Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen believes it would have been “much worse” if the 2021 title was determined behind the Safety Car.
Max Verstappen won his first championship last Sunday under controversial circumstances, overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the final lap.
Race Control allowed the lapped cars that were between leader Hamilton and Verstappen to overtake the Safety Car after initially stating they should hold position, before pulling the Safety Car into the pits to allow one final lap of racing.
Verstappen, on fresh Soft tyers, moved ahead of Hamilton and subsequently won his maiden title.
The FIA came under fire for how it handled the procedure, with Mercedes lodging an intent to appeal post-race.
Writing in his blog for Unibet, Hakkinen says that the season didn’t deserve an “anti-climax” conclusion behind the Safety Car.
“Was Race Director Michael Masi right to speed up the end of the Safety Car period, letting the cars between Max and Lewis unlap themselves and setting up a race over one lap?
“I think it would have been much worse if this World Championship had finished behind a Safety Car. That really would have been such an anti-climax.
“The Race Director’s decision, later supported by the four Stewards, is based on his understanding of the rules including his responsibility for deciding when the Safety Car returns to the pits.
“Balancing decisions between ensuring safety and promoting racing is the toughest job facing the Race Director. Looking at the result, in terms of safety and promoting racing, Michael did his job.
“If Mercedes decides to protest the result of the race, and the World Championship for Drivers, the decisions which were made and the way the rules were applied will be examined in detail. I don’t believe the results will change.”
Hakkinen added that Hamilton and Verstappen are both “champion drivers” and believes that Mercedes’ triumph in the Constructors’ fight adds balance to the situation.
“I think Red Bull Honda did a really fantastic job to take the fight to Mercedes this year and Max’s World Championship is deserved,” he said.
“Lewis missed out on an extraordinary 8th title by the smallest of margins. I think the fact that he and Valtteri Bottas won the Constructors Championship provides some balance. The largest slice of the prize money will also help.
“This was the closest possible fight, a season which seemed to be going Red Bull’s way until Lewis began his push towards the end of the season. His victories in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia showed why he is such a star. I believe he really lifted the team.”