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Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton title fight, Saudi Arabian GP crash, overtake

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As if the 2021 F1 championship needed any more excitement, accusations are still flying thick and fast between Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and their respective teams.

In an incredible finish to the season, the championship leaders are locked on 369.5 points each, with the winner to take it all in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday night (AEDT).

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Hamilton won a chaotic Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to move level with Verstappen as the Brit hunts a record-breaking eighth world title.

Verstappen was handed three separate sanctions for incidents involving Hamilton at Jeddah as simmering tensions between the teams that have dominated the season reached boiling point.

The main flash point came on lap 37 of the 50-lap race when the two drivers made contact. Hamilton accused Verstappen of “brake-testing”, claiming he had no idea race control had instructed the Dutchman to let his rival overtake because of an earlier infringement.

‘Rules don’t apply’: Hamilton, Verstappen fume

What a finish to the season. Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / POOL / AFPSource: AFP

Stewards ultimately ruled Verstappen’s “erratic” braking was the main cause of the accident, handing him a 10-second penalty, on top of an earlier five-second penalty he was given for not letting Hamilton pass him when the pair collided.

The finger pointing is going both ways as Mercedes and Red Bull pinned the blame on each other — a common occurrence through the season so far.

“I really had to just try and keep my cool out there which was really difficult to do,” Hamilton said of the incident.

“I’ve raced a lot of drivers through my life in the 28 years (of racing) and I’ve come across a lot of different characters and there are a few at the top which are kind of over the limit. Rules kind of don’t apply, or don’t think of the rules.

“(Verstappen’s) over the limit, for sure. I’ve avoided collision on so many occasions with the guy and I don’t always mind being the one that does that because you live to fight another day, which I obviously did.”

The stewards cast more light on the incident in question, pointing to the fact Verstappen was allowing Hamilton to pass before a DRS zone, which would have given the Red Bull driver an advantage and the possibility he would be able to overtake once more.

Verstappen is chasing his first championship. Photo by Lars Baron/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Verstappen, who stormed off the podium after the event, added he didn’t understand why Hamilton didn’t pass him.

“I was downshifting and braking for him to go by. I don’t understand why … maybe there was some confusion,” he told Sky Sports.

Verstappen also took a shot at his penalty while still driving after he was informed he was voted the Driver of the Day.

“Luckily the fans have a clear mind about racing because what happened today is unbelievable,” he replied. “I’m just trying to race and this sport lately is more about penalties than racing.

“For me this is not Formula 1.”

Later, Verstappen tweeted that “a lot of things happened that I don’t fully agree with”.

‘Not treated the same’: F1 accused of hypocrisy

The team bosses were no better, as Red Bull team chief Christian Horner said Verstappen was trying to give his place back and let Hamilton take the lead, as ordered.

But team radio of the incident heard Verstappen’s race engineer telling the Dutchman to give it back “strategically”.

“He (Verstappen) lifted off,” Horner said. “I think Lewis even lifted off, and I don’t know whether he’s messing around the DRS line there but it was clear we were giving the place up.

“Lewis is slowing down behind him, it sounds like he’s lifted off, but it’s like he didn’t want to pass him there because of the DRS.”

Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko wasn’t afraid to take aim, saying Red Bull and Mercedes “are not treated the same”.

“Our engineers are preparing that we can prove Max was constant with his braking, he didn’t brake test like Hamilton said,” Marko told Motorsport.com following the race.

“Then he crashed into our car, he unfortunately put two cuts in the rear tyre. That was so severe that we couldn’t attack anymore. We had to take speed out.

“That was the one thing. The next thing was at the second start, Hamilton was more than 10 (car) lengths behind. (Sebastian) Vettel got penalised in Budapest when he did it. But with this manoeuvre he (Hamilton) was preparing his tyre better for the start.

“Then he pushed Max off, no reaction. So we feel we are not treated the same.”

Mercedes are looking for the driver-constructor double again. Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he believed the data would show Verstappen was “brake-testing” Hamilton.

Vision of the Mercedes team principal showed him raging on the TV coverage and slam down his headset. He said Verstappen’s driving was “over the line”.

“It’s hard, very hard, maybe over the line hard,” he said. “We just want to have a clean championship – may the best man win – and if it’s Max at the end then I have peace with that. But it needs to be a fair race.”

Wolff also warned of a messy end to the season.

“I would hope that (Sunday’s) race has enough repercussions that everybody’s going to learn from it and adapt for the final race,” he said.

“Similar driving, if it were to be deemed by the stewards as over the line, would then probably also be penalised in Abu Dhabi, and that could well end in a messy situation for everybody. I don’t think that the championship has deserved a result which was influenced by a collision.”

Can you feel the warmth between the pair. Photo by Sam Bloxham – Pool/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Hamilton and Verstappen’s battle has made for incredible viewing throughout the season, although there have been some scary moments.

At the British Grand Prix, Hamilton won but was accused of a “disrespectful” act when he made contact with Verstappen and sent him into a barrier at 290km/h.

Verstappen was penalised at the Italian Grand Prix, when Verstappen’s car ended on top of Hamilton after going for an overtake on the turn two chicane. Both teams blamed each other for that incident as well.

The pair also clashed again at the Brazilian Grand Prix in a wheel to wheel battle late in the race.

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Daniel Ricciardo features in song on Triple J’s Hottest 100, reaction, Gang of Youths

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Daniel Ricciardo is a man of culture.

The Australian Formula One driver has many interests outside of motorsport, including wine and fashion. And now he has officially hit the big time as a (budding) musician, making one of the most sought-after lists in Aussie pop culture.

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As hipsters across Australia gathered around their portable speakers on Saturday for Triple J’s Hottest 100, they might have missed Ricciardo’s cameo in one of the songs.

In a strange twist, the 32-year-old made his Hottest 100 debut, having played “percussion” on Gang of Youths’ song The Man Himself.

The track, from Gang of Youths’ third studio album Angel in Realtime, came in at number 57 on the list, and features Ricciardo playing some very basic drum beats in the background.

He even features on the song’s credits, although it must be said the band’s drummer Donnie Borzestowski did the heavy lifting as the proper percussionist.

The Australian band released The Man Himself in October last year and shared a clip on social media of Ricciardo playing the drums in their studio.

On the band’s Instagram post listing Ricciardo in the credits, the McLaren driver commented: “This makes me happy”.

Ricciardo is an avid listener of music and often shared videos of himself singing along to tunes while driving (in normal life, not during races). He is also an ambassador for the headphones brand Beats by Dre.

Daniel Ricciardo on the drums for Gang of Youths.Source: Instagram

The West Australian also isn’t afraid to try his hand at strumming a few tunes on the acoustic guitar.

As for the rest of the Hottest 100, The Wiggles took out top spot for their cover of Tame Impala’s song Elepant.

Olivia Rodrigo, Lizzo and Cardi B also featured alongside some Triple J favourites including Gang of Youths, Tame Impala and ARIA winner Genesis Owusu.

Hopefully Ricciardo can take the momentum from featuring in the Hottest 100 to help him finish higher on another list of sorts — the F1 grid in the 2022 season.

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Australian F1 Grand Prix organisers won’t allow Covid vaccine exemptions, Albert Park circuit Melbourne, vaccine rules for F1 drivers

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Organisers of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix have confirmed there will be a “zero tolerance” approach on vaccine exemptions, making it mandatory for all participants to be vaccinated.

Australian F1 Grand Prix chief executive Andrew Westacott said the conditions for the event were clear — all drivers, pit crew, staff and spectators have to be fully vaccinated to be involved in the race.

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“The rules are simple to get into the country and the rules are simple to operate in Formula One,” he said.

“To come into the event you’ll be 100 per cent vaccinated and there won’t be an exemption sought for anyone from anyone.”

The Grand Prix’s hard line policy means there will be no repeat of the Novak Djokovic exemption saga that overshadowed the lead-up to the Australian Open.

“Our arrangements have been in place well before the recent goings-on at the Australian Open,” Westacott said.

“These rules are understood by Formula One, they’re understood by the FIA, they’re going to be written into the sporting regulations and I’m very confident that (it) is just going to be a rite of passage to come into the country.

“There’s zero tolerance. Whether you’re Lewis Hamilton or Valentino Rossi in MotoGP, if you test positive, you don’t race that weekend.”

Every F1 driver including Daniel Ricciardo will be fully vaccinated for the Australian Grand Prix. (Photo by Antonin Vincent / POOL / AFP)Source: AFP

The entire F1 grid is believed to be fully vaccinated, and several leading drivers including Daniel Ricciardo have voiced their support for vaccines.

On top of the drivers, fans and all staff in the paddock will have to be vaccinated to attend the Grand Prix in Melbourne on April 10.

Aussie motorsport fans have been starved of a local F1 race. This year’s edition will be the first Australian Grand Prix since 2019 after the 2020 and 2021 races were cancelled due to the pandemic.

But the organisers have declared it will be a case of third time lucky and there is no chance of it being cancelled this year.

“I’ll go on record and say zero chance of cancellation,” Westacott said.

The Albert Park circuit in Melbourne has undergone a revamp, with the track resurfaced for the first time in 25 years.

The freshen-up is expected to cut lap times by five seconds, while the widening of several turns is expected to create more overtaking opportunities.

“The widening of five other turns, particularly the increase of speed at Turn 6 where they’re going to go from about 90 km/h to 150 km/h, that really does set it up for speeds in excess of 330 k /h around Lakeside (Drive), pulling four and a half Gs,” Westacott said.

The Australian Grand Prix is the third race of the F1 season and will run from April 8-10.

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McLaren boss Zak Brown ‘wouldn’t be shocked’ if Lewis Hamilton quits before 2022 season

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McLaren CEO Zak Brown says he “wouldn’t be shocked” if Lewis Hamilton chose to quit Formula One before the start of the 2022 season.

The seven-time world champion has kept his cards close to his chest since he missed out on last year’s title to Max Verstappen, who overtook him on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in controversial circumstances.

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Speculation has been rife about Hamilton’s future after he was beaten to the world championship for the first time since 2016.

The 36-year-old and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff snubbed the end-of-season F1 gala, even though they were required to attend.

Hamilton, who is contracted with Mercedes to the end of 2023, is yet to publicly confirm whether he will race on this year, but Wolff is hopeful his charge will return to the grid.

Brown, who is the boss of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton called it quits and walked away from F1.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if he stopped, so I don’t think anyone should take for granted he’s coming back,” he said.

“My personal opinion is he’s going to (continue racing), but I don’t think we should discount or not recognise his frustration and his anger.

Lewis Hamilton’s F1 future is up in the air. (Photo by Kamran Jebreili – Pool/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“Maybe he hasn’t made a decision and maybe what he’s doing is taking time to make that decision to make sure, because once that decision is made, that decision is made.

“So, I don’t think we should rule it out or make light of it. I just personally think he still has a burning desire to race and that will ultimately drive his decision.”

Ultimately Brown believes Hamilton will continue to race in F1, driven by the desire to win a record-breaking eighth world championship.

“I think he’ll be back,” he said.

“He’s a racing driver. I think he’s at the top of his game.

“I’m sure he’s very angry, but I think race car drivers want to race and I think he’s a fighter, and he’ll want to come back and try to win an eighth championship.

“I don’t think he’s ready to retire; this is my own personal opinion, I’ve not talked to him, because once you hang it up, you hang it up.

“I guess you could come back as some have done, but I don’t think he’s ready to hang it up and I don’t think he’s going to let an incident put him into retirement.”

Hamilton lost the 2021 world championship to Max Verstappen in controversial circumstances. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)Source: AFP

Brown’s comments come after former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone predicted Hamilton will retire before the 2022 season, which begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.

The Brit reportedly also reportedly ignored messages from newly-elected FIA president Mahamaaed Ben Sulayem as time ticks on towards the start of the 2022 season.

Hamilton is expected to attend the virtual launch of Mercedes’ 2022 car on February 18.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the dramatic season finale in Abu Dhabi has continued.

The FIA, F1’s governing body, will reveal the results of their investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on March 18, just two days before the season gets underway in Bahrain.

There have been calls for the FIA to sack Australian race director Michael Masi, after he came under fire for his use of the safety car in the dying stages of the race.

Many F1 fans criticised Masi for his decision to move only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to set up a final lap shootout between the two rivals.

Verstappen, on fresh tyres, overtook Hamilton to win the world title.

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