By Carol M. Creasey
The last race of 2021 which decided the Drivers’ Championship was won in what most people refer to as “dubious circumstances“.
The Safety Car rules were changed by race director Michael Masi, which handed the victory to Max Verstappen, even though Sir Lewis Hamilton had dominated the race right from the start when he took the lead.
One month later, instead of the headlines being about a new champion, they continue to be about whether Lewis will return to Formula One and try again to win his eighth championship. This has angered fans of Verstappen, causing them to not just criticise Lewis, but to make spiteful untrue remarks and try and tarnish his name, presumably because they are blaming him for the widespread condemnation of a “manufactured win“, as it has been referred to by many ex-drivers and prominent public figures.
In my mind Lewis did all the right things. After being so close to winning a record breaking eighth championship, having dominated the race from the beginning, as cruel as it was, he had to stand on the podium and acknowledge Verstappen as the new world champion, yet knowing in his heart he had been robbed of the victory. He also had to be interviewed by Jenson Button, which he also did, and his class in defeat was duly lauded by many.
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Toto Wolff‘s reaction was quite right, his driver deserved better and he tried to put it right by protesting, but the FIA closed ranks, and would not admit to doing anything wrong. He then wanted to take things further, but together with Lewis the team decided they did not want to drag the whole matter on in a legal battle. However, he insisted that the FIA investigate it and come up with some answers and some solutions, not just for Lewis, but for all the drivers, as there have been complaints of inconsistency all season. Just imagine if it had been accepted and everyone moved onto next year. Which team or driver would be picked by the race director to win next year by simply changing procedure, and not following the rules. Nobody would trust anyone, it wouldn’t be the fastest driver in the fastest car, it would be who the FIA favoured this time.
Because he knew whatever he said would be twisted to suit their own ends, Sir Lewis removed himself from the conversation, quietly getting on with his own life. Even when he was knighted, which was obviously a very proud moment, he didn’t share it with his fans. His diplomacy has been amazing, but still toxic remarks are being made. I read that he is “sulking“, he thinks he is “bigger than Formula One”, he’s a “sore loser”, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Toto has also been attacked as being a “bad loser”, a “man with a temper”, the list goes on.
Now the hysteria is morphing into hyperdrive. More and more pundits don’t want Lewis to give up, which is understandable, because without him they’ll have a lot less to talk about. They all realise how much this man has single-handedly done for the sport, and they want to keep him there. But Lewis has not said he is retiring, his contract runs for another two years, but that doesn’t seem to prevent some from accusing him of ‘running away from a fight, and not wanting to partner up with George Russell in case he gets beaten’.
To those who are quick to judge and put him down I say: whether you like it or not, Sir Lewis is an integral part of F1, he is the GOAT, hence the panic. Neither Lewis nor Toto have said that Masi should go, pundits have, but if I was Masi I would personally apologise to Lewis for messing up his race and his championship. If he gave assurances that it would never happen again, surely that would calm the situation down. It takes a man to own up to doing wrong. Everyone knows the result will stand, but the FIA owe it to Lewis and every other driver on the grid to admit they got it wrong, and promise to do better.
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