Behind Verstappen’s title, a decision that is controversial

Behind Verstappen's title, a decision that is controversial

Certainly, a lot of ink is flowing because of Max Verstappen’s first world coronation. More than an incredible race game feat, this particular last, highly controversial one, is in the news on Monday, December 13.

After the last 58 laps of 2021, it was perhaps the best time of the season to win against Lewis Hamilton, but not the fastest of the day in Abu Dhabi. And it was a decision by the race director that made the difference.

It all started with a pass of arms on the first lap, which Hamilton took advantage of to cut a turn and run into the lead, which made Red Bull a troublemaker without a manoeuvre. Under the leadership, the Englishman used his momentum to widen the gap that his opponent seemed unable to fill.

Wins were promised unless Red Bull boss Christian Horner described it as interference. “God of the Race” In the last ten laps after the crash of Nicolas Latifi (Williams) of Canada.

The intervention of the security car was necessary in time to free his car. Verstappen stayed for soft tyres, Hamilton did not. Two outcomes became possible: if the race resumed, the Dutchman would have the advantage on the restart, if it finished behind the safety car, without the possibility of overtaking, it was good for the Englishman.

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Each team defended its interests in radio communication (which had not been televised until recently) with race director Michael Massey, who was in charge of the decision.

freedom with rules

The 42-year-old Australian decided in extremes: GP would only restart for the last lap, allowing Verstappen’s first coronation at the age of 24. “We Call It A Race”, dryly justifying Masi for Hamilton owner Toto Wolff, who contested his choice.

But the clerk of the course took liberties with the rule that the safety car must remain on the track for one more lap until the end of the race, giving Hamilton a slow win.

Mercedes filed a complaint, which was dismissed by the commissioners. The German manufacturer has notified its intention to appeal, which must be formalized or discarded within 96 hours, that is, by Thursday evening … at the same time as the presentation of the trophies by the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

At the end of a season filled with incidents between his two strong men, management and Race Marshall (accused of being too much or not being generous enough) were not in their first feud. But it is on a completely different scale.

“Looking back, could the commissioner have done a better job? Yes. Did anything controversial happen? Yes”, commented former Scottish pilot David Coulthard on Sunday on the microphone of British channel Channel 4. “It was very difficult for the teams to understand the referees”, added Australian Mark Webber.

“I fully understand Mercedes’ claim”, said Frenchman Alain Prost at Canal+. “We protest on the way to managing the safety car (…) It becomes an additional dispute, we didn’t need it because the mistake was made by the sporting power.”

Briton Damon Hill went in the same direction on Twitter: “It’s a new way of running the game where the clerk of course can make these ad-hoc decisions. It leans a bit more towards ‘guess what I’m going to do now'”,

Among the former pilots who became advisors, there were also some who called for leniency.

“Michael Massey wants them to run, he doesn’t want to decide the outcome of the world championships. It’s really difficult but we saw a race.”, Briton Jenson Button recalled. “Have a little mercy, Also called on Nico Rosberg. The whole world is watching him and he has to decide in 15 seconds. It’s the last lap of the last race of the championship, the most pressing situation and his decision gave us an amazing moment of racing and an incredible final.”

For the German, one of the points of review is the possibility for team owners to communicate with the clerk of the course in an attempt to influence their decisions. “It’s not done in football”, he concludes.

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