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.”
It would have been worse if the rules were followed? Uhh, what?
Actually, the racing that took place prior to the safety car which had Hamilton in control and leading the race by a comfortable margin over Verstappen should have decided the race. According to the rules in place in all previous races under similar circumstances the race would have finished behind the safety car. There were five lapped cars between race leader Hamilton and three more lapped cars behind Verstappen. If the race had been restarted with one lap to go, It would have been impossible for Verstappen to pass those five cars and catch Hamilton. But Horner suggested to Masi that he direct the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves and leave the three lapped cars behind Verstappen to not unlap themselves. This would set up a one lap shootout with Verstappen on new soft tires directly behind Hamilton and no cars between them. Masi agreed to this proposal by Red Bull, thus voiding the race winning advantage Hamilton had built up over 46 laps of racing and handed the championship to Verstappen.
100% agree, both are best drivers and equally RBR is best team and AMG is best constructor/car. It proved, best driver best team beaten best driver best car, as Max did most podium, most win, most leading track and most leading laps.
Masi’s decision to close the racing season under race and not safety car or yellow flag should be appreciated. It should be regulated clearly for the future, including if necessary to add several laps to ensure ending with racing in safe manner
Regulation shall be changed but not the championship
They cant add laps because they only carry so much fuel and they’re not going to save fuel for “overtime” laps that might not ever happen. But they could definitely do something.
They could make a rule to stop the race if an incident happens in the last 5 laps. They could modify the rules so no tire changes are allowed in that specific red flag situation.