By Carol M. Creasey
After the drama of the race in Jeddah, the whole nation of Formula One fans were expecting a thrilling climax to the season in Abu Dhabi. Formula One had more viewers than ever, with Channel 4 in the UK also being scheduled to broadcast the race live rather than just highlights.
In Free Practice 1 Max Verstappen led and Lewis Hamilton was third, after his fastest lap had been deleted due to track limits. In FP2, after making some changes to his set up, the Briton led comfortably up by 4 tenths of a second. Ocon was second, Valtteri Bottas third, and Verstappen fourth, trailing by six tenths.
In Qualifying, for the first two sessions, it seemed Mercedes had the upper hand, but it all changed in Q3, where Vertsappen found more time. He did a stunning lap, aided by a slipstream from team-mate Sergio Perez to put him on pole by four tenths of a second. When congratulating him afterwards, Lewis admitted that he could not have matched that time.
But on race day it was a different story. All of Lewis’ fans were privileged to see a very dominant performance. Although on the slower medium tyre, with Verstappen on the soft, he aced his start, and the only response from Verstappen as usual was to drive him off the track. But when Lewis rejoined, he was ahead, and although Horner protested, Lewis did not have to give the place back, which was the right decision after yet another reckless attempt by Verstappen.
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Lewis dominated that race in style, even when Perez made some questionable moves to try and keep him behind, nothing was going to stop the fearless Briton from becoming an eight time world champion. And then Latifi crashed out and the Safety Car was deployed. There were only 4 laps left, so it was to be expected that the race would be finished under the Safety Car. But no, after various discussions with Horner over the radio, race director Michael Masi decided to make up his own rules to manipulate the race to favour Red Bull. They decided to restart the race on the last lap, ignoring their own protocols that required the lapped drivers to un-lap themselves before the race can resume. Then they only removed those lapped drivers who were between Hamilton and Verstappen, and basically created a situation that put Max, who was on fresh soft tyres, right behind Lewis, who was on worn down mediums, and the result was obvious. Max easily passed Lewis and won the race and the championship. This did not surprise me, as all year it has been clear Formula 1 and the FIA would do anything to favour Red Bull and stop Lewis from winning his eighth title.
Horner has lauded Verstappen saying he has driven brilliantly all year, and nobody would disagree, except for the fact that he has been allowed to get away with dirty driving, which puts the whole FIA system into question, and because he hasn’t been stopped he will continue to do it until somebody gets seriously injured.
Mercedes were so incensed by the breaking of the rules, they have lodged two protests, which were thrown out by the stewards, but they may continue to fight it further. Lewis, always the gentleman, congratulated Verstappen and his father, as did Lewis’ father Anthony, proving what class they have. Some unsubstantiated reports came out that Lewis asked Mercedes not to contest the result, but I can understand that the team cannot let it slide that easily.
The internet is alight with support for the Briton, who fought fairly all year long, and many are calling him the true champion, including prominent celebrities such as Nicola Adams, Piers Morgan, Gary Lineker, just to name a few. His brother Nicolas also wrote about the injustice on Instagram.
Michael Masi and the FIA should hang their heads in shame, but I doubt they will. My congratulations go to Max, the only driver to truly challenge Lewis this year, but the circumstances surrounding his win will always be questioned.
In my eyes, and many others’, Lewis won that championship in style. His car was improved by the end of the year, but he has to be commended for staying in touch with Verstappen during the time when his car was a true diva. Cheats never prosper they say, and I do hope by next year the FIA will have sorted themselves out, as many fans have said they will no longer watch the “sport”. This farce may well roll on in court, which is sad, it did not have to end that way. But what makes me saddest of all is that we all lost an opportunity to watch Lewis solidify himself as the most successful driver of all time. He did everything right and he earned it on the track. Yesterday, I fear, was a sad day for motorsport. Lewis was let down so badly.
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