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Sports Articles: Formula 1: Abu Dhabi Talking Points

Formula 1: Abu Dhabi Talking Points
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Formula 1: Things To Think About After United Arab Emirates

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Before I start I would just like to congratulate Michael Masi on his new gig running UEFA's draws...


1. The Season

It has been probably the best season I have ever seen, if a little contrived to end up at this point, with so many decisions favouring Red Bull and Verstappen to ensure they could end Mercedes' dominance. There were flexi-wings, a Honda power upgrade being allowed (even though no one else was allowed to increase the power of their engines), Verstappen repeatedly running people off the road, Raikkonen's final season (I will miss his radio messages), Mazepin being the most hopeless driver of recent years, McLaren returning to prominence and so many other things. To end up with the top two drivers going into the final race level on points and the constructors' championship still not won either was unprecedented.


2. The Build Up

For the whole week it has been building up, with Verstappen coming out and complaining (laughably it must be said) that all the decisions were going against him. Clearly an attempt to influence the stewards, who were already favouring him massively over the season in terms of decisions given. Brazil being the most obvious moment. But, for me, the whole thing lost its lustre the moment Ed666 told me he was going to go and watch it and support Hamilton. Then I knew exactly who would win, as he is a Jonah of the highest order!


3. Qualifying

This really was a surprise to those of us who expected it to be Hamilton on pole, Verstappen in second and the old torpedo off the start to give Verstappen the title. Instead Verstappen was on pole, but on the wrong tyres, the softs. That gave Hamilton more flexibility with his strategy, so long as Verstappen was not able to just drive away from him while the softs worked.


4. First Lap

Hamilton showed why he won 7 world titles by nailing the start, Verstappen was too heavy on the throttle and that allowed Hamilton past to take the lead. Just as Hamilton was looking to be driving away with it, Verstappen lunged in late on the inside of turn 5, maybe still hoping for the torpedo if he was unable to pass him. If it was not for Hamilton (as he had to do multiple times throughout the season) reacting quickly to avoid being smashed into by a Red Bull which was not going to give him any room to make the corner, the race would probably have ended there. Instead the Mercedes cut the corner to avoid the smash and drove off into the distance, much to Horner's chagrin. Worse was to come for the Red Bulls as Hamilton quickly backed off in a place he would normally be accelerating to give back the time he had gained, in time to redress the situation without being forced into the farce we saw last week, where Verstappen just ignored the instruction to redress things until too late.


5. The New Track

The new layout for the track was certainly a massive improvement, as it created more opportunities for overtaking, even without manipulation from the race director. There was some genuine racing going on, which would have augured well for the sports future.


6. Mercedes' Strategy

I really did not understand the strategy they chose to follow. Verstappen had to pit early, but, at the time Hamilton was still pumping in fastest lap after fastest lap, so why bring him in so early? It only created an opportunity for Red Bull to use Perez in a way Mercedes were unable to do with the utterly useless Bottas. And boy did they use him well! However, from a Merc point of view, all of that is avoided simply by leaving Hamilton out a bit longer until he can no longer push on the tyres he was on. They could bring him in the moment Verstappen's split times were about to beat Hamilton's. Instead they just brought him straight in and lost the advantage of starting on mediums.


7. Perez

That was a sensationally good display of racing by the Mexican as Hamilton tried to overtake him after the Brit made his early pit stop. He was forceful but clean and it made for great entertainment watching them battle with Verstappen bearing down on the pair rapidly. You can only applaud him for giving everything to help the team. Though it was odd that later on the team told Perez to just box and retire. The cars are totally different for next season, so it is only going into retirement, all the parts on it as well, so there was no need to save anything on it. With them needing 'a miracle' in Horner's words, why not leave him out and hope it drops out in a position that requires a safety car, if it does not manage to make it to the end? Point placings bring prize money and money drives the sport, so it was extremely bizarre to just give it up while still in a good spot. If Hamilton had Perez as his teammate this season, instead of Bottas, the title would have been sewn up long ago.


8. Safety Car Shenanigans

The rest of the race was utterly immaterial, it does not matter that Hamilton was clearly far superior on the day, as one call from Michael Masi decided the whole race. I can only agree with Hamilton, it was manipulated to give the result they wanted. Hamilton has become an issue for F1 since growing a conscience, upsetting both the Qataris and Saudis in the last two races and causing them to lose face was just compounding the issues. In a sport where money is all that matters and no one wants to know how dirty the sponsor actually is (for instance that Mission Winnow that sponsors Ferrari is a sham company set up by Marlboro tobacco company to continue their involvement in the sport) or what human rights issues are involved in the countries they visit. It is little wonder they want the baton of champion passed over to Verstappen as quickly as possible. Was it enough to manipulate the result? Well it certainly seems to be judging by that finish!

There are so many reasons to question what went on, that FIA and F1 are just blatantly ignoring, questions have to be asked as to whether it was outright match fixing of a kind normally only found in the WWE. The decision to bring out a safety car cannot be argued with, nor those of the tyre choices, Hamilton had to stay out as otherwise he would have been in second and there should have been absolutely no chance of the race ending in any way other than under safety car conditions or a red flag coming out and everyone then getting a chance to change tyres.

What followed was farcical and about as close to match fixing as you can get in motor racing. First the decision was that no lapped cars would overtake, clearly because the rules state that after lapped cars are allowed to overtake another lap must be run behind the safety car and that would mean there was no race at all. However Red Bull applied pressure to Masi and he is nothing but amenable, so he crumbled and decided that only those between Hamilton and Verstappen would be allowed to overtake, another contravention of the sport's own rules. What about those between the cars behind Verstappen who might have been able to challenge him for second or even get involved in the race win battle? Each place is worth a lot of money to teams, so why were they not allowed to race? It is little wonder almost every driver on the grid who is not affiliated with Red Bull has questioned the decision making to various degrees.

Masi has now manipulated a one lap shoot out between Verstappen on fresh softs and Hamilton on old hards with a world title at stake and knowing full well that Hamilton has as much chance of victory as I did sitting at home watching. It is no longer a race, it is a hunt. Except the rules are once again broken as Verstappen overtakes Hamilton before the line, again it is ignored as the FIA just want their manufactured spectacle for the cameras and Verstappen drops back again quickly. Then the lap begins with Verstappen quickly passing Hamilton, who tries to battle back down the straight only for Verstappen to once again break F1 rules and weave all over the track. A clear and automatic 5-second penalty at least. Except now. Now it is acceptable. At any other time questions would be asked of that too, but there were so many things for Mercedes to protest about, they did not even bother with that!

So now we have a manufactured race, ending in a manipulated result, to produce an unsatisfactory champion, which is, much as I dislike him and particularly his father, unfair to Verstappen. No matter what he does now, it will never be seen as being done on his own. There will always be a question mark over how much help is the FIA giving him for every win, for every point and for every future championship. And I have no doubt that he will win more championships, but now it will always be questionable if he is a 'real' champion or a WWE-style champion, chosen by the guys in charge of the sport because he has the biggest fanbase.

Though of course all this could change, depending on what Mercedes decide. There is no chance they will win any appeal to FIA's own court, they will of course back their men all the way. However, it would not be a surprise if Mercedes decide to take this to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, as they would have a very strong case with the numerous breaches of their own rules that FIA have performed in order to produce a show. For me though, I think this is the end for me with F1. If I cannot trust them to genuinely let them race fairly and allow the better car/driver combination to win, without them ignoring their rules to alter the situation, I have to think there are better ways to spend my time on a Sunday afternoon.


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Written by Tris Burke December 13 2021 16:58:41


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