Where we stand now
Max Verstappen is the 2021 F1 World Champion.
Mercedes dropped its appeal as it was clear it did not want to risk brand damage both to itself and to F1 by playing this saga out in the courts. Ultimately, it appeared the case could not be taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and so, effectively, Toto Wolff and co. would’ve been asking the FIA to admit its own errors – which many have deemed to be highly unlikely.
It’s also worth noting that, according to various sources, Hamilton himself did not want to pursue that line of enquiry and, although it will be scant consolation to the seven-time world champion, he has been heaped with praise for his dignity following last Sunday’s events.
What now for Lewis and his fans
There’s been rife media speculation that Hamilton is considering his future in the sport and he may be doing just that. But does that mean he won’t line up on the grid in 2022? Absolutely not.
This is a man who has battled adversity through large parts of his childhood after suffering both racism and seeing his younger brother struggle with cerebral palsy. He lives by the motto ‘Still I Rise’ and explains what it means to him here; “[My brother] is disabled. He would fall down and I know he couldn’t understand why he didn’t have… He wasn’t given the legs that worked properly,” Hamilton said. “But, he would get back up and try again, get back up and try again.
“He would never complain and I noticed that I would stumble along the way at certain things and you just have to get back up and keep going. So, still I rise because, eventually, when you do achieve something, you’re like ‘I stumbled 10 times or 100, whatever it is. But now, I made it.”
We can just not foresee a situation where he isn’t back on the grid in Bahrain 2022 hoping to right what he and many other deems to be wrongs from 2021.
For his fans, the 2021 season will forever bring pain and anguish solely due to the nature of Verstappen’s seemingly unjust victory.
In an interview with Sky Sports broadcast earlier in the weekend, Masi was adamant that he would did not want to, nor would he, decide the championship battle. Surely he would’ve known in the decisions he was making last Sunday afternoon that he was doing just that?
As many Regit readers said in last week’s piece, the sense of injustice that comes when such a critical call at best, don’t go your way, and at worst, is stark and apparent breaches of the sporting code, is what makes this so tough to take.
What about Max Verstappen?
Red Bull and Max Verstappen simply made the most of the opportunity that was presented to them, you cannot begrudge them for that.
In Budapest, Hamilton’s teammate Bottas took out both Red Bull’s as he failed to apply the brakes properly going into the first hairpin on a wet track following a manic start.
If that would’ve been the season decider there would rightly be uproar. Many would’ve felt Bottas had simply done in intentionally to give his teammate the win – so it’s important that the 2021 season is judged as the full season and not just the final lap.
In that season, Verstappen has been electric.
Sergio Perez was in most journalists’ top five drivers of 2020 and has regularly outperformed his Racing Point car and teammate. Verstappen, albeit more comfortable with the Red Bull, was often outperforming Checo by 7, 8 and 9 tenths a lap in qualifying and would be comfortably more than a pit stop ahead come the end of the race.
Some of the overtakes he has pulled have been amazing, some have gone too far, but this is a young driver (still only 24 years of age!), that now has the world at his feet and a championship under his belt.
Will the FIA make changes for 2022?
Whether race director Michael Masi is one of them remains to be seen.
Both Ross Brawn, MD of the F1 Group, and Toto Wolff himself have both come on record to say the appealing that takes place between teams and the race director whilst the action is unfolding will end.
Other than that, the FIA seemingly admitted its own shortcomings in this 400 word statement that preceded Mercedes’ own statement to confirm the withdrawal of its own appeal by a matter of hours.
If you haven’t already, it’s worth reading Susie Wolff’s own statement on events here.
It’s also worth noting that, despite his shortcomings, Masi himself was a man under huge pressure. It is becoming quite clear he is fulfilling numerous roles and that will have no doubt had an impact into how the end of season finale played out.
As Martin Brundle explains, Masi was leaving one 13 hour+ flight to hop straight onto another to sign off a race track where the F1 circus was heading itself in a matter of hours. And there is no doubt that given the season finale featured 2 and a half new tracks out of three that Masi himself was feeling huge strain from the seemingly unbearable workload placed upon him.
We certainly hope that if he continues, and granted it’s a big ‘IF’, that there is a better support structure so professionals in that role are granted the time required to make cool, calm and considered decisions in the heat of battle.
What Regit’s readers said
GM: “The FIA has to seriously re-examine Micheal Masi’s decision on the grounds of lack of fairness to the entire field of competitors. Focus has been trained on the title contenders, but the other drivers were not afforded the same opportunity to compete with those directly in front of them on a similar basis, due to the partial implementation of the safety car rule. Masi’s focus was clearly biased towards the title challenge and not on being fair to all of the field.”
Mike Chamberlain: “Terrible season horrendously managed by FIA Stewards but more so by Michael Masi the Racing Director. He has to go. Contentious and more exciting than watching another dominant Mercedes year but to me the FIA did everything to make it more exciting by changing rules just after season started and some subsequent later decisions.”
Bert Impetigo: “A disgrace. Rules ignored by Massi in order to provide a last lap bit of reality TV. 11 seconds or so of a lead wiped out with no justification. I'm no Hamilton fan, but for me he remains the current world champion. I can understand Verstappen's desire to win, but the world would think much more highly of him had he done the gentlemanly thing, and stayed behind Hamilton. Verstappen is indeed a top class F1 driver, and completely deserving of a World Championship. Just not this one.”
Jack Birchley: “Max has won more races than Lewis this year in a car not as competitive as the merc. Lewis has with out a doubt the best car on the grid, but has not won as many races. He has had leniency on his actions, and been given smaller penalties than Max. If he had pitted for fresh tyres as did Max it may have been a totally different result. It has been a far more interesting season that the previous seven seasons, with different cars winning.