Now we are beyond christmas and new year, at the mid-point in January – We are seeing Formula One drivers slowly pop up from their winter breaks. Indeeed, we have seen Lewis Hamiltons new team mate, George Russell doing some work in his new Mercedes Petronas AMG F1 uniform.
But the conversation has turned to Lewis Hamilton. Everyone has an opinion on what he’s thinking, demands he is making and what he will or won’t do. With the likes of Johnny Herbert declaring that Lewis will not want to be in Formula 1 while Michael Masi remains involved. It’s my suspicion that Mr Herbert has spoken to Lewis on this subject exactly as much as I have. In case I need to be clear, I don’t think he has at all.
But these are the sound bites that people love to hear these days. I suppose this is as much an observation on modern society as it is of Formula 1. People must have an opinion. One must choose a side. You can’t have a balanced middle ground and I think that’s a shame.
The Curious Case of Social media
I have also made an observation over the past weeks. People are judging Lewis Hamilton for NOT engaging in social media. I honestly and truly belive it is a healthy thing more of us should partake in. That’s just for us normal people. Can you imagine the abuse he would be getting and has gotten over the internet in the past month. You’ve all seen it.
I kind of like it. Maybe the guy knows its danger and just decided to go and do his training and stay out of the public eye. Last I heard he was in Big Bear, CA doing his high altitude training. I can’t really verify the source but this is a place we have seen him in years gone and also doesn’t sound like someone about to retire.
But just take a moment – If you are one of the people criticising him for not sharing his life on social media, I have one question; Why?
For what it’s worth the decision making in the 2021 season was inconsistent, to put it mildly. That’s a Formula 1 problem, Not a Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen problem. I want to also say I’m a Fernando Alonso fan. Indeed, as I write this I have a modest collection of Kimoa Caps, replica helmet and a few models of his cars. Nothing of Hamilton nor Max.
But let’s speak about THAT lap. THAT race. As a Formula One fan of 30+ years, I held my head in my hands as Masi said they were re-starting the race (If you’re a max fan, stick with me.). I want to cover some things here.
Hamilton Could have Pitted
This is simply untrue. At the point where Max pitted for the final time, he had nothing at all to lose so “why not” put on some fresher soft tyres. It wasn’t a genius call, it was a logical one.
“But Hamilton could have too!” I hear you already typing in the comments section. Also, completely untrue. I would bet my house and life savings that if Hamilton had pitted, Max would not have. This meant that Max would be in the lead of the race. Hamilton would then be behind the backmarkers that would later be allowed to pass.
A fairly critical detail here is Masi said that lapped cars would not be able to pass. This in itself giving Hamilton the required gap to go on to victory should the race restart. He then changed his mind, allowed the 5 lapped cars between them to pass and it was race on. From this point Hamilton had no defence on really old hard tyres Vs new soft tyres.
So in this instance both Mercedes and Red Bull made exactly the call they should have.
Horner and Toto pestering Masi
I have to say, whether you are a Max or a Lewis fan, both of their bosses were as bad as each other. It wasn’t and isn’t a good look for an elite sport to have two of the most important bosses of teams literally whining like kids complaining to the teacher. Their constant game of he-said she-said became bothersome to me as a Formula One fan. I’m glad we won’t hear it and in truth, I don’t think teams should be allowed to use that communication channel in that manner.
I’m a fan of Formula One
This is my take on the whole situation – before drivers or teams, I am a fan of Formula One first and foremost. Teams, drivers, staff, tracks…..they all come and go. Two of my racing heros have long since departed the sport in the form of Mansell and Schumacher. Soon enough Fernando will also be gone for good.
So we have to look at last season and what happened and what it did or didn’t do for the sport. I consider myself somewhat of a purist, I guess. I do feel the final lap was maipulated. Not for Lewis to lose, but for a more modern, casual audience that thrives on soundbites and TikTok sized video clips to satisfy their endless need for controversy. Indeed, If you have made it this far in my writing, you will be one of but a handful, thank you.
But for me the real escence of Formula One will be the best drivers in the best machinery on the best tracks genuinely going for it. What we got that final lap in Abu Dhabi was actually a manufactured, limp, hiccup of an attempt to appease the previously mentioned new breed of fan. It was clumsy and poorly executed. It didn’t need to happen.
I suppose at 36 I’m in a much older demographic of viewer now. But I didn’t like the situation.
I will end this piece with this;
If you are a Max (or fan of any other driver but lewis) would you have been comfortable with what came to pass that final lap if it was your driver in the lead as the safety car pulled in?