Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are both on course for the F1 championship title. The two drivers have a history of clashing, with bickering even playing out in public leading up to Abu Dhabi’s finale.
The “f1 news” is a question that asks if Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are on an inevitable collision course at the finale of F1’s season in Abu Dhabi.
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — It’s nearly unbelievable. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are tied on points heading into the final round of the Formula One season after 21 races.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime circumstance that promises to be a spectacular battle when the two finest drivers in the world compete in a winner-takes-all race at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But, as thrilling as it may seem, there are real fears that this fantastic season may be determined by a crash — or, even worse, in the stewards’ office.
The majority of these worries arise from last weekend’s semi-farcical Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, in which the two championship competitors’ positions shifted more off track than on track (both literally beyond the white lines of the circuit at Turn 1 and as a result of race control telling Verstappen to give positions back).
During that race, it became evident that Verstappen and Hamilton had extremely different perspectives on racing regulations, which might lead to unprecedented controversy in Abu Dhabi if the championship is decided by a crash.
Hamilton and Verstappen have collided on the track many times this season, but the present consternation has its origins in last month’s Brazilian Grand Prix. Hamilton tried to get around the outside of Verstappen on lap 48 of the race, but Verstappen’s braking was so late that both cars were forced to go off the track. The event was reported to race control, but the stewards elected not to investigate it, implying that it was ruled lawful but with no explanation from the stewards.
At the very least, Verstappen got an advantage by straying off track, and he may have broken a second regulation by failing to leave Hamilton’s racing space. When additional camera video from Verstappen’s vehicle became available after the race, Mercedes requested that the stewards investigate the incident, but the same group of stewards declined to do so, and no explanation for their decision not to penalize Verstappen was provided.
It’s probably no surprise, therefore, that the next time Verstappen and Hamilton battled for track position — in last weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix — Verstappen made two very identical movements. Both incidents occurred at Turn 1, once on lap 15 during a red flag restart when Verstappen had briefly lost the lead to Hamilton and threw his car across the inside of Turn 2 to reclaim it, and again on lap 37 when Hamilton attempted to pass around the outside and Verstappen forced both drivers off the track by taking too much speed into Turn 1 to successfully complete the corner. Hamilton had to take evasive action on both occasions to avoid a collision.
In the first case, there was the unique circumstance of a second red flag after it, allowing the FIA to guarantee Verstappen relinquished the lead by putting him behind Hamilton on the grid for the restart. It seemed like an awkward radio exchange at the time, but it was consistent with many previous instances of race control telling drivers to give back positions after cutting a corner to gain an advantage — the only difference was that it happened under a red flag ahead of a standing restart this time.
On lap 42, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collided. Getty Images/Lars Baron
After the collision on lap 37, Verstappen was requested to return a spot, but things became much worse when Hamilton bumped the back of Verstappen’s vehicle as the Red Bull slowed to allow him by. The stewards eventually ruled that Verstappen had pressed the brakes too hard in front of Hamilton and was primarily responsible for the accident, resulting in a ten-second penalty — but this is a distinct problem from the one highlighted above.
Verstappen drove away from Hamilton without handing it back on lap 37, resulting in a five-second penalty for the initial Turn 1 incident, as he was assessed to have “left the course and gained an advantage.” After the race, Verstappen was not pleased with the decision and, with some reasoning, compared it to a situation in Brazil when he had also abandoned the track and gained an advantage without receiving a penalty.
After the race, Verstappen commented, “I find it funny that I am the one who receives the penalty when both of us raced outside of the white lines.” “It was alright in Brazil, and now I’m getting a penalty for it.”
“It’s obvious that neither of them made the turn, but that’s okay.” I mean, I don’t want to spend too much time on it either. We must make progress.
“I believe we’re talking more about white lines and penalties than true Formula One racing recently, and that’s a little bit of a pity,” he stated on his in-lap [over team radio].
So now we have a driver in Saudi Arabia who has exploited the absence of a decision in Brazil as a precedent to drive another vehicle off the circuit. Of course, Verstappen was the driver in those instances who had the least to lose due to his drivers’ championship lead and so could risk a collision to keep that lead, but it seems that it was the fact that he wasn’t penalized in Brazil that enabled him to take that risk in his mind.
The drivers were instructed on the regulations of racing on the Friday of the Qatar Grand Prix as a consequence of the event in Brazil. The FIA avoided saying the Brazil incident was against the rules because doing so would have raised more questions about the decision. Instead, it stated that the stewards will treat each incident on its own merits, meaning that just because the facts of one incident at one circuit saw a driver force another off the track does not mean that every incident where a driver forces another off the track will go unpunished.
To be fair to FIA race director Michael Masi, he has repeatedly said that no two events are same, and that every circuit on the Formula One calendar is unique, resulting in unique situations when two drivers collide. While it’s true that the positions of the vehicles and their speeds in relation to one another will never be identical from one event to the next, the stewards’ work of making a decision is made considerably more difficult when there are no strong precedents to draw upon.
Furthermore, the stewards are significantly more likely to be called upon to make decisions on accidents when the two drivers vying for the championship — in this instance, Hamilton and Verstappen — have vastly different interpretations of the regulations and, as a result, race in vastly different ways.
Hamilton, who has seven world championships and 15 years in Formula One, said on Sunday that Verstappen is the only driver in the sport that follows a distinct set of regulations.
“I don’t believe I’ve altered my racing style,” he remarked. “I believe we’ve seen several incidences this year where even in Brazil, we’re meant to race on the track in between the white lines, but the regulations haven’t been clear from the stewards, so that’s persisted.”
“I realize that I can’t overtake someone and then go off track and hold the place, but I believe it is common knowledge among all of us drivers. But, I suppose, it doesn’t apply to either of us.”
After Lewis Hamilton’s victory in the Saudi GP on Sunday, the Drivers’ Championship is equal on points heading into the final race. Getty Images/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/POOL/AFP
Red Bull team manager Christian Horner, on the other hand, feels there has been too much emphasis on his driver this year, when Hamilton has also pushed the boundaries. When he eventually passed Verstappen on lap 44 in Saudi Arabia, he drove the Red Bull wide into the run-off area to guarantee he couldn’t pass him again on the next straight. Race control took notice of the event, and Masi said it was “borderline” for a black and white warning flag.
On Sunday evening, Horner stated, “I would encourage you to look at Lewis’ incident at the last corner, when he pushed Max off in the same manner.” “Any driver who has gone up through karting or competed in any hard racing category knows how these youngsters have raced throughout their careers.” Lewis gives as he receives.
“Sometimes he’s really devious in the way he goes about it.” Take a look at the final turn, when he ran Max out. He also opened the steering wheel at another curve, I believe it was into Turns 1 and 2.
“These are two individuals who are battling over razor-thin margins on the verge of colliding. Put a gravel trap out there if you don’t want them to be able to go wide.”
Toto Wolff, Horners’ counterpart at Mercedes, feels that the events in Saudi Arabia have clarified some of the grey areas ahead of the final race in Abu Dhabi, but concedes that the regulations are still ambiguous.
“I mentioned after Brazil that if it’s not probed, it may end up being extremely bad for the championship,” he added, adding that “you’ve seen [in Saudi Arabia] they were pretty much the same occurrences as Brazil at slower speeds.” “That is not something we want to see in Abu Dhabi.” The championship should be won by the faster vehicle with the faster driver, not by knocking each other out.
“How confident am I in that?” I can’t say because I’m hoping that today’s race [in Saudi Arabia] has enough ramifications for everyone to learn from and adjust for the final race in Abu Dhabi.
“I believe that comparable driving, if found to be beyond the line by the stewards, would be penalized as well in Abu Dhabi, resulting in a difficult scenario for everyone, and I don’t believe the championship merited a conclusion influenced by a crash.”
“In such situation, I have a lot of faith in the self-regulating system.”
When asked whether Red Bull cared how Verstappen won the championship, Horner agreed.
“Of sure,” the Red Bull CEO said. “You want to win on the track, not in the stewards’ room, not in the gravel trap,” says the driver.
“Throughout the year, it’s been a difficult battle. These two drivers have put up some incredible racing, and I’m hoping for a fair and clean race in Abu Dhabi.”
Even though the drivers are tied on points heading into the final race, if both drivers fail to finish, Verstappen would win the championship on a race-by-race basis. While no one expects him to take advantage of this by intentionally driving Hamilton off the road, it does mean that he can continue to be aggressive in wheel-to-wheel battles, knowing that Hamilton cannot afford an accident that kills both of them.
In the end, no one wants the championship to be decided by a crash or a stewards’ judgment, and the only way to avoid that is for Masi to sit down with both drivers before of the race and spell out exactly what will be permitted and what will be penalized.