Call F1’s championship finale tainted, but not its deserving new champion


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The possibility that the gripping, season-long championship fight between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton would come to an unworthy ending was widely anticipated.

The season had already seen multiple collisions between the title rivals, bitter rows over the technical regulations and a series of baffling calls by race control. In the end, all too predictably, it was the latter which provoked a controversy which cast a shadow over the conclusion of the championship.

In the aftermath, conspicuous silences betrayed the obvious fact that this was not a finale F1 could be proud of. Naturally Red Bull were celebrating – as far as they were concerned, they’d won – while from Mercedes there came not a word for almost four days.

FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi, whose controversial call was at the centre of the dispute, did not take questions from the media or even the official F1 channel after the race. F1’s motorsport director Ross Brawn did not issue his usual post-race column hailing the high points of the latest race. A social media post from the governing body raving about the final race was swiftly pulled as it became clear Mercedes were seriously considering taking the matter legal.

On Thursday F1 was let off the hook by Mercedes’ decision not to press ahead. Team principal Toto Wolff is adamant they would have been successful, and said the chief reason they chose not to proceed was that even winning the case would not restore Hamilton’s lost title.

Safety Car, Yas Marina, 2021
Analysis: The four minutes that changed the destiny of the 2021 world championship
We’ll never find out whether or not he was right about their chances of winning. RaceFans sought expert opinion, which backed Wolff. But Mercedes’ decision to stay its hand spared F1 weeks if not months of legal wrangling, and came just in time for Verstappen to be handed his championship trophy at the FIA prizegiving.

The key issue at stake was whether Masi’s 2020 decision to continue a Safety Car period until all cars had un-lapped themselves because the rules require it (in his words) was consistent with his 2021 decision to hurriedly end a Safety Car period while only allowing a portion of the backmarkers to rejoin the lead lap. Clearly, it was not.

Masi chose to allow the minimum number of cars to un-lap themselves which would remove any obstacles between Verstappen and his target, while leaving the Red Bull driver protected from his closest rival behind by lapped drivers who were told to keep their positions.

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This decision made a mockery of any notion of sporting fairness. Not just for the title contenders, but many of their rivals. “I don’t understand,” said Lance Stroll as he asked why he was being told to stay a lap down while others were given a lap back. “I should be able to overtake the Safety Car. What the fuck?” Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris and others expressed a mixture of disbelief, confusion and astonishment over the unprecedented decision.

Report: F1’s midfield runners left “speechless” and confused by controversial late restart
With interest in F1 rocketing thanks to its first proper title fight in years, and swift arrangements having been made for Sunday’s race to air live on free platforms in both contenders’ home countries, this was a magnificent opportunity for F1 to win legions of new fans. It blew it spectacularly.

Many of those first-time viewers will have concluded this is not a sport but motoring’s WWE facsimile: A car-themed, made-for-television spectacle where the blows are scripted and the rules are devised on the fly in order to contrive a show. And who could blame them after seeing that?

This dismal end to the season was far less than either of its protagonists deserved. Verstappen and Hamilton may have had their run-ins, but they have also dazzled us with sublime, superior driving. Despite their clashes they have given each other credit and raced ferociously hard. Much of it was a joy to watch until the final lap.

With so much invective still flying around six days after the chequered flag dropped, there are two points which must be stated about F1’s new world champion. First, the shameful end to the season in Abu Dhabi was no fault of Verstappen’s. As he put it, he saw a green light and he raced. You cannot expect a racing driver to do anything else.

Second, while Mercedes are right to say Hamilton was robbed of the title by forces outside his control, that does not make Verstappen an undeserving champion. And, to Mercedes’ credit, they have been swift to praise the job he has done. Others should follow their lead.

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F1’s newest world champion
The staunchest Verstappen detractor might try to argue away many of his big points losses this year. ‘The Silverstone crash?’ ‘Too uncompromising with Hamilton.’ ‘Baku tyre failure?’ ‘Yeah but what did Pirelli say about tyre pressures afterwards?’ And so on.

But then look to a race like Hungary. Verstappen was blamelessly eliminated on the first lap of the race, which easily cost him more points than he gained on the final lap of the season. Nothing like that happened to Hamilton all year. Indeed, there were quite a few occasions where Hamilton got the rub of the green, notably the red flags in Imola and Silverstone. Outside of Verstappen’s few no-scores, he either won (10 times) or placed second (eight times).

Granted, in Abu Dhabi Hamilton was more than just unlucky, he was the victim of a wrongheaded decision which put the show above the sport. He didn’t deserve to lose the title that way – nor would Verstappen had the roles been reversed.

The FIA has promised a “detailed analysis and clarification exercise” in response. It’s doubtful any “clarification” is needed or that much of the “misunderstanding” they also referred to exists.

Their priority should be to understand what went wrong, explain why and ensure no championship is “tarnished” this way again.


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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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253 comments on “Call F1’s championship finale tainted, but not its deserving new champion”

  1. A wise, balanced, entirely correct comment article, Keith. Let’s hope it catches on.

    1. Yep. Wholeheartedly agree. It’s not how anyone wanted it to end. I hope in the future, it did doesn’t spoil Max’s Championship. On balance; either of them deserved it, they were both incredible. Neither Max, Lewis, Christian or Toto didn’t made the safety car / lapped cars call.

      The question is the role of the Race Director, not if Max or Lewis is more deserving. They gave us 22 races of that, and they were both brilliant.

    2. @hahostolze yes but I want to read about the expert opinion.

      Hamilton was more than just unlucky, he was the victim of a wrongheaded decision which put the show above the sport. He didn’t deserve to lose the title that way – nor would Verstappen had the roles been reversed.

      Exactly. Had race direction not allowed any car to unlap it would had been the same. However I object the notion that race direction put the show ahead of the sport. Race direction locked themselves to a mistake by that point, though they prevented a worse outcome by allowing some cars to unlap. Likely a calculated move, it was very unlikely that Sainz was going to threaten Max in any way. They chose the lesser of two evils as race direction put themselves in such scenario, effectively they took the wrong decision and then failed to take the right choice swiftly and ended up with a bodged one.
      I assume they went back on the original call because of how it looked like. I think they believed they were correcting themselves and not putting the show ahead of the sport. I think it was clear that it was not a choice as it all started with the original call which was a mistake.

    3. Agreed!

    4. Pretty much sums it all up
      The finale was tainted but it was only a technicality: Masi’s waffling, first saying no unlapping, then going for the unlapping but too late to unlap all (any?) of the lapped cars. Had Masi done his job properly, going for the unlapping of all lapped cars as soon as the track was clear, everything would have been cricket and the results would stand the same. The one with more reason to complain is Sainz as he had it much tougher to fight for P2 or P1. But seriously, nobody in their right mind seriously believes that Carlos’ Fezza could challenge Max’s RBR or Sir’s Merc.
      About Nico’s 2016 WDC, all the fanchildren repeat it was only due to a mech failure and conveniently forget a long string of Sir’s botched starts (which should include Mexico, but Sir got away with the cross-country mile, as usual). Now we have the same. It was not only Masi’s waffling. Without the uselessness of Valtteri as a wingman, which allowed Max his free pitstops; without the botched strategic calls of Merc staying out of the pits (against their driver’s opinion btw); and without Sir’s lackadaisical driving in the last lap, forgetting to defend and leaving the door wide open for Max, the race and the championship would have most likely gone the other way.

      1. Very well said hyoko. This comment normalizes the whole last-lap farce to me (and the championship loss to Nico). True that the race director intervened unfairly, but Merc and Lewis also dropped the ball at key moments in spite of the lion spirited comeback into the championship fight. I would’ve never imagined the two drivers would be equal on points coming into the last race after Mexico. I can’t agree more on Valterri’s ungainly wingman role playing a critical part here. If it were Redbull in Mercedes’ shoes, they would’ve thrown everything at it, and swapped Bottas for Russell mid-season! No doubt that was a critical factor (think Perez in Austin too v/s Bottas in Russia and I forget somewhere else where he took engine penalty along with Max), but Merc are too classy for that, and you can’t expect them to be so desperate after 7 constructors on the trot.

      2. Wow, this is one of the best opinions that puts it in the right context.
        Masi was doomed if he didn’t allow the cars to unlap themselves.
        Masi was doomed if he did allow the cars to unlap themselves.
        The only quirk was the swap between the two options. But hen, think about the pressure…

      3. Nice try hyoko, but considering one of your posts about Lewis was deleted recently for being extremely offensive, forgive me for choosing to interpret this comment as biased.

    5. Yep, thank you Keith!

    6. Completely in agreement with everything you say there @keithcollantine. Excellent article.

    7. I’m joining my peers to praise your job Keith. As an Hamilton fan, I wholeheartedly subscribe to your points: Verstappen is a worthy champion but the FIA must look at the breaches to its own rules and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    8. Britain should get over it finally.

      And Russian F1 commentator said it very right. Not a quote, but close meaning. It’s a championship, not a cup (playoff). Every race is equally important, not just one last. Some races favored Verstappen, some favored Hamilton. And more fovored Hamilton than Verstappen. This is just one race that favored Verstappen. There is nothing wrong in a wish to finish a race in a racing way. And those 3 who were not allowed to lap back would not change anything for Verstappen and Hamilton. That was just one of lesser races where Verstappen was more luckier. And that was Mercedes mistake not to pit Hamilton to change tyres.

      That’s how entire world sees it, if you’d read Spanish headlines, Italian, French, Brazilian, Russian etc etc etc.

      Even stewards favored Hamilton entire season which was very well showed by a poll here just before Abu Dhabi. 63% for favored Hamilton, 34% for unbiased and only 3% for favored Verstappen. Out of 26 thousand votes.

      1. I fail to see how anyone can claim Masi did something wich wasn’t allowed, there have been no legal actions that suggest he did rule outside the rulebook.

        Abu Dhabi has made a certain category of fans, media and pundits to what happened in Bahrain… how can a driver going outside the track no less than 29 times win a race…? The rules are very clear on this matter… Max move on Lewis was outside the track….however Lewis forced him wide… In the last race Lewis was allowed to go outside the track again…by miles…. the stewards felt Max pushed him wide…. No two incidents are exacly the same, but a lot looked rather similar…Max often wasn’t on the ling end of the straw.

      2. Have to agree on this point; only the British press is now pursuing this ‘unfair’/’rules broken’ line. Nobody else sees it this way, and while Masi should have made an either/or decision and either let all unlapped cars through or none at all, it doesn’t affect the fact that the final lap was a fair shootout between Verstappen and Hamilton, and Lewis lost because of Merc’s strategy and gamble that the safety car would not come in. He lost the race fair and square in wheel to wheel combat. Yes it was gutting, yes it was unfair in that Verstappen had a tyre advantage – but that isn’t illegal. That’s Formula One.

        Personally I see nothing tainted or controversial about the result. I just see a lot of people using Masi’s hesitation and inconsistency as a cover for having to accept an admittedly distressing but entirely fair truth – that Lewis lost.

    9. I disagree. @keithcollaine you’re making the argument that across the season Max is deserving.

      Max’s driving in Brazil wasn’t punished, which led to his driving in Saudi. Of course he has the right to complain by saying that he thought it was fair when it had been just 2 races prior. That’s why he did that, despite him being arguably wrong in both.

      I get the argument that Lewis may have benefitted when Max lost out but I could argue the other way with Saudi and Brazil (and the lack of penalties, I feel that Max should have finished much further back than he did in both). I also take issue that Max’s 5 place grid penalty in Russia (for crashing into Lewis in Italy) effectively wasn’t enforced as Red Bull took an Engine Penalty. That effectively meant that the 5 place penalty was never applied. Legal, but ethical?

      That’s before we get to the weather in Russia, which really helped Max get to that podium finish. And the “race” in Belgium which should never have counted.

      So I feel like both were even going into the last race, on points, punishments and luck. And the problem is that you make decisions based on the now and what you need to do based on the current standings. I get why Lewis didn’t pit in Abu Dhabi as for all we know, the race would have ended under yellow. While I hope that wouldn’t have happened, the way race control ended the race leaves me very suspicious. To accept Max as a deserving champion I have to accept that race control got it right and that just doesn’t seem reasonable under the regulations, so I can’t accept Max as a deserving champion.

  2. I agree with the sentiment in your column. I also think it’s important to note that the correct result (VER directly behind HAM) was achieved. It was Masi’s slow reaction that caused him to need a “makeup call” to rectify the order of the field. When you listen back to driver radio, you can hear VET and ALO immediately diagnose the situation and indicate that they needed to move the lapped traffic out of the way, at least three laps to the end. But once Masi missed that opportunity, his bending of the rules was unacceptable, even if, in spirit, correct.

  3. Well deserved champion is lewis Hamilton then masi everybody knows his robbery and gave max underserved win and the title simple as that. The fia has a problem fans calling this championship farce and tainted even max knows he was gifted it is just facts . History will remember this fixed championship

    1. I seem to remember die-hard Hamilton fans saying the similar things when Rosberg won. ie. Mercedes robbed Hmailton / Toto robbed Hamilton / championship is forever tainted. I think its time to have some dignity and recognise Max as the deserved champion that he is.

      1. Plenty of Ferrari fans were furious in 2008 that McLaren were allowed to race at all after Spygate when Hamilton won that title. 13 years later no one remembers.

        1. Crickets… for Hamilton fans it was not his fault. Timo, where are you?

          1. No it wasn’t and he was the worthy champion that year.

        2. Stop making up things just because they happened 13 years ago. Complaints about Spygate didn’t surface to any discernible extent in 2008. I challenge you to post a link to any such material (and there’s plenty dating back to earlier than that even here).

          1. They were there from the debates I was having with people on forums after first coming to the surface in 2007 –

            13th September 2007, 21:58

            for the british is not important “how” but “who” wins the championship:mr.Hamilton of course ,the best driver ever in the planet …bla bla bla……Even if is driving a a mclaren with Ferrari knowhow and all the other parts , is still ok as long he can win ; everything illegal for any other team will be fine as long is a british driver driving a british car.”

            “Robert McKay
            14th September 2007, 10:27

            “As for drivers keeping points – the only sensible (though controlversial) option.”

            No, it’s not, and I’m a Mclaren fan. If the FIA thinks the team gained from the Ferrari data, and the car is thus dodgy, t”

            They softened in 2008 because people moved on, but I deffo recall people saying the 2008 car was influenced by the spygate and Hamilton was not worthy of the title and all the same BS that gets thrown about now, but that’s my memory, and I can’t be bothered to go through 13 year old posts that I am no longer a member of. DOn’t believe me, that’s fine. My point is actually supportive of Hamilton, not an attack

          2. You said 2008 but brought up examples from 2007 – which proves my point exactly. All the moaning at the end of the 2008 season was about Glock (I wonder if any of those moaners watched Lando in Russia this year) and barely anything about the events of 2007.

          3. Interesting take Alan. Though I can’t see anyone called Alan make a comment on that article, so I can’t prove if you posted at all or under a different username.

            And it suggests my suspicions about you are correct, that all I’m seeing is someone who just doesn’t like Lewis and is using any argument to reinforce that viewpoint. That includes the spam posting of the same regulation in the comments to justify the result in Abu Dhabi, rather than looking at this in a sporting context.

            So far as 2007 goes, I may be wrong but I remember McLaren not actually using any of the data they acquired via Mike Coughlan, so banning the team didn’t make sense.

      2. 100% have to agree. I’ve heard this kind of argument in various forms over the last 10 years or so whenever Lewis has been beaten. In 2009, Button didn’t deserve the title because he ‘had a car advantage’. Then in 2011 he only beat Lewis because ‘Lewis had a bad year and wasn’t at his best’. So it doesn’t count?

        Then Vettel didn’t deserve it because his car was better. Next 2016 and Rosberg wasn’t worthy because Mercedes had ‘conspired’ against Lewis.

        Unfortunately it has worn rather thin over the years. The Abu Dhabi race is just another example of this for me. Merc passed up two opportunities to pit for fresh rubber and they thought the race would end under the SC. They got both strategy and tactics wrong. I think that stems from an unwillingness to race Verstappen wheel-to-wheel, otherwise they could have pitted Lewis under the VSC and let him race back to and past Verstappen who would have been on older tyres. To me this just proves Verstappen has mentally got inside their heads, by fair means or foul. Merc have never been on point with strategy anyway, we’ve seen a lot over the years where the minute any real pressure is applied they become hesitant and reactive rather than proactive. Lewis seems to have the right idea but all too often they do the opposite and this time it cost them dear. Last Sunday was no more than that; bad luck for Lewis that there was a SC so close to the end and a strategy blunder from Merc. Red Bull gambled and won. Any talk of Masi ‘breaking’ rules (which didn’t happen) is cover for Mercedes to not have to accept their own failings.

        1. Tony, Masi clearly changed the interpretation of 48.12 to suit a last lap green flag race. And Lewis was pinned in regardless, as had he pitted Max would have stayed out and who knows whether the race would have finished under green or not.

          Point being, Lewis didn’t have a choice.

          As for 2009 & 2011, I don’t remember either of those years being about Lewis in any way – Seb dominated 2011 and Jenson 2009, so it’s not as those Lewis had a realistic shot at those championships in any way.

          Not that I’m Max’s biggest fan but there’s no question that Masi ignored 48.12, and the FIA saying that 48.13 overrides 48.12 is interesting since I’ve not seen anything that confirms that in the rulebook or posted by anyone elsewhere. Masi could have done anything else and it would have been a fairer contest respecting of the rules, but there’s no way I can accept Max as champion when the rulebook wasn’t followed and has given him an unfair advantage.

    2. He is not the champion, yet… as it stands at the moment, thats verstappen because he won more points over the entire season.

      The weird call massi made did resemble soccer a bit . Giving an advantage to lewis in lap 1 corner 6 and then verstappen am advantage at the end

      1. @cdfemke
        “The weird call massi made did resemble soccer a bit . Giving an advantage to lewis in lap 1 corner 6 and then verstappen am advantage at the end”

        you have no idea about soccer/football… lap 1 was more akin to midfield minor faul that both side had a hand in it, one trying to block another in a dangerous manner and other stopping it, it can be looked either way… but the later is akin to a penalty in the last min in a way goalkeeper is only allowed to start from the edge when striker shoots the goal! and if it bounces noone can rush in to help goalkeeper!

        1. I do actually bit you wouldnt know. And you proved that :) thanks

      2. Well. If it were soccer Masi would have called a penalty shoot-out after a team was leading 6-0 at 90minutes and only given one kick to each side except the team that was up 6 isn’t allowed to use a goal keeper.

    3. If I remember correctly Hamilton was at the lead going into the final race lap, so Verstappen wasn’t given anything.
      (And before you come up with further silly accusations – both Red Bull and Mercedes chose their own tyre strategies on their own)

      1. Mercedes should have brought LH in for new tires like RB. If they did it was an other story. LH did want that I believe he Saïd. But the team did not want to lose track position. Strategic error because you never know what happens. Whatever you may think fair or unfair Masi was entiteled to do that.

  4. Nicely said.
    We have been treated to an excellent season of superb driving and the FIA can only blame themselves for any negative blow-back they are receiving in my opinion.

    Looking forwards to next season with new cars and old rivalries.

    Come on Lewis – you know you want it and we know you can do it ;)

    1. Well said, Max fully deserved this title but there needs to be changes with how the FIA handle things in future. As for next year, I’m no Hamilton fan, but I would quite like to see him make a comeback take his 8th title and bow out the sport on top.

  5. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    18th December 2021, 12:20

    The key issue at stake was whether Masi’s 2020 decision to continue a Safety Car period until all cars had un-lapped themselves because the rules require it (in his words) was consistent with his 2021 decision to hurriedly end a Safety Car period while only allowing a portion of the backmarkers to rejoin the lead lap. Clearly, it was not.

    Which completely misses the other key part of the regulation that the safety car comes in on the following lap.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      18th December 2021, 12:24

      It doesn’t really matter for this article but so many articles have just picked little bits of this and that instead of always writing out all of the regulations that are supposed to be performed sequentially.

  6. There are strict rules concerning racing between white lines. Every race the race director overrules these through his race director’s notes.

    There are strict rules concerning how cars must be built. Every so often technical directives are issued, which override these rules.

    In all these cases the original rules are still in place, but they are overriden by some action of the FIA. This is necessary, fully legal and widely accepted.

    Nothing else than this happened in Abu Dhabi. The issue is blown out of proportion, because it was the last race. Every race counts equally for the championship, a decision in the first race is just as important as one in the last race.

    The conclusion that Formula One “blew it spectacularly” is wrong. It is also wrong that “many of those first-time viewers will have concluded this is not a sport but motoring’s WWE facsimile”. First-time viewers do not have any interest in the minutiae of safety car rules, I would wager that even the vast majority of long-time viewers don’t. Viewers got a spectacular race decided on the last lap.

    Actually Formula One got increased exposure due to how the season finished. That is a good thing. If Formula One does a survey among casual fans at the beginning of next season, I am sure that if they remember anything about this affair, then it will be that Mercedes was a sore loser. If they even know that Mercedes protested. The majority probably won’t: they watch the race, get a winner and world champion and then move on.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      18th December 2021, 12:51

      When there is not a repeat of how the safety car was used in Abu Dhabi will the new viewers wonder why?

      Will they get confused or bored when they are told how it actually is?

      Will there be a realisation that Abu Dhabi was different and then have their own light bulb moment?

      1. Obviously some posters are better sourced with how the new/DTS fans see things than I am, but the ones I see across social media seem better informed than most give then credit for. Many of the new twitch/youtube channels they have set up have tens of thousands of views, and thousands of subscribers. One such YT channel having 120,000 subscribers. And whilst like most they have their favourites they seem quite fair and reasonable in their views and sufficiently knowledgeable to see the nonsense that the FIA/F1/DTS try to get away with.
        I think for F1 or anyone else to assume that those new to F1 are somehow lesser, don’t understand, or are willing to accept anything they are fed are in for a shock.

    2. If Formula One does a survey among casual fans at the beginning of next season, I am sure that if they remember anything about this affair, then it will be that Mercedes was a sore loser.

      This is a joke, right? I’d wager that the majority of casual fans can read and they’ve read the reason why Mercedes were unhappy and I doubt they too interpreted “any” the same way people like you have done over the past few days.

      1. Backatitlikeacrackaddict
        18th December 2021, 16:31

        Well I don’t know. I can fully understand that Mercedes and Hamilton are dissapointed but also to me it sticks how they handled it. Mercedes made a statement but after that Toto and Susie made sure to let everybody know that they are not really behind it. They look like 5 year olds that don’t get their way. Also by staying away from Paris they showed that they absolutely have no idea how to carry a loss. I really think this looks bad on them and people will remember.

    3. Jeffrey Powell
      18th December 2021, 17:33

      It wasn’t a Spectacular Race it was a relatively easy win for Hamilton until the Safety Car. It is evident that the rule regarding pit stops needs changing urgently, it is tantamount to giving a huge advantage to those cars that can use it to gain a massive unearned advantage . Max has driven spectacularly on occasion throughout his career and undoubtedly deserves to be a World Champion based on his outright speed. I believe it is time for Lewis to retire gracefully , he has proved that he could compete with Max this year but I think it’s time for Mercedes to find a young gun with a similar maximum attack mode of driving, one that is hunting his first Win and first Championship, one that has proven his superiority in outright speed over a driver that pushed the young Max. I am sure that Max would relish the challenge from his good mate in a Mercedes or maybe not.

  7. Full congratulations to Max and Red Bull, regardless of how they won it, they won it. So many what if’s and what about’s but at the end of the day more than happy to see somebody take the fight to Mercedes and ruin their perfect score card for the era.

  8. Verstappen is champion, and a deserved and worthy one. His title isn’t tainted.

    1. Indeed. And you must be exceedingly happy given all your moaning throughout the year about it being a sure deal Lewis title.

      1. Why Emma, do you need to start calling names or using expressions like “moaning” with other users? Your favorite driver didn’t win? I understand. But fans being so sour about a sport, about something that won’t rule our lives… I don’t get it.

        1. Got to admit I’ve seen a rather disarming amount of nastiness from Hamilton/Mercedes supporters both on here and on twitter. Like on twitter there’s Hamilton ‘fans’ literally sending abuse to Red Bull, Verstappen – even Albon.

          Like Hamilton himself would never congratulate you for saying those things or being like that to others, so why do it? Why be that nasty?

          1. Yes, it’s appalling, but there has been similar the other way throughout the year. To call out only Hamilton fans is a little unfair.

            Personally I’m disgusted with much of what has happened this year. There has been a particularly nasty element on each “side” who feel it’s perfectly acceptable to be abusive, to a level I don’t remember ever seeing before. I highly doubt either driver wants that sort of “supporter” on their side.

        2. Have you seen Adam’s posts throughout the year? Max plants it on pole – he’s here telling everyone that it was a mirage and Lewis would still win. Max wins – he’s here telling us that it doesn’t matter since Mercedes would still take the WDC anyway. Surely I’m allowed to comment on all that negativity that he dished out the whole year? It sure sounded like moaning to me.

    2. @rocketpanda soured but not tainted. Race direction almost nailed the last coffin on themselves, maybe they did, but at least they saved the championship they seemed to be wanting to gift to mercedes. I don’t think the outcry would have been this massive had Masi’s original call stood but at that point they had favoured mercedes so heavily that it would have been impossible to deny any call of favouritism or corruption.

  9. A very good read Keith. The stat you mentioned near the end is what has really amazed me. Outside of Baku, Silverstone, Hungary and Monza, Verstappen didn’t finish outside the top 2 all season. And if it wasn’t for Belgium being the farce it was, we could have had a situation where neither of the top 2 scored a 3rd place finish all season (had neither of them finished 3rd at Spa).

    My general view is that Max has been the quicker driver this season, but Lewis has been a more complete driver. And in that you’ve got back to the Senna vs. Prost style of one very quick but sometimes controversial driver against someone who is more calculated and cautious. They both had a mixture of good and bad luck across the first 21 races, and neither of them deserved to see a championship decided the way it was.

    For the record, I spent most of the season supporting Max, but was more neutral for the final few races because I didn’t agree with his driving at certain points, particularly Brazil and Saudi Arabia. I think I would have been happy no matter which way the title went, as long as it didn’t end in a crash. In the end it ended in an even worse manner. I have no problem with who is champion, I have a serious sense of annoyance and anger over how it was decided though (and that feeling is directed at the FIA not Max).

    I appreciate Merc for acknowledging Verstappen and RB as champions. I think they realise that Max can’t really be held accountable for the farce that was Abu Dhabi. I also feel very sorry for all the hundreds of people working for Mercedes and RB behind the scenes. They’re probably all lovely people, and they too don’t deserve a finale like what we’ve seen.

    And also, slightly off topic, but important nonetheless, I feel really sorry for Latifi. He seems to have been put through he’ll on social media for something he had no role in. Sure he caused the SC, but it’s what transpired after that point that is controversial, and he had no role in that.

    1. @RandomMallard

      one very quick but sometimes controversial driver against someone who is more calculated and cautious.

      I’d agree if Lewis hadn’t made some huge mistakes. We only saw that sharp, calculated and cautious Lewis at the end of the season.

  10. I wonder what the reactions would’ve been had the race ended behind the SC on a clean track with lapped cars slowly unlapping themselves and then still waiting another lap.

    I wonder what the reactions would’ve been If no lapped cars were allowed to unlap, but those drivers decided to let Max immediately past for him to challenge Hamilton during the last lap.

    I wonder what the reactions would’ve been If no cars could unlap and Verstappen and Hamilton took each other out in the last turn.

    I wonder what the reactions would’ve been had there been no Latifi incident.
    This I know, we would all be back discussing Sprint Qualifying in racing format.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Caption Competition.

    1. “I wonder what the reactions would’ve been If no cars could unlap and Verstappen and Hamilton took each other out in the last turn.”

      according to rolling restart rules max cant overtake lapped cars until he crosses the line to start the last lap. Lewis would win as he would be too far ahead for max to make a 1 lap challenge for the overtake.

      This is why the FIA invented new rules on the fly to make only the cars in front of max to unlap so he had a clean ‘traffic free’ run on Lewis.

      Max is a fake asterisk champion who won because race control fixed the race for him.

      1. Couldn’t agree with you more

      2. @ccpbioweapon

        I don’t normally reply to these “never ending arguments” I cannot agree you more on Abu Dhabi but I think FIA also helped Hamilton in Imola. How can you be in the wall and lap down and then after that standing on the podium.

  11. Well said Keith. The FIA has been shooting itself in both feet for years, the blame for this falls solely at their door. Typical that they tarnished the ending of arguably F1s greatest title fight. Let’s look forward to 2022, hopefully the new regs will provide great racing and the resumption of the epic Hamilton v Verstappen fight.

  12. When Masi inevitably gets pushed before the start of the new season, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to hear Christian Horner come out in support of Masi. If Masi does actually gets pushed, its an admission of wrongdoing on behalf of the FIA which further taints the validity of the trophy Max seems so unjustifiably proud to be holding.

  13. Funny how you should forget about Spa – another deliberate decision which unfairly favoured Verstappen. Otherwise I agree with your analysis @keithcollantine

    1. @nordmann Spa remains an interesting debate for me. Obviously the outcome (awarding half points for 3 SC laps) was completely wrong, but I don’t think any rules were technically broken. The rules make no specification that the laps had to be under green flag, so they reached the 2 or more laps after which half points have to be handed out. I suppose they stopped the race window clock for a bit, but they claimed that under Force Majure at which point Race Control can pretty much do as they please. It wasn’t the right procedure, but because of Force Majure it likely didn’t break any rules.

      I’m willing to believe that they were actually trying to get a race run in Spa. I can understand the argument that they only ran for 3 laps so they could call it an event and not have to refund, but for a couple of reasons I don’t buy it. Firstly, they had a better weather window that they had been monitoring, and sent the cars out to roughly coincide with that. All the feedback from the drivers is that they still couldn’t race, so that’s why they stopped it again. And secondly, I think running just those 3 laps to make it an event would almost be too obvious in a way. Like, I don’t think even the FIA would do something like that in such a specific way if they had those intentions. I would have thought if it was deliberate for legal reasons they would have let it run a bit longer behind the SC so it would seem more convincing. But again, it’s the FIA. Anything can happen with them involved.

    2. Hamilton fans should ask themselves: why did Lewis qualify behind Russell in Spa. A supposed qualifying goat and rainmaster should have put in on pole, not?

      It’s one of quite a few times that Lewis dropped a ball. Lewis had far from a flawless season.

      1. They only bring up Spa because Max got more points than Lewis. Had it be the inverse, they wouldn’t say anything about it….

      2. I love how people use qualifying results to justify Verstappen gaining points.

        You earn nothing from qualifying, its sole purpose is to decide the order for the Grand Prix, your points are given for your finishing position after the Grand Prix. There was no Grand Prix.

        1. @N

          In this case that wasn’t true.

          Fact is that the only reason why Max benefitted from the half points was that he qualified better. Had Lewis qualified better, he would have taken home more points. To me, that means that the points were earned on merit.

          You can say that Max got lucky that race control decided to award points, but conversely you can say that he got unlucky that the weather wasn’t a bit better and he could race for full points from a very advantageous position.

  14. When all is said and done, it’s not the way Max should have won his first championship, nor the way that Lewis should have lost out on his eighth.

    Neither driver (or team) is at fault for that, but the race officials need to take a long hard look at themselves and reflect.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      18th December 2021, 13:09

      The only person we know of that wouldn’t want the title just handed to him is Hamilton because he has said on more than one occasion.

  15. They took what would of been maybe one of the greatest F1 seasons ever and turned it into the laughing stock of the sporting World.

    1. Your to harsh on Lewis.
      He indeed “let the door open” but not every driver would have dared an attempt there.
      He was beaten by pure class and that is nothing to be ashamed of.

      1. misplaced comment?

      2. and anyway I disagree, it was Deletraz- or Badoer-class driving. Even a useless tool like Valtteri would have done it better.

      3. The tyre advantage Max had meant whatever line Lewis took Max would end up first, look up fast in/slow out, slow in/fast out racing lines, what ever exit Max took from the corner he would of accelerated pass Lewis, he was a sitting duck because Masi decided to throw the rule book out the window, had it finished by the book the race would of finished behind the safety car and this is why Merc didn’t pit.
        But this hardly surprising as F1 has clearly signalled it is a ‘show’ and not a sport. I cant think of a more obvious manipulated ending to a so called ‘sporting’ event.

        1. That’s what you get with the louse Mercedes strategy

  16. Nice article, pretty much sums up my feelings as well. Hamilton was clearly the best driver in Abu Dhabi, while Verstappen was slightly better driver over the whole season. The championship was won in those 21 races, not in the last few minutes of the last race. But Masi still made a terrible decision and I hope nothing like that ever happens again.

  17. I agree in principle as Verstappen has driven well, if rather recklessly, all season. He is fast and has talent but perhaps a little too extravagant in his defences and passes.

    But by the same measure and core argument Hamilton should have been the “worthy champion”.

    The Masi mess has compromised and tainted this championship. There is no getting away from that fact. We do not know who would be champion if the rules had been followed. And we might say that not just about Abu Dhabi but the whole season.

    It is such a shame this taint exists, and even more a shame the FIA seem incapable of dealing with it with any urgency.

    1. Witan Agree with your analysis of Max’s driving. Incredibly quick, but sometimes a bit too opportunistic.

      In terms of who is therefore a “deserving” champion, in this case it’s completely dependent on what you want out of a champion. Do you want out and about raw speed, with incidents and misfortune removed, to decide the championship, or absolute consistency throughout the season? If we go for the former, then there’s a case for Max to be “deserving”, and on the latter I think Lewis would be the one who “deserves” the title.

      F1 followed the out and out speed argument for many years, with drop scores still being used until the late 80s or early 90s (they were famously still in place in 1988 I’m sure of that). More recently, since the early 90s (and in a decision that I’m sure Prost had absolutely nothing to do with…) the “all points from every race” argument has been the one adopted, at least in the points philosophy.

      Personally, I feel both of them “deserved” it. Both were very good throughout the season and both had given it their all. What neither of them deserved was a finale like this.

      1. The first season without dropped scores was 1991 I think, the same year that the number of points for a win increased from 9 to 10.

        1. @red-andy Many thanks. Thought it was some time around then, just couldn’t remember the exact year. I also seem to remember hearing that Prost was quite vocal about getting rid of drop scores, considering he lost the 1988 season because of them (scored more overall points but once scores were dropped Senna came out on top or something)

      2. Lewis and absolute consistency in 2021?
        Forgot about Monaco, master of the rain 2nd in Spa, Silverstone, …?
        I would say Max has been way more consistent this year than Hamilton.

  18. The only thing that takes away from Max Verstappen is Max Verstappen. He’s a fantastic driver, clearly the only driver in the field at the level of Hamilton which is why we had the season we had.

    However, anyone that doesn’t acknowledge the fact that Max is what we used to call a “dirty driver” is deluding themselves. His biggest shortcoming, the fact that he is mono-dimentional in his race craft is not helped by the fact that he drives for Red Bull, which IMO creates an blameless echo-chamber, which is the last thing the Max needs.

    That number 1 is going to look great on next year’s Red Bull!

    1. The number one will be quite symbolic as a reminder of how many WDC he’s been gifted…

      1. bolic as a reminder of how many WDC he’s been gifted…

        Damn, now I know why Lewis kept number 44.
        Hey started at his mclaren years and hoped / expected more

    2. +1
      The thing that bothers me the most is that Max has plenty of raw talent and speed to race properly and fairly and still win. All the other drivers think Max’s rececraft has been over the line and reckless. And because he won the WDC he will feel vindicated & justified in his actions. Thus he will never change. He will certainly be the cause of more big accidents. He will reap what he has sown because the FIA has no backbone or integrity to enforce their own rules. Also RBR, Marko & Horner create an environment where Max isnt shown the error of his ways. He races like a jerk and sometimes comes across as one. But he was also raised by one too. He will be the source of more controversy, its only a matter of time. Its a good thing he races in this safer modern time.

      1. No need to become rude and compare Max with ‘a jerk’. And leave his father out of it please, very unworthy talking like this.

        1. I don’t think Jim was rude. Fracturing someone’s skull, being handed a five year suspended prison sentence for assault, another assault charge, violating a restraining order, an attempted murder charge albeit later dropped, and I think its justifiable to label him a jerk. As for Max, clearly the apple hasn’t fallen very far from the tree. Hold your heroes to a higher standard.

      2. @Jim, by big incidents you mean big accidents like the 51 g impact accident caused by Lewis in the fastest corner of the season trying to eliminate his main rival to secure his 8th WC? Or do you mean the 30 miles/ hr BIG accident Max caused in Italy?

        1. What accident did Max cause in Italy?
          He was forced onto the sausage kerb by some incompetent, who almost took a serious comeuppance in rear tyre form

          1. It is rather amusing that some people have an issue with my comments but those same people never call out hyoko for his/her/their truly offensive utterances. Fair game methinks.

    3. The other thing that takes away from dirty Verstappen is his team director Horner who enables the reckless driving. As an older person he has less excuse.

  19. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    18th December 2021, 13:46

    As I’ve said before, the Abu Dhabi race was deserving of an 8th WDC. It was a sublime display of ski