Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing
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Formula 1 icon Alain Prost has claimed Lewis Hamilton “could be finished” with his career after his disappointment in Abu Dhabi last season. Hamilton was comfortably on course to win his record eighth title until Nicholas Latifi’s crash brought out the safety car. This enabled Max Verstappen in the Red Bull to pit for softer tyres and pass Hamilton on the last lap to snatch the world championship.
Controversy surrounded race director Michael Masi’s decision to allow some lapped cars to overtake the safety car before the final lap, giving Verstappen a clear run on Hamilton.
Before the decision was made, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was probing Masi to get the cars out of the way.
Then, on the final lap, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was exclaiming “no Michael! This is so not right!” as Verstappen held off Hamilton.
Lord Peter Hain, a Labour peer and Vice-Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Formula 1, told Express.co.uk that there must not be “preferential communications” between the FIA and the teams.
He said: “There has to be integrity all around. There can’t be preferential communications with certain teams rather than others. I think that’s the important thing.
“There must be no repeat of this.”
After the exploits of Horner and Wolff in Abu Dhabi, some have suggested the line of communication between the FIA and the teams should be cut off.
Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of motorsports, criticised team principals for trying to exert pressure on Masi and wants that line of communication blocked for 2022.
As quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, he said last month: “We will stop this contact next year.
“It’s unacceptable that team bosses put Michael under such pressure during the race. It’s like the coaches negotiating with the referee in football.
“Toto can’t demand there shouldn’t be a Safety Car and Christian can’t demand the cars have to un-lap. That’s at the discretion of the race director.”
Lord Hain has also expressed anger at how Masi handled the race.
He added: “As a lifelong Formula 1 fan, I thought it was a perverted outcome.
“The finish was effectively rigged by the stewards in order to produce a dramatic finale for the theatre rather than a racing outcome.
“I think it has left a sour taste unless you are a die hard Verstappen fan, but even many of them have admitted that it has left an unpleasant taste in their mouth.
“Ok, the rules are very complex for the average fan, but at least there is a consistency there. This was clearly contrived and manufactured to allow that kind of finish.
“I thought Lewis behaved with enormous dignity afterwards, going to the Red Bull pits to congratulate them, but he must feel absolutely gutted and that the rules are rigged against him.”
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The FIA released a statement following the race, and added that a “detailed analysis and clarification exercise for the future with all relevant parties will now take place”.
But Lord Hain isn’t alone, as some drivers also questioned how the end of the race was handled.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz finished the race in third, but felt the restart could have cost him his podium position.
He said during the race: “I think it would be unfair to restart this race. We should stay behind the safety car.”
After his race engineer acknowledged his message, Sainz added: “It gives a massive advantage to some people.”
The 27-year-old clarified his comments further after the race, saying: “It was certainly a very strange situation for me.
“I was obviously battling with Valtteri [Bottas] and the Alpha Tauris behind with medium tyres while I was on very used hard tyres.
“At the beginning, I was told they would not be allowed to un-lap themselves, the group in front of me, then it was decided to un-lap themselves and some people un-lapped themselves but there was still, I think, an Aston Martin and a McLaren, Ricciardo, between the two leaders and myself.
“I’ve never had it before, having to restart the race with these two guys in front of me while fighting for a P3.
“I believe it was a strange one and something to look at because it was just very strange to see and it nearly cost me a podium, to be honest.”
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