The FIA has confirmed race officials did not look at footage from Max Verstappen’s on-board camera before announcing his fiery incident with Lewis Hamilton in Brazil would not be investigated.
The wheel to wheel tussle in Monday’s Brazil Grand Prix left the Formula 1 world with its heart in its mouth as the two world championship rivals nearly made contact on Lap 48 at Turn 4.
Hamilton produced one of the greatest drives in recent memory to win the Brazil Grand Prix on Monday morning, but the big talking point was the moment his rivalry with Verstappen almost exploded.
More than 24 hours after the race was won, the footage from Verstappen’s Red Bull is still yet to see the light of day.
Conspiracy theories surrounding the missing footage are growing louder following a Daily Mail report Mercedes is still considering launching an official protest of the decision not to penalise the 24-year-old.
Hamilton is now 14 points behind Verstappen — but the margin could easily have been even further reduced if action had been taken against Verstappen.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said after the race it was “laughable” that Verstappen avoided any penalty for the moment the Red Bull star appeared to run Hamilton off the track.
Formula 1 commentators on Sky Sports unanimously agreed action should have been taken against Verstappen after he took a shallow line into Turn 4 when Hamilton had already passed him entering the corner and controlled the racing line. Verstappen didn’t give an inch.
Sky Sports first revealed after the race the broadcaster was yet to download the footage from Verstappen’s Red Bull that would have revealed his dashboard and steering wheel movement throughout the incident.
Sky sports technical analyst Anthony Davidson said after the race available camera angles of the incident appear to show Verstappen failing to attempt to steer his car towards the apex of the turn — a clear suggestion Verstappen deliberately forced Hamilton off the track.
He said footage from Verstappen’s on-board camera would be crucial to see if Verstappen’s steering wheel was ever in a position that would have allowed the Dutch driver to make the hard turn.
Wolff also said he would like to see the on-board footage from Verstappen’s Red Bull.
The FIA had ruled the near-collision was a “racing incident” that needed no further investigation — prompting scorn from Lewis Hamilton over the team radio.
F1 race director Michael Masi has now confirmed the key missing footage has still not been seen by race officials.
He said it is “only the cameras that were broadcast” that officials had access to in investigating the incident.
“The forward facing, the 360, there’s all of the camera angles that we don’t get live that will be downloaded and we’ll have a look at them post-race,” he said.
“It hasn’t been obtained yet. It’s been requested.”
He conceded the footage from Verstappen’s Red Bull could be a “smoking gun”.
“Could be, absolutely. Possibly. But no, we didn’t have access to it,” he said.
“And obviously, it’s being downloaded. And once the commercial rights holder supplies it, we’ll have a look.”
Hamilton had earlier called the incident “crazy” when first told of the incident was being looked at by stewards. It took him 11 more laps before he got the move to stick on Lap 59.
Davidson said footage of Verstappen’s dash could easily have resulted in the FIA taking action against Verstappen.
“You always need in these situations other camera angles. The FIA have more camera angles than we do, but they’re missing this critical on-board shot,” he said.
“I think if they had that on-board shot it’s a very different story today.”
He said broadcast cameras appeared to show Verstappen not making enough effort to make the turn.
“Usually what you’d be looking for is a telltale sign like a lock-up on the inside front tyre,” he said.
“A sign that the driver is right at the adhesion of grip, and the steering angle being forced into the car. And the other thing you’re looking for is, is the driver on the apex — is the driver doing everything to make the corner.
“I can’t see that much steering angle going into the car. For me, it’s very well done by Max, cramping him off the road. But I’m not seeing enough effort being put into the car to try and make the corner.”
Former F1 driver Paul di Resta said on Sky Sports after the race he at least expected Verstappen to be ordered to give the position back to Hamilton.
Former driver Johnny Herbert also said he anticipated a five-second penalty being handed down.
It’s why Wolff was so unhappy after the race, describing Verstappen’s move as “over the line”.
“It was really wrong defence from Max, absolutely an inch over the limit, but he needed to do that to defend,” he said.
“Lewis just managed it even more brilliantly by avoiding the contact and end the race that way.
“But that was just over the line, it should have been a five-second penalty at least. Probably Max knew that. Just brushing it under the carpet, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s just laughable.”
A five second penalty would have seen Verstappen finish third behind Mercedes’ driver Valtteri Bottas, who was three seconds behind the Dutch driver as they crossed the line.
That would have cut Verstappen’s lead to just 11 championship points with three races remaining.
Hamilton was also suspicious after the race, suggesting the decision not to take action against Verstappen was pre-ordained.
“When they said they were going to investigate, I just knew the decision they were going to come to, whether it was right or wrong,” said Hamilton to Sky Sports.
“I didn’t let it phase me, I just kept racing.”
It was just one of the many moments of drama throughout the weekend, which began with Hamilton taking a grid penalty for introducing a new engine.
After his car’s rear wing was found to have violated technical rules by 0.2mm, Hamilton started Sunday’s sprint race from last, and also started Monday’s grand prix from 10th as a result of his earlier grid penalty.
Near-perfect as Hamilton was, he was still fined $9000 for undoing his safety belt on his victory lap in breach of the rules to accept a Brazilian flag from a track marshall.
Qatar makes its F1 debut as host of next Sunday’s latest fix of the sport’s refreshingly exciting circuit drama followed by Saudi Arabia and the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in mid-December.
F1 news, drivers’ championship, state of play, final race in Abu Dhabi preview, Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen, standings
It all comes down to this.
For just the second time in Formula 1 history, the top two drivers are level on points heading into the final race of the season.
And it was even less likely to happen in 2021 than it was in 1974, when Emerson Fittipaldi beat Clay Regazzoni to the title, because many more points are given out nowadays.
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When Fittipaldi won his second world title, he won with 55 points from Regazzoni’s 52. This time, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are tied on an extremely specific 369.5 points.
Verstappen has pole position thanks to his uber-consistent season, featuring nine wins, eight seconds, a ninth, five fastest laps and five points from the three qualifying sprints.
Hamilton has come charging home, with three consecutive wins to bring his season tally to eight, plus seven seconds, a third, a fourth, a fifth, a seventh, six fastest laps and two points from a qualifying sprint.
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Perhaps it won’t be decided on the final corner, like Hamilton over Massa in 2008 – though who knows? – but the most thrilling title race since at least that famous season will find a conclusion in Abu Dhabi this coming weekend.
Not that the drivers’ championship is the only crown to be given out, with the constructors’ crown not yet locked up, plus there are crucial battles in the midfield that must be decided.
Here’s the state of play for the Formula 1 season heading into the last race.
Current drivers’ standings (Top two teams)
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 369.5 pts
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 369.5 pts
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 218 pts
4. Sergio Perez (Mercedes) – 190 pts
THE TITLE FIGHT
In a sense, it’s very simple; whoever finishes ahead of the other in Abu Dhabi will claim the 2021 drivers’ championship*.
Lewis Hamilton will be feeling confident as his Mercedes has looked like the fastest car on the grid for several races, ever since they took repeated engine penalties to ensure they had extra power units in the pool.
Hamilton has won at Abu Dhabi more than any other driver, with five triumphs, though the last time the title race went down to the wire in the Middle East in 2016, he couldn’t seal the crown over teammate Nico Rosberg.
And Max Verstappen has been both quick and clever in recent races. He should’ve been on pole in Saudi Arabia, if not for a crash on the last corner in qualifying, having been three tenths up during the final sector.
Verstappen won last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, taking pole by .025 seconds from Valtteri Bottas and leading every lap, showing that the current Red Bull isn’t ill-suited to the track.
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For those worried about the race being a bit of a procession, as we’ve seen in recent years: keep in mind the Abu Dhabi circuit has been altered to help overtaking.
The sequence of 90-degree bends after the second back straight has been turned into a single banked turn, which the cars are expected to take at 240 km/h, while the chicane heading into the first back straight has also been removed.
Along with the opening up of several corners in the street circuit-like final sector, it’s hoped the track will be both faster and more exciting.
You’d still pick Hamilton to win the title if you had to name a winner, and he’s the slight favourite with bookmakers, but that assumes a pure clean race… and as we saw in Saudi Arabia, that’s no sure thing.
*Technically that’s not completely true – Hamilton could beat Verstappen while both finish outside of the points, meaning Verstappen wins on the tiebreaker; or if Hamilton finished ninth while Verstappen finished tenth with the fastest lap, they’d again tie.
WHO HAS THE EDGE HEADING INTO ABU DHABI?
Verstappen has the natural advantage of leading in the standings.
What exactly do we mean by that? Well, the 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1997 crowns were all decided when the two leaders crashed out in the final race; if both the Dutchman and Brit crash out in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen will be champion.
“If it was to come to the scenario of the last race in Abu Dhabi and they were to be racing each other for the title, whoever is in front (on points) is absolutely going to try to do the same as in the Senna-Prost years,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said last month.
“What happened in Monza? Verstappen took Lewis out because he was about to overtake and he was quicker. And that is totally understandable.
“If you are racing for the championship and you see it fading away because the other guy is overtaking you, what tool have you got other than the one that makes sure he can’t overtake? We’ve seen it with Schumacher and Villeneuve, we saw it with Senna and Prost twice.
“I would never give the instruction to crash into anyone else but if they go to that last race and whoever is in front wins the championship, they will be racing each other, hard.
“And I don’t think you can control it, Hamilton and Verstappen, I don’t think you want to control it because they are the gladiators in their machines. That is what makes this sport so interesting, because it is ingrained in our nature that we don’t like confrontation and then one is intrigued to see how that relationship unfolds.
“If they crash are they going to confront each other? What are they going to say? Will they look in each others’ eyes? We would not interfere. The relationship is sorted out between the individuals.”
WHAT HAPPENS IF VERSTAPPEN AND HAMILTON TIE ON POINTS?
Verstappen will be crowned world champion, because he has won one more race (nine to eight); they cannot tie on points with Hamilton also winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
WHAT ABOUT THE CONSTRUCTORS’ TITLE?
Mercedes already had a handy lead in its bid to win an eighth consecutive constructors’ crown; and then Sergio Perez crashed out in Saudi Arabia.
The ex-Racing Point driver’s up-and-down season, compared to Valtteri Bottas’ steady year – including nine third-place finishes – has been the difference in the race between the Silver Arrows and Red Bull.
On 587.5 points, Mercedes is a full race win ahead of its nearest rival (559.5 points).
Realistically Red Bull needs a 1-2 finish in Abu Dhabi while one of Hamilton or Bottas crashes out to win the constructors’ title.
Current constructors’ standings
1. Mercedes – 587.5 pts
2. Red Bull – 559.5 pts
3. Ferrari – 307.5 pts
4. McLaren – 269 pts
5. Alpine – 149 pts
6. Alpha Tauri – 120 pts
7. Aston Martin – 77 pts
8. Williams – 23 pts
9. Alfa Romeo – 13 pts
10. Haas – 0 pts
WHO WILL BE BEST OF THE REST?
Daniel Ricciardo’s debut season in a McLaren hasn’t exactly gone to plan, with the Australian almost certain to finish eighth, well down on his fifth in 2020 – which he achieved in the fifth-best car on the grid.
He upgraded moving from Renault (now Alpine) to the British outfit but when the McLaren car was at its best, in the first half of the season, Ricciardo was still getting used to it.
He peaked with that stunning win at Monza, with teammate Lando Norris completing a stellar 1-2, but ironically ever since the Italian Grand Prix it’s been Ferrari as the third-best constructor.
Charles Leclerc (158 points), Norris (154 points) and Carlos Sainz (149.5 points) are scrapping it out for fifth place in the drivers’ standings; the Ferraris have both finished above Norris in each of the last five races.
The rest of the field, in both the drivers’ and constructors’ standings, is relatively spread out.
Current drivers’ standings (Midfield)
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 158 pts
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 154 pts
7. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – 149.5 pts
8. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) – 115 pts
9. Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri) – 100 pts
10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) – 77 pts
11. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) – 72 pts
12. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) – 43 pts
13. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) – 34 pts
14. Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) – 20 pts
Esteban Ocon nearly gave Alpine back-to-back podiums on Monday, but was pipped on the line by Bottas; however the hefty points on offer for fourth mean the Hungary race-winner is closing in on teammate Fernando Alonso for tenth.
The late surge by Ocon and Alonso has virtually sealed fifth place for Alpine, even though the Alpha Tauri when driven by Pierre Gasly has at times appeared the third-best car on the grid.
Unfortunately for the Red Bull junior side, Gasly’s brilliant qualifying hasn’t been matched on Sundays, with just one third-place (in Azerbaijan, when Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas all missed the points).
His rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda showed early promise with a ninth on debut in Bahrain, but has otherwise been well off the pace off the very impressive Gasly, with just five other points finishes this season and three retirements; only last-placer Nikita Mazepin has failed to finish more often.
Sebastian Vettel will actually beat his woeful 13th-placed finish from 2020 at Ferrari, as he’s almost certain to beat Lance Stroll at Aston Martin, with the peaks of a second-place in Azerbaijan and two fifths in Monaco and Belgium followed by way, way too many irrelevant back-of-the-midfield races.
If you’ll recall, at the start of the 2021 season there were aerodynamic changes which hurt ‘low rake’ cars like Mercedes and Aston Martin (given their car’s similarities to the Mercedes) the most. The former recovered; the latter hasn’t.
Of the last six full-time drivers in the standings, three will be elsewhere in 2022, all for different reasons.
Current drivers’ standings (At the back)
15. George Russell (Williams) – 16 pts
16. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) – 10 pts
17. Nicholas Latifi (Williams) – 7 pts
18. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) – 3 pts
19. Mick Schumacher (Haas) – 0 pts
20. Robert Kubica (Alfa Romeo fill-in) – 0 pts
21. Nikita Mazepin (Haas) – 0 pts
George Russell’s first F1 points, including that bizarre second at the aborted Belgian Grand Prix, will see him replacing Bottas at Mercedes with added confidence.
Alfa Romeo pair Kimi Raikkonen (retirement) and Antonio Giovinazzi (dumped to Formula E) surround Russell’s Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi, who’ll partner Alex Albon next season, in the standings.
Haas is set to match Williams (2020) and Marussia (2015) as the only teams in the last seven seasons to fail to score a point, with Mick Schumacher at least showing some promise.
Nikita Mazepin must finish 15th or better in Abu Dhabi to avoid finishing 21st and dead last, behind Robert Kubica who replaced Kimi Raikkonen for two races in the middle of the season.
The Russian was 14th in Azerbaijan – essentially by default, with four non-finishers, the heavily-penalised Nicholas Latifi and poor restarter Lewis Hamilton behind him – but otherwise hasn’t finished higher than 17th.
Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, championship race, leaderboard, crash, reaction
Lewis Hamilton edged out Max Verstappen to win a chaotic and controversial Saudi Arabian Grand Prix that had the F1 world divided on Monday morning.
There were a number of flashpoints during the race that only intensified the ongoing tension between Hamilton and Verstappen, who are now level on points ahead of the decider.
Hamilton had sped away from pole position before the balance of power shifted after 10 laps when Mick Schumacher buried his Haas in a barrier.
Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas pitted under the safety car but Verstappen stayed out.
Four laps later, the race was red-flagged to allow the barriers to be repaired which enabled Verstappen to pit, change tyres and resume the race in the lead.
On the restart, Hamilton reclaimed the lead but claimed he was forced off the track by Verstappen.
Moments later there was another red flag as Sergio Perez, George Russell and Nikita Mazepin all collided at the rear of the field.
The stewards decided that Verstappen’s manoeuvre was illegal and promoted Alpine’s Esteban Ocon to pole for the third start of the race, with Hamilton in second and Verstappen in third.
Amazingly, Verstappen then took the lead again with Hamilton following through.
However the drama and controversy continued when they collided late in the race. Hamilton said he had been brake-tested and Verstappen was penalised by the stewards before the Briton swept past and onto victory.
“It has been a dirty race in terms of tactics,” Martin Brundle said on Sky Sports F1.
“This is absolutely crazy. It’s kind of like we’re making it up as we go along.
“But it’s so many unusual situations. It’s more like an obstacle course than a race track.”
The F1 world was just as stunned by what unfolded on Monday, with the constant chaos proving hard to keep up with.
Lewis Hamilton slams Max Verstappen, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, reaction, quotes, result
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton lashed out at title rival Max Verstappen after Sunday’s gripping Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, describing the Dutchman as “over the limit”.
Mercedes driver Hamilton won a dramatic race under lights on the Jeddah street circuit but only after several close run-ins with Red Bull’s Verstappen.
“I really had to try and keep my cool out there which was really difficult to do,” said Hamilton.
“I have raced a lot of drivers in my 28 years of racing, I have come across a lot of characters. There’s a few that are over the limit, the rules don’t apply.
“He (Verstappen)’s over the limit for sure. I have avoided collision on so many occasions with the guy.
“I don’t mind being the one who does that because you get to live another day. It doesn’t matter for him if we don’t finish. It does for me.”
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The tense battle culminated in a late collision when Hamilton, apparently unaware that Verstappen had been ordered to give up the lead after an illegal manoeuvre shortly before, hit the Red Bull as it braked in front of him.
Red Bull maintained that Verstappen was simply following instructions while Mercedes intimated that the Dutchman was ‘brake-testing’.
“I don’t understand why he hit the brakes quite so heavily so I ran into the back of him,” said Hamilton.
“I didn’t get the information. It was very confusing.”
A visibly annoyed Verstappen, however, denied any wrong-doing in the incident. “I slowed down, I wanted to let him by, I was on the right but he didn’t want to overtake and we touched,” said Verstappen.
“I don’t really understand what happened there.” Stewards, who gave Verstappen a five-second penalty for an earlier incident, were investigating the decision.
“It was quite eventful! A lot of things happened, which I don’t fully agree with, but it is what it is,” said the 24-year-old Dutchman.
He later stormed off the podium, refusing to take part in the traditional end of race champagne spraying with Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas who took third.
The two drivers are now level on points as they head to the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi next weekend, although Verstappen has the advantage of having won more races.
“It’s a straight fight as it has been all year,” said Red Bull principal Christian Horner.
“The form is with Mercedes but Max has fought like a lion this weekend, he has given it everything.”
Hamilton has now won three races on the bounce and is primed to become the first man to win eight world titles, one more than the record he currently shares with Michael Schumacher.
“I am personally chilled,” he said. “I feel like I am in the boxing ring and I am ready to go.”
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