel the strain from the rubber underneath him. “Rears are starting to struggle a little bit,” he reported to engineer Gianpiero Lambiase as his lap times crept up into the higher 1’28s. Sensing an opportunity to build his advantage, Hamilton began lighting the timing screens purple as his margin to Verstappen grew wider with it.
With Bottas mixed up in the pack and not a factor for Red Bull to contend with, an inviting gap was opening up between third placed Perez and Carlos Sainz Jnr in fourth. It would not be enough for Verstappen to pit and resume in clear air, but Red Bull were confident they could back their racer’s ability to make light work of any cars he came out behind – especially knowing they would have no intention of intruding on the title fight.
Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 13, switching to the hard tyres that, theoretically, could see him to the chequered flag. That would be unlikely, given that it would make it all too easy for Mercedes to cover them off and leave Red Bull powerless to take the fight to their rivals when they needed to most.
“You will be racing [Yuki] Tsunoda and Leclerc,” Verstappen was told. But after almost scaring Leclerc completely off the circuit when rejoining at pit exit, Verstappen resumed in fifth place. That soon became fourth as he breezed by Norris along the back straight thanks to DRS.
With the luxury of being able to cover off the Red Bull, Mercedes opted not to keep Hamilton out in clear air. Instead, Hamilton was pitted immediately after Verstappen to move him onto the hard tyres. If all panned out as planned, the services of Mercedes’ pit crew would no longer be required for the number 44 car that season.
Hamilton was met by wide, open asphalt upon climbing out of the pit lane and rejoining the circuit at the start of lap 15, five seconds to the good over Verstappen, who was dealing with Sainz’s Ferrari, and ten seconds behind Perez. With the Mercedes now isolated and presumably soon to be sandwiched in the order between both Red Bulls, the Milton Keynes team sensed an opportunity to help play the numbers game.
“Plan A – Hamilton’s pitted,” Perez’s engineer Hugh Bird instructed his driver before checking himself. “Correction – plan B.“
Perez had not been shy about his ambitions to support his team mate’s championship challenge in this final showdown. As he breached the upper limits of Pirelli’s suggested lifespan of their soft tyres, Perez began to drop seconds a lap to Hamilton behind on his much fresher hard tyres.
As Verstappen eventually dispatched Sainz for third on the track on lap 18, he sat 12 seconds behind his leading team mate. Hamilton, was just 3.8 seconds from Perez. The next time they crossed the line, Hamilton was barely a second behind.
Perez’s radio made no secret of his team’s intentions. “We’ll be looking to hold up Lewis,” Bird confirmed as the Mercedes began to fill the mirrors of the Red Bull driver.
The skill of defensive driving has been relegated to something of a dark art in the age of DRS-assisted, motorway-style passes. But with his team mate’s nemesis stalking directly within his wake and the championship hopes of the hundreds of Red Bull team personnel sitting squarely on his shoulders in this vital moment, Perez produced an exhibition of defensive driving and deliberate – yet fair – obstruction of a competitor that will surely rank among the best the sport has seen.
As the pair began to dispute the lead, Hamilton’s advantage over Verstappen was 8.5 seconds.
Hamilton cruised up behind Perez and was comfortably tucked up behind his rear wing with his fingertip already on the DRS trigger as they exited turn five. As the Mercedes powered by on the inside before drifting back towards the right, Perez lunged left and dived back ahead of Hamilton, making sure to take the chicane nice and leisurely as he did so.
Hamilton’s tighter exit from seven allowed him to drive around Perez along the straight, but this time it was the Red Bull who had DRS and squeezed against the inside barriers to cut in front once more, hogging the middle line of the long turn nine left-hander to hold him up further.
Making use of the tight, twisty nature of the corners that flank the marina, Perez lazily lagged on the throttle, safe in the knowledge there was little room for Hamilton to do anything about it.
Perez closed off the inside line heading into the final corner of the lap in a bid to delay Hamilton further. But he compromised his own exit, allowing Hamilton a run down the pit straight. Again, Perez claimed the inside line as they both blasted past the cheering grandstands, fending off the Mercedes once more – Hamilton forced to keep in line behind him through the sweeping turns of two, three and four.
Increasingly frustrated, Hamilton considered a dive up the inside into turn five before thinking better of it, perhaps realising that DRS along the following straight would be a far more effective option. Perez used his car to shield Hamilton around the outside of the corner once more, as they both entered the straight.
By now, Verstappen was almost close enough to strike at Hamilton. The Mercedes went by by Perez for the second time in two laps, this time covering off the inside for the chicane. Perez tried to come back once more, but this time he didn’t need to. Just like in qualifying almost 24 hours earlier, Perez offered a tow to his team mate before blending out of the throttle and allowing Verstappen to slingshot by into second place on the approach to the new turn nine.
In the space of just one lap, Perez had gifted his team mate the best part of eight seconds advantage in pursuit of his world championship rival. Verstappen fully understood what his wingman had done for him and paid tribute over radio. “Oh, Checo is a legend,” Verstappen praised his team’s second racer. Having done his duty, Perez was rewarded with a pit stop for new hard tyres.
Mercedes stick while Red Bull twist
While the heat was building up front, further back there was heartache for a number of drivers competing in their final races for their respective teams. First, Kimi Raikkonen saw the longest ever career in Formula 1 by number of race starts end in unceremonious fashion when his car suddenly snapped under braking for turn six, pitching him into gentle contact with the barriers. Raikkonen was forced to park his Alfa Romeo, closing the book on a career that spanned 349 race starts, 21 wins, one world championship and zero regrets.
Soon after Raikkonen vacated his car, George Russell joined him into pulling out of the race, his final outing for Williams curtailed by a gearbox problem. As disappointed as Russell was not to end his tenure with the team that gave him his start in Formula 1 on a high, he will likely be comforted by the knowledge he will have a works Mercedes at his disposal from now on – starting with Wednesday’s tyre test.
At the mid-way point of the race, Hamilton’s advantage to Verstappen had gradually built back to 3.6 seconds. The race leader was beginning to question whether his tyres would indeed last the second half of the race. Mercedes had little reason for concern, however, knowing they were in the exact same position as Verstappen and should be able to keep one step ahead of Red Bull.
That was until Antonio Giovinazzi became the third driver to bow out of the race, joining his team mate in what could well prove to be his final grand prix of his F1 career. Pulling off track on the high-speed exit of turn nine, there was little surprise when race director Michael Masi triggered a Virtual Safety Car to allow marshals to safely recover Giovinazzi’s car.
With no desire to voluntarily give up track position, Mercedes were quick to tell Hamilton to “stay out.” Meanwhile, Red Bull immediately called Verstappen in so they could replace his hard tyres with another, newer, set of hards.
With only Perez behind Verstappen, Red Bull could take advantage of the reduced speeds to give their challenger brand new tyres compared to Hamilton’s 23-lap old set without any compromise to their own track position, banking on Verstappen exploiting that difference in tyre life to hunt down Hamilton over the latter laps.
In the cockpit, the race leader was suddenly nervous. “Are we going to be in trouble?,” Hamilton questioned his team. “Is he going to catch us up? A bit of a risk to leave me out, no?”
When the green flags flew, Hamilton’s lead had grown to 17 seconds, with Verstappen tasked with the mission of making up that gap over the final 21 laps of the race if he was to become the 34th person in history to earn the honour of calling themselves a world champion.
As capable as Verstappen surely was, the most important pursuit of his racing career did not develop the way that he hoped. Red Bull needed Verstappen to eat away Hamilton’s advantage at a rate of around eight tenths a lap, but even with the substantially fresher rubber underneath him, Verstappen’s rate of progress subsided, and he was soon only managing half that rate.
Despite Red Bull giving Verstappen an opportunity to spark into life like he so often can, Hamilton appeared to have an answer for all of it – his only headaches being the packs of quarrelling lapped cars he had to dispatch as he ticked off the laps. A record-breaking eighth world title edging ever closer with every trip over the timing line.
Then, with six laps to go, Peter Bonnington opened the radio.
Fortune favours the brave
“So we have a double-yellow, double-yellow. Turn 14. Stay left, stay left.”
Nicholas Latifi’s wrecked Williams was lying on track at turn 14.
“Safety car, safety car. Staying out, staying out. Keep the delta positive.”
Hamilton’s nerves returned. “Shit, Bono man… I can’t box?”
Hamilton immediately knew what this meant. “Ugh, that’s unbelievable, man…”.
Once again, Red Bull snapped into instant action. They wasted no time bringing Verstappen in for soft tyres – an obvious choice with five laps to go and a restart behind Hamilton now awaiting them.
Back in the Mercedes, realisation was beginning to wash over the race leader. “What’s the situation, behind me?”
“So, the situation is that Verstappen has pitted – he had a free pit stop,” Bonnington told him straight, before offering an explanation for why Mercedes did not do the same.
“We would have lost track position to him.”
This call by the Mercedes strategists may unknowingly have decided the fate of the world championship. Yet, at this stage, neither Hamilton, Mercedes or even Red Bull and Verstappen will have realised it. What was just over a 12 second gap when the safety car was deployed grew to just under 15 seconds by the time Verstappen crossed the white line to enter the pitlane. By the time Verstappen reached the exit, that had become 18.7 seconds, before he was able to begin to catch up the train behind the safety car.
Whether Hamilton would have been able to pit and resume ahead of Verstappen is a question that may well haunt Mercedes throughout the winter months or even beyond. But in their leading car, Hamilton was feeling haunted by the threat of his title rival.
“Oh fuck…” exclaimed Hamilton as a sense of dread hit him. “Is he right behind me?”
Bonnington, apparently expecting race control would move the lapped cars aside before the restart, replied: “He will be.” There was no way of sugar coating this. “Once they’ve sorted out all the order. This is going to take a while to sort out.”
What transpired next, with the decisions made by race control and the furore that followed, is already being furiously debated and may well still be long after both these incredible racing talents have reached the end of their careers. But what matters most – and what ultimately decided the destination of the championship – is what happened out on the track when the racing began again.
After race control took their controversial and late decision to move only the lapped cars between the championship contenders out of the way, Verstappen was freed to sit directly behind the man who would deny him the biggest prize in motorsport for the first time that evening since their close encounter on the opening lap. With new, soft tyres on his car compared to Hamilton’s old, hard tyres – Verstappen was the most empowered he had been all race.
He had been put there because his team had not hesitated to react when presented with the opportunity – first through the support of his team mate, then through two crucial strategy changes made on the fly. And now, tucked up behind a vulnerable Mercedes, Verstappen had finally been given his opportunity to repay them.
A desperate Hamilton was staring at odds stacked firmly against him, but with only one single, precious, lap of green flag racing to endure, if there was any driver who could somehow find a way, they may not have been any racer who has ever been better equipped to do it.
Hamilton did what he could to try and unsettle Verstappen ahead of the restart as he leaned on his raw racing instincts to tell him when the best time would be to floor the throttle, but when he eventually did through turn 14, Verstappen was right there to shadow him.
At the end of an impossibly close, season-long battle between the pair, it had all come down to one final, ultimate lap of pure racing.
The sheer grip advantage offered by Verstappen’s fresh soft tyres were obvious from how he was able to stick so close to his target through the first corner, the car turning in sharper and with more bite than he had felt all race. Maybe that one corner was all he needed to have the confidence to make his move into turn five.
It was bold. It was late. It was brilliant. With total faith in his car, Verstappen launched up the inside of his nemesis for the final time, holding him to the outside of the long left hander. Hamilton did what he could to try and immediately respond, knowing he was losing hope. Verstappen weaved to break the slipstream in a way that flirted with the confines of the rules – just as he had done with Hamilton throughout the season.
Hamilton did a remarkable job to retaliate as much as his did, even pulling back alongside Verstappen on the run to turn nine. As the ‘final boss’ of Formula 1, it was perhaps fitting that Verstappen would have to put away Hamilton just one final time, even when he might have already considered him conquered.
Once Verstappen took his line into turn nine ahead of Hamilton, though, it was all but over. In front of his loved ones, his team, thousands of frenzied orange-clad fans in the grandstands and in front of what would surely be the biggest TV audience for perhaps any Formula 1 race, Max Verstappen crossed the finish line, took the chequered flag, became world champion and realised his destiny.
The Red Bull camp erupted with joy as the sky above them exploded with fireworks.
“It’s unbelievable,“ the new world champion said afterwards. ”Throughout the whole race I kept fighting And then, of course, that opportunity in the last lap. It’s incredible.“
Red Bull’s eight-year wait for another world champion was over and team boss, Christian Horner, was brimming with pride in the driver they had ushered into a Formula 1 race seat at the absurd age of just 17 years old. “He’s had to convert it with that last lap pass on Lewis,” Horner said. “So a wonderful way to win this world championship, and we’re incredibly proud of him.”
In defeat, possibly the most devastating of his career, Hamilton found it in himself to put aside any burning sense of injustice he may have felt and shake hands with the rival he had battled so relentlessly over the year. “Firstly a big congratulations to Max and to his team,” Hamilton offered after the race. “We gave it everything.”
Beyond the madness that unfolded up front, Carlos Sainz Jnr capped off a superb first season for Ferrari with third, while Yuki Tsunoda secured his best finish of a tumultuous rookie season in fourth ahead of team mate Pierre Gasly. Bottas concluded his tenure at Mercedes by finishing sixth, having been a complete non-factor in his team mate’s title fight throughout the weekend.
The end of the race of the season was only the start of the arguments, the social media bickering, the protests and the appeals. Formula 1 had managed to generate the ultimate scenario for a championship showdown and the most remarkable narrative it could have imagined through sheer circumstance. But instead of a satisfying conclusion, the context around the events that decided this race and this title robbed the moment of the purity it so richly deserved.
After all the races, the battles, the controversies, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes had not lost the world championship – Max Verstappen and Red Bull had won them. Two giants of the sport had fought tooth-and-nail over 22 rounds and, in the end, a deserving world champion was crowned because of what happened on track.
The debates and the appeals and the angst will continue for long to come. But what cannot be taken away is the fact that the titanic title battle between two of the sport’s elite talents was determined by a clean overtake on the final lap of the final race.
No contact, no penalties, no quarter given. Just two remarkable racing drivers, both pushing each other and themselves to the absolute end, until one of them won.
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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
- I spoke up for Hamilton because he speaks up for others says fan behind Abu Dhabi petition
- ‘I can’t box?’: Hamilton and Verstappen’s 2021 Abu Dhabi GP radio transcript
- Masi did make mistake with title-deciding Abu Dhabi GP restart, Horner admits
- The omission in the FIA’s Abu Dhabi report which may store up trouble for the future
- How F1’s greenest debutant defied his doubters and left as its most experienced racer
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241 comments on “Verstappen victorious as Hamilton loses title in finale soured by restart row”
13th December 2021, 7:16
Lewis was dominating that race, he had a hand on the trophy and would have sealed it with ease had the FIA followed the rules of the sport instead of cheating to put Max in contention.
Lewis wasn’t vanquished, he was cheated.
Red Andy (@red-andy)
13th December 2021, 7:21
As the old saying goes, it doesn’t matter how many laps you lead, as long as you lead the last one.
Hamilton had 3.2 miles to keep Verstappen behind. A tall order, given the tyre delta, but Perez had done similar earlier in the race, and had DRS to contend with. Hamilton failed, and now we have a new champion.
13th December 2021, 7:42
@red-andy Hamilton had an ice creams chance in hell against Verstappen and Massi knew it when he made the call. Horner told him “we only need one lap” just prior to the decision being made.
In my opinion Massi has tainted the WDC this year.
13th December 2021, 7:51
No, really, Perez did it. Why do you say there was no chances? Or do you think there is a bigger difference between Verstappen and Hamilton than between Hamilton and Perez in terms of racecraft?
13th December 2021, 9:07
IvanErohiim in what universe could a any driver with a car wearing well used hards be able to fend off a car with new softs?
13th December 2021, 9:27
The same universe where a driver with extremely old worn softs fended off brand new hards.
13th December 2021, 10:22
“The same universe where a driver with extremely old worn softs fended off brand new hards.”
You’re going to say that with a straight face?
You think Hamilton wasn’t being 100% cautious while in close proximity to Verstappens teammate who was all over the road like he was fighting for the title himself. Clearly Hamilton was just biding his time for a clean pass on the straight.
13th December 2021, 8:45
Mercedes lost the championship in the 1st half of the season with their car not being as good as the Red Bull, only with Pirelli introducing stiffer tyre walls to benefit them directly did they manage to get back into a position to fight for the WDC.
13th December 2021, 12:26
The only reason Red Bull was in contention was the FiA changing the rules about the rear of the floor to hamper Mercedes low rake design. :)
13th December 2021, 10:12
@johnrkh It is almost impossible to make decisions that benefit both. Yes there have been some really controversial decisions. But in the end Michael is not the guy who makes the strategy or drive the car.
13th December 2021, 10:27
“It is almost impossible to make decisions that benefit both.”
Keeping the lapped cars in place would have been fair. Max was 11s behind before the SC and would have had a small gap to make up as the lapped cars dive out of his way on the restart.
13th December 2021, 7:44
No, Mercedes cheated max in Silverstone and Hungary. Really the whole hybrid era the fia has protected them and especially Hamilton. Lewis winning this title would have been a travesty, so I’m glad justice was served in the end
13th December 2021, 8:22
How did Mercedes cheat Vestappen in Silverstone or Hungary? Did they encourage Vestappen to try diving around the outside of a lost corner? Did they do a rain dance and set up several cars to be skittled?
They have not “protected” Mercedes in any way, but they’ve frequently ignored their own rules to benefit Vestappen, as they did in Abu Dhabi. It doesn’t matter who ends up with the title, it’s been tainted.
13th December 2021, 19:12
In Silverstone Hamilton put the car in the racing line that was dangerous driving, but FIA protected him as he was at home.
13th December 2021, 13:20
I agree with this wholeheartedly. If you look at the whole season, Ham’s luck was far, far better than Max’s. About time his luck ran out.
13th December 2021, 8:04
Lambert, I agree. @willwood pretty biased take, Masi appears to have ignored the rules because the rules allow him to do so, giving Max an unfair advantage. It is Hamilton’s loss the “most devastating of his career” when race control hands the race to Max on a plate by ignoring the rule that safety cars should end on the lap after cars have unlapped themselves i.e. after the final lap of the race.
Looking forward to Lausanne. And if the result isn’t reversed, I’m done after 29 years of following the sport. Not a Lewis fan but this officiating is crazy. That you’ve backed it with this take is even more unbelievable.
13th December 2021, 9:30
Read again: conclusion Masi followed the rules and did what he did all season long. Try to resume racing as soon as possible. It’s a race, not a rule party.
13th December 2021, 11:47
What nonsense. I promise you would not have this stance if the tables were turned. Why then not let all lapped cars through slightly earlier on that same lap so that Sainz can try a move on Max and Lewis as he too had better tyres. Why only the lapped cars between the front two?
13th December 2021, 12:38
erikje that’s a COMPLETE LIE, its infuriating when people with a clear bias leave 1 sentence drive by replies and not back anything up with facts, this isnt the formula 1 subreddit page!
If that was the case to “just let them race asap” why not do the most logical and simple solution and leave lapped cars in place if masi was desperate for 1 lap under green?
Race direction did not do that because it does not benefit max as he cannot overtake lapped cars under a restart until max passes the finish line and with only 1 lap left Lewis would be clear air and gap early to win the race. race direction was fully well aware of this hence the made up on the fly rules last minute that ONLY benefit max by moving cars infront of him out of the way but no other car that was not lapped received the same treatment like carlos in 3rd..
Lets just call it what it is, race direction made up new rules to artificially place max behind lewis moving some cars out of the way and broke rules forcing a last green lap .
Mercedes deserve their day in court to hand the WDC to Lewis. People say its sad to fight this in court and you shouldn’t win WDC like this but this isnt the WWF, if it wasn’t for the end of the race screw up and meddling by race direction Lewis would’ve been crowned WDC so it would be a disservice to the 800+ staff and a waste of 100s millions invested in the team if they don’t legally challenge this.
13th December 2021, 19:58
If Masi wanted to help VER why didn’t he make HAM give the place back after turn 6 on lap one. Almost all journalists and driver commentators have said VER made a legitimate overtake?
13th December 2021, 12:46
In a sport, rules apply. If those rules are not enforced or adhered to, it is not a sporting competition.
I also still fundamentally and vehemently disagree with the stewards’ interpretation of those rules. Take as they have, it is basically “The race director is allowed to change, delete or create any rule he wants for any or no reason and with no protests or appeals allowed”. That’s both ridiculous and dangerous.
13th December 2021, 8:04
poor article, trying to wash away the cheat
13th December 2021, 8:35
It’s funny how Mercedes wins a constructors championship by throwing PUs at it. I’m wondering how much engines they have used in this season compared to Honda (with client teams included). Anyway, Bottas showed more consistency than Perez. I think Russel will do better against Hamilton and I don’t think he will be so willing to be “the second driver.”
13th December 2021, 8:40
Its no use talking about the last race when looking at the overall season. So, the last race was drenched with bad luck for him. That’s nothing compared to Silverstone, Hungary and Baku for Max. An undeserved victory for sure, but a deserved championship nevertheless.
The real issue this year was however the organisation of the circus that can no longer be called a sport imho. It is clear there is a sense of American commercialisation going on on Liberty side and some serious integrity issues at FIA side. Both turned out to be incompetent this year although I think Liberty is probably proud of itself since turnover is all that is measured. My suggestion is to start a new body that organises a new class above F1. Faster cars, no factory teams, just chassis developers. 4 or 5 dedicated engine manufacturers that are not allowed to have a team and deliver equal machinery to their respective customers. The current F1 can then serve as the circus for the football fans & Netflix audience and the real F1fanatics get their sport back.
13th December 2021, 19:59
Sonny Crockett (@sonnycrockett)
13th December 2021, 9:49
** Proposed New Rule From 2022 Onwards **
In the event that a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car is required but there are 7 laps or fewer remaining, the race is to be red-flagged, drivers to return to the pits and the circuit to be cleared.
The race is then to be restarted from the grid.
13th December 2021, 10:41
I’d be all for that. It’d clear up any confusion.
13th December 2021, 11:57
I hate safety cars & red flags. They are not fair and wipe out well earnt gaps between drivers and allow ‘free’ pitstops. The virtual safety car is much fairer as maintains gaps with only minor discrepancies occurring depending on where you were when it was called, however still fall at the hurdle of ‘free’ pitstops.
Therefore, I have formed a counter proposal to yours, that I believe would be much fairer retaining any gaps, not need the arbitrary 7 laps or fewer statement, and waste the fewest racing laps possible. I’m sure there will be people who complain/don’t like the idea as they like the extra restarts and the excitement that comes with them and these rules would remove all the ‘excitement’ – but I want good clean fair racing even if it is considered ‘boring’.
** Counter proposal for new safety rules **
If an incident occurs that is deemed safe enough to recover/clear whilst cars are travelling past at a controlled speed the virtual safety car will be utilised as it is now, except the pitlane is closed except to those who have damage from the incident (including punctures from running over debris).
If an incident occurs otherwise (what usually would be a safety car or red flag), then all drivers drive under virtual safety car conditions. Once the lead driver gets to the pit lane he and all remaining drivers then enter the pits and stay in queue at the pit exit. As the lead driver crosses the pit line a timer is started and each subsequent drivers’ time is recorded. No work can be done to the cars*. When the track is clear the green light at the end of the pits goes green for the lead driver who proceeds out of the pit under virtual safety car conditions. The light (automatically) changes between red and green for each subsequent driver at the same timings at which they entered the pits. Once the last car has left the pit and re-joined the track the virtual safety car can end and racing resume.
Not only is this system fairer and retains the gaps, it is also safer than another standing or safety car restart (how many times have we seen another safety car required just after a safety car?). It also only uses two racing laps to do.
13th December 2021, 13:57
@madman that’s way too complicated. Safety cars happen in this sport, sometimes it benefits you and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s part of the game and the strategy. Without the red flag in Imola probably Max would have already been the champion, seeing how it saved Lewis from a mistake that should have put him a lap down. Wins have been lost due a safety car before and they will be again. For me, it’s part of the suspense.
13th December 2021, 14:42
Man it’s simpler than that actually. Just don’t allow to pit under safety car. That would ultimately avoid free stops and all of that.
13th December 2021, 13:26
Why not make both jointly champions? I know this is an unusual move, but so are the circumstances and not the fault of both drivers, but the FIA.
Mark in Florida
13th December 2021, 18:39
Seriously? A participation trophy? I made my kids throw away the participation trophy that the do gooders at the ball field passed out. There is only 1,2,3, place in the tournament play. If you lose suck it up and come back stronger. That’s exactly what Merc or anyone else needs to be doing. Think about Ferrari and all the advantages they had stripped away to keep them uncompetitive with Merc. Mercs had it easy since 14 and I’m tired of all the whining and crying by any of these self intitled clowns. Everyone thinks their intitled to something in life sometimes you can do everything right and it’s still not your day. Ask Felipe about it.
13th December 2021, 15:47
I agree. This has soured and taints the entire championship.
Either finish under safety while waiting for unlap as per the rules.
OR (I prefer)
Race to end without any unlap and let Max charge with fresh tyres.
Both new the rules, and Max chose to drop for the fresh tyres. He lost out on that gamble.
Until FIA broke their rules.
13th December 2021, 18:15
If they left the cars in between them I think Max would’ve still caught up and passed. But at least then we wouldn’t have this horrible end to the championship.
13th December 2021, 19:07
Merc should’ve pitted for fresher tyres when RB did, with first VSC. They had a second chance with 2nd SC and failed to do. RB won win strategy. MAX awesome champ!
13th December 2021, 19:26
not worth it 1st time as the pace was good and chances full yellows are super low here, second time if he pitted as he was first max would just stay out, inherit 1st and masi would finish the race under yellows making Mercedes look like fools to pit.
Its hard to win the race when race stewards do everything to fix the race against you.
More importantly and what will be used by Mercedes in any protest is during the last lap restart not allowing Sainz to rightfully fight for a victory or challenge Max and only removing the cars between Max and Lewis which is a blatant manipulation of the race by Masi who damaged the integrity of competition by deciding who can challenge for a race and who cannot.
what if carlos challenged max forcing him to be defensive which buys Lewis time, what if he overtook both lewis and max for an amazing win? we will never know because unlike special treatment max carlos had lapped cars in the way.
What is at stake should not determine the outcome of a decision by the stewards, the rules should be ‘blind’ with every driver treated equally.
If the championship was already decided or max was first the race would 100% end under the safety car.
That is why it is a criminal decision and Mercedes would be stupid to not challenge to reverse this result.
13th December 2021, 20:07
This is Masi on the 2020 German GP…
From an article on The Race
Says it all….
‘Masi said the lengthy duration of the safety car period was because the sporting regulations require all lapped cars to be let past and as there were so many lapped cars “the safety car period was a bit longer than what we would have normally expected”.
The sporting regulations do state that if the clerk of the course considers it safe, any lapped cars are required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.
But that rule also states that “unless the clerk of the course considers the presence of the safety car is still necessary, once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap”.
13th December 2021, 7:16
Gutted to see Hamilton lose the championship in this way. Luck plays weird games. Apart from yesterday’s controversy, the thought of how Felipe Massa lost his championship to make Hamilton’s first, should remind that it hasn’t always been like that for Lewis.
Super Nashwan (@squeakywheel)
13th December 2021, 10:02
Well said. I was unhappy with the result but Lewis has benefitted in the past from safety car timings. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t agree with how this safety car was handled but it is what it is and it won’t change now.
Hamilton was the driver of the day but he was on his own. Red Bull were the team of the day with Perez’s work and the strategy calls.
Broadsword to Danny Boy
13th December 2021, 12:44
I agree to some extent, although the strategy calls were nothing other than ‘do whatever Ham doesn’t do so long as it doesn’t lose position’; and given how far ahead the two were they could easily pit him. Merc did not have that luxury as the gap to Ver was big but nowhere near big enough. Merc would have done the same if the situation was reversed so no real credit for doing the bleeding obvious.
Losing under the safety car, you are right, it’s swings and roundabouts, although to be fair it’s not often the race director ignores the regulations and makes up his own rules about SC endings after the strategy calls!
Max will keep his trophy, he did nothing wrong, but Masi and Todt should lose theirs (hardly matters to the latter as he’s headed for the sunset anyway), FIA have been farcical this year and while I think Masi has been unfairly blamed at times, the sum total of this seasons decision making suggests he isn’t up to the job.
13th December 2021, 13:44
It happened to Hamilton in his rookie season when he ran the tyres to the canvas and crashed in the pitlane in China 2007. So he’s no stranger.
Red Andy (@red-andy)
13th December 2021, 7:19
A great review, of a fitting end to a wonderful season. Well written. Shame about the headline – the only thing that has “soured” the occasion is Mercedes’ behaviour in the aftermath. But as a racing spectacle, this article captures it perfectly.
13th December 2021, 7:25
Merc are doing absolutely nothing wrong by protesting. It is the exact right thing to do. I would be disappointed in Merc if they were NOT sticking up for their driver.
Bringing this all the way to CAS is the correct thing to do. Getting this result overturned and having the rightful Champion, Hamilton, take the trophy, is the only correct thing to do.
Masi cheated to gift Max a win. This is not right.
13th December 2021, 7:50
Hamilton was only in contention because he had a faster car overall and because he and bottas both wrecked verstappen, as well as Max’s tire failure in Baku and the lucky imola red flag. I think anyone who isn’t British or a drive to survive fan is happy he didn’t collect another undeserved title and grateful to max for restoring the sport’s integrity
John H (@john-h)
13th December 2021, 8:11
I think the cars were pretty much equal overall. Red bull started with the quickest package, Mercedes levelled and then towards the end they were the quickest.
I can tell from the tone of your comment overall that you’re not going to agree with me though.
13th December 2021, 9:09
one question to you, who do you think had the faster car in France?
John H (@john-h)
13th December 2021, 9:18
Good question @johnever. Probably Mercedes slightly faster if anything, I recall they threw away the race win on strategy, however for qualifing the red bull was fast. There will be ebs and flows according to the track of course, for example at Mexico Red Bull easily had the quickest car and that was well into the back end of the season.
A M (@amam)
13th December 2021, 9:21
William Stuart (@williamstuart)
13th December 2021, 11:29
Apart from Newey stating the Red Bull was the faster car over the season.
13th December 2021, 11:53
You just cannot stop can you. What about Max taking Lewis out in Monza, the farce that was the Belgian GP that handed RB a win wihtout even a competitive racing lap. The cars were evenly matched over the season but some tracks favoured Merc and some RB. As for Max restoring the sport’s integrity, is your day job a comedian?
13th December 2021, 13:48
It’s always the same, if Max starts a run of WDCs people will get fed up with it too.
13th December 2021, 8:06
13th December 2021, 8:34
Absolutely right that the Court of Arbitration for Sport need to resolve this. At the stewards meeting Red Bull argued, on behalf of Race Director, that because the Sporting Regulations say ‘any’ lapped cars are required to overtake the leading car and make their way round to the back of the train. Because it did not say ‘all’ lapped cars, Red Bull claimed the Race Director was quite entitled to respond to their request to remove only the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen in the way that he did. The CAS need to clarify whether this is a correct interpretation of the use of ‘any’. When the regulations say that ‘any’ car exceeding track limits should have its lap time deleted can the Race Director decide not to penalise Hamilton because the word ‘all’ is not used?
Red Bull also said that regulation 15 gives the Race Director absolute over the deployment of the safety car. That is true. Interestingly there is no requirement in the regulations that the officials should act impartially. In the days when the sport was run by gentlemen there was no need to state that. Now money runs the sport perhaps a requirement for impartiality should be explicit.
13th December 2021, 8:48
But then, what is impartially? If all cars would’ve been allowed to pass the Safety Car, the situation would’ve been more clear, but we still would’ve had the same controversy. If the race was finished under the Safety Car while the track was clear, or even if the cars wouldn’t have been allowed to pass, everyone at Red Bull would be angry. A red flag to give a level playing field would’ve been fairest, but can you red flag a race just for the spectacle? Difficult. Hard to swallow for sure if you’re a Lewis fan for sure.
13th December 2021, 11:35
I think the difference is that those were options available under the written rules, this situations was just made up on the spot in a way which handed a massive advantage to one driver. Even if you accept that Masi has the power to ignore the rules on safety cars and do whatever the heck he likes, it still brings the sport into disrepute. The race wasn’t decided on track, it was decided in Masi’s imagination when he dreamed up that procedure.
13th December 2021, 8:56
It is so weird. I’m not even a native english speaker and it’s clear beyond a doubt that “any” in that context means “all”.
William Stuart (@williamstuart)
13th December 2021, 11:31
There is no debate about the actual meaning, Red Bull are playing politics.
13th December 2021, 12:12
FIA does not recognize CAS when it comes to sporting matters.
John H (@john-h)
13th December 2021, 8:09
Of course Red Bull would never have protested it @red-andy had roles been reversed? They would have packed their bags and calmly and serenely left the circuit.
Red Andy (@red-andy)
13th December 2021, 10:07
I guess there would have been a protest in the stewards’ room @john-h, but taking it to the International Court of Appeal? I’m not sure Red Bull would have gone that far, if I’m honest.
John H (@john-h)
13th December 2021, 10:48
Fair enough @red-andy. I think that from what we’ve witnessed this year, Red Bull would definitely have taken this to the FIA Court of Appeal, but ok we obviously will never know. I try to imagine how things would be if roles were reversed, and being as objective as I can I don’t think red bull would just have let it lie after what Masi did at the end there. Marko just letting it go? Surely not.
13th December 2021, 10:19
@john-h – Do you think the response on here would be the same or do you think people would be calling Horner every name under the sun and saying he’s bringing the sport into disrepute?
13th December 2021, 10:50
Exactly. What Mercedes are doing here is tarnishing the sport and, in my opinion, the Mercedes brand. This is about sport and sportsmanship. The problem with Mercedes is that they are very bad losers.
William Stuart (@williamstuart)
13th December 2021, 11:33
I don’t think Mercedes are the ones tarnishing, Masi completed that job during the race. If his match fixing is corrected then F1 may save face.
13th December 2021, 11:49
The sport is already in disrepute by the rules being adjusted to suit. Wether fixed (which some believe ) or for entertainment.
In all my time watching f1 35 years I do not recall a restart being done in the manner or the rules being adjusted on the last 2 laps. That’s the sport in disrepute.
Merc are doing the right thing as the fia need putting in there place and clarity need to be given. An appeal decided by the fia on wether the fia breached its own rules is a kangaroo court so impartial arbitration needs to be used. This stops this happening again and gives clarity.
I don’t think max should be stripped as max did nothing wrong but it does look like the fia did so what will happen if it’s judged to be a rule break by the adjudicators. I don’t know
John H (@john-h)
13th December 2021, 10:51
Oh absolutely the responses would be just as bad @petebaldwin there’s no denying it. Personally I think Max thoroughly deserved the championship, it’s just been a shame the drama between Toto and Horner.
Just to say I didn’t particularly like your comment about laughing over Hamilton fans tears, that was pretty unsavoury given what happened. If it had happened to either side I’m sure there would be some comments about it, it was pretty dodgy stuff.
Broadsword to Danny Boy
13th December 2021, 12:46
A fine tradition of races past. You’re kidding yourself if you think Red BUll wouldn’t be protesting and appealing if it had gone the other way, like Merc one wonders if they don’t they have a whole dept. devoted to whining.
13th December 2021, 7:23
While the final SC will be debated to death; don’t forget that it didn’t nullify the advantage Max got due to Checo’s stellar defence. The 7 seconds that Checo caused Lewis to lose on lap 20 closed off Hamilton’s VSC pit window on lap 36. Had Checo not done what he did, Hamilton would have been on 22 lap-old hards / mediums vs 44 lap-old hards and the last lap overtake could perhaps have not happened!
In contrast, Hamilton didn’t have Bottas’ help for anything.
13th December 2021, 12:14
Indeed. For me, Checo was driver of the day.
13th December 2021, 7:34
A controversial win to say the least, no ill will towards Verstappen though. Further criticism of Massi to add to the list of “interesting” calls he made during the year.
13th December 2021, 12:09
People can say what they want about Masi but a guy able to say straight to Toto that they had all come to Abu Dhabi to do some motor racing can’t be all bad
I believe that part where Toto had the apoplectic fit and wrecked all the furniture was censored in TV. At least the auricular wreckage from Jeddah is pretty hard to find in YouTube now, with hundreds of movie clips withdrawn
13th December 2021, 13:42
That view of Toto doesn’t exactly gel with the almost constant video feed of him from race start to crowd surfing at the party. If you could let me know when this alleged furniture trashing occurred , I’ll see if I can find the footage of that moment for you, to put your mind at ease.
13th December 2021, 7:35
Max surely can’t be satisfied with being given the championship on a plate by the FIA. This will always be known as the Safety Car Champion. I fear for the FIA in the upcoming court case, especially as Mercedes have got Paul Harris QC involved. That guy doesn’t lose court cases.
13th December 2021, 7:45
Nah. It’s rather Hamilton who would be known as the guy who clearly benefited from the unusual and suspicious refusal by the FIA to let the lapped cars overtakes, before the FIA changed its mind :)
13th December 2021, 8:41
If the Race Director had allowed EVERY lapped car to overtake, which is the obvious interpretation of regulation 48.12, they would not have completed that for another lap and the race would have finished under the safety car with Lewis winning. Given the way he had outperformed Verstappen up to then, there would have been no controversy.
Verstappen has had a good season and it is a shame that this will always be tainted as a rigged victory, through no fault of his own.
13th December 2021, 11:45
The really stupid thing is that, had lapped cars not been cleared away, Max would still most likely have won. They’d have been blue flagged, he’d have made it past, and Hamilton had little defence against him. There would have been little controversy then as the rules would have been followed, and the end would likely have been even more exciting (instead of just a foregone conclusion as yesterday).
13th December 2021, 19:32
Would it have been safe though? What is the chance of accidents if you combine a restart with a blue flag situation, especially when so much is at stake? I’m not sure but I can imagine that such considerations influenced the decision.
13th December 2021, 7:47
Max had a much more impressive season than any of lewis’s titles against weak competition. This has confirmed lewis’s critics are correct–losing a wdc with a wcc winning car demonstrates he needs a big car advantage to win a championship, unlike max (and Schumacher, among others)
13th December 2021, 7:58
Very true. Non of hams paper titles have seen him take on even half the challenge that Max was up against battling those mighty Mercs this year. His efforts should be praised universally.
He really his ready to take that GOAT title from Fernando, who took it from Schumacher.
13th December 2021, 8:08
The bias in this comment is nauseating.
13th December 2021, 8:48
I think Hamilton’s first F1 title was hard-earned against Ferrari, and Rosberg was no slouch in 2014 & 2015 when Hamilton beat him. His GP2 title was certainly well-earned too, in equal equipment.
13th December 2021, 13:55
You mean the 2014 title which both Wolf and Lauda threw Rosberg under the bus publicly after Spa to placate Lewis as their number one driver even though Rosberg was leading the WDC at the time?
13th December 2021, 8:59
That has been my feeling all along yes. Difficult to prove however. What we can see is that he couldnt beat Rosberg one year and Bottas (who really is nowhere near a great driver) overall can keep up pretty easily. So that speaks against Lewis. On the other hand I do remember having thought ‘Mercedes would not have won that one without Lewis in that car’ quite often. So, hard to say. I feel if we put the dominance of the car aside Lewis would be good for 3 WDC titles. He does handle the platform well setting it up for corners, he is consistent, never gives up. Dont underestimate his driving skills, that are top notch but a bit undermined by a lack of mental strength. He is in doubt immediately when things go wrong, often not friendly to his team under these circumstances. Playing mind games to get ahead is another sign of insecurity. So overall a great driver and true athlete with some serious skills. WDC material for sure. I guess George will deliver us more input into this question next year. The goat claim is ridiculous, only heard in the UK and quite frankly an insult to drivers of the past who never ever had 8 straight years of clear car advantage.
William Stuart (@williamstuart)
13th December 2021, 11:37
The Red Bull was the faster car this season, yet Max had to rely on match fixing to win the title? Lewis dropped him for dead in a slower car in the race – that says it all.
Max is overrated by having the best car and a team that will sacrifice everything for him.
13th December 2021, 15:45
Well, let’s see. Ham will get a new team mate so we will get new information next year
A M (@amam)
13th December 2021, 9:12
Although Newey states RB had the best car this season. And 2008, 2017 and 2018 Ferrari challenged in comparable cars
13th December 2021, 12:21
It’s in his interest to exaggerate, though, because if they had the best car, he did a great job. I think that the cars were so close overall that other factors could and did play a much bigger role.
13th December 2021, 15:58
@aapje It’s more in his interests to play up the “Merc was faster” narrative for the team. He’s already confirmed as one of the all time great engineers in F1, he doesn’t need to self-congratulate.
13th December 2021, 16:17
I don’t think it works that way. People want to be recognized for what they do, even if they already have been in the past.
It’s quite basic, a driver’s incentive is to downplay the car so their performance looks better than it is and an engineer’s incentive is the opposite.
13th December 2021, 12:11
If Max is so great where was this super human racing ability in 2020 or previous seasons where the RB was winning but overall in race trim it was a 2-4 / lap tenths off the Mercs. How come super Max did not tracend this gap with his amazeball skills? The truth is all drivers need the machinery underneath them to win a title beit Lewis, Max Schumi etc.
Oh and the case of Schumi, the dude had brought over from Benneton all the best brains, Ferrari had Bridgestone in their pocket, Schumi could pound round the private Ferrari test track to build a superior car and team mates who were never allowed to challenge him. Barrichello spoke about this after leaving. That is why they both had that close call with the pitwall in Hungary when Schmi tried to put him in the wall.
13th December 2021, 13:25
Pity Adrian Newey said they had the better car all season. Also, if you want to cheapen Hamilton’s titles because of his team mates fine. But we also need to cheapen Max’s not only because of the huge assist from Masi, but because Checo isn’ even better than Bottas. In fact the last time Max had a credible team mate (Ricciardo), he was defeated twice.
13th December 2021, 7:42
Among the many ways this is a fitting end to this year’s championship, I feel that this wasn’t the first time that, under unexpected and changing conditions, Red Bull had the better of Mercedes when it came to snap decisions and pit calls.
13th December 2021, 11:01
It’s much easier to take these risky calls when you have nothing to lose. And RB had absolutely zero to lose: manufacturer’s championship was already gone and Max was behind.
13th December 2021, 15:04
Absolutely true. Though it’s my feeling (I know, little science there) that when it came to snap decisions Red Bull were better at thinking on their feet than Mercedes, even if they weren’t in the hunt. At least more prone to take the risky attacking option.
13th December 2021, 7:44
Is it? Did it? There’s a lot of finality to this, but if I’m not mistaken the final classification is pending appeal. It is arguable that what decided the destination of the championship is not what happened on the track, but what was decided in the stewards room and is yet to come in court.
13th December 2021, 8:08
The problem is that lots of press and critics want to appear neutral and impartial. In these reporting style articles they are trying not to give an opinion, unfortunately the way that comes out it usually to give an opinion that then aligns with whatever happened in the game/race whatever, which is just as wrong.
I do understand however how that happens as it’s hard to write around these things.
But no. What mattered didn’t happen on track for me, it happened in Masi’s head.
William Stuart (@williamstuart)
13th December 2021, 11:38