Here’s what’s great about Formula 1 this season. It’s not just Drive To Survive. It’s Drive To Survive and Succession. And a little Squid Game for good measure.
Drive to survive? This part is obvious. Have you seen the trail in Jeddah? The estate is where negotiations come into play; the offers, the double game; the supposed hand of friendship or sportsmanship which is not really.
What about the squid game? Well, in the first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix we had a number of different races in one big race, a few drivers got knocked out each time and then we left.
Lewis Hamilton (front) won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix thriller on Sunday at the expense of Max Verstappen (behind)
Jeddah competition marred by collision between the two Formula 1 title chasers
At the end of which, Lewis Hamilton won. Sort of. I’m not sure where. Part training, part negotiation, part man’s powerful gladiatorial nature.
It was his 103rd Grand Prix victory, after taking 103 pole positions. There really was no one like him. He leaves the most delicate drivers’ championship in F1 history.
Even Netflix doesn’t have an equivalent of this contest yet. Indeed, who has? Remember when car racing was called the most boring sport in the world? Now he sells streaming numbers like football sells satellite dishes.
And for good reason. Level of points, a race to go. The winner takes it all in Abu Dhabi. First against second, fifth against six, the order of the two pilots is all that matters and whoever leads wins. And if neither Hamilton nor Max Verstappen finish in the top 10, then it comes down to the Dutchman with race wins in 2021.
Hamilton (right) and Verstappen (left) are now tied for Abu Dhabi’s final race next week
This, of course, raises the prospect of Toto Wolff’s doomsday scenario. Last month he predicted that if a driver could win the title in the final race simply by knocking out his rival – as Ayrton Senna did Alain Prost in 1990 – he would attempt that. The protagonists reacted with horror to the thought, but now? Of course, it is possible.
Hamilton and Verstappen have been dancing closer and closer all season long, and yesterday’s was arguably the dirtiest dance of all. From there, the sorry-not-sorry ultimate collision is a distinct possibility. Nothing can be excluded.
Whoever wins, whoever loses, no driver goes quietly, and Hamilton has recognized the danger this poses. “For him it doesn’t matter if we both don’t finish, but for me we both have to finish,” he said.
The intensity of their rivalry is perhaps the biggest twist of all. When an athlete has dominated for as long as Lewis Hamilton, sporting instincts have traditionally favored the underdog, Verstappen.
The two Formula 1 rivals have shared an intense battle during this brilliant campaign
Yet this season, with Verstappen having won more races, with Mercedes seen as having the inferior car until a series of engine changes, and with Hamilton at one point on the sidelines, it is rather the seven-time champion who has the aura of an outsider.
Of course, a new name on the trophy would be good for the sport. However, it would be the same for an eighth record title for a truly iconic driver. Hamilton won in Saudi Arabia with a rainbow-colored helmet that presents a real challenge to the authority and repressive ideologies of that region, and with his track record there is still an exception in motorsport. .
Wolff said if he were to pick a distinction he would forgo the Constructors’ Championship to be part of Hamilton overtaking Michael Schumacher, which is why the gradual erosion of Verstappen’s lead a few months ago cannot be – not be greeted with the disappointment that would have been felt. in previous seasons.
Even Toto Wolff (left) was lively during Sunday’s thrilling inaugural race in Jeddah
Abu Dhabi, of course, is not a tour that lends itself to the craziness we witness here. It consisted of three standing starts, including the one Hamilton qualified for on pole, two crashes big enough to stop the race, five cars that didn’t finish and a charge by Verstappen that like a big game draw in the Champions League, it was finally decided. penalties.
Specifically, the one he received when told to let Hamilton pass after cutting a corner earlier to gain an unfair advantage. Instead of pulling away, Verstappen braked with Hamilton behind and was slightly stamped from behind. Have you ever upset the highway-lane freak? It was something like that.
Then he let Hamilton pass but in a tight corner where he was unlikely to maintain a lead, which Verstappen recovered as the pair were out.
A five second penalty occurred for the brake test, and eventually Hamilton passed because Verstappen’s tires were dying on him. It also didn’t have the tread for the fastest lap. That’s what got them tied with 369.5 points. Inseparable even to one decimal place.
Hamilton (right) eventually passed Verstappen (left) to tie them back with 369.5 points
Still, a quick capsule review of that race doesn’t really tell the half of it. Between the many dramas on the track, there was even more, including a surprisingly bizarre exchange between race director Michael Masi and the Red Bull team. It was the first restart when Verstappen was on pole but was beaten in the first lap by Hamilton. He regained the advantage with a cut turn at turn two before the race was again almost immediately red-flagged for a fall behind.
“I’m going to give you the opportunity to start from the second position on the grid given what happened at the second corner,” said Masi. Red Bull felt pushed back. “Can you give us a moment to talk about this?” We asked Masi.
“Two minutes,” he replied. “We would accept P2 based on Esteban Ocon’s pole position,” said Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley. “We would drop you behind Hamilton – that’s my offer,” Masi said.
“We will accept it,” Wheatley decided. “We understand that the order is Ocon, Hamilton, Verstappen. Mercedes also accepted the deal.
The race saw five drivers retire before it ended, including Mick Schumacher (above)
Sunday’s Grand Prix saw two red flags and three standing starts which saw even more drama
Yet what a way to run a sport; by commission. After 16 laps and two red flags, Verstappen was wrong or not and, if he was, it is surely for the clerk of the course or the stewards to decide on the sanction, not a basis for consultation with the team of Verstappen?
Likewise, while when the race was suspended Ocon was effectively behind Verstappen with Hamilton in third, the only reason Ocon was second was because of Verstappen’s maneuver.
So, by accepting Masi’s offer by Red Bull, Verstappen still found a way to demote Hamilton from first to second, even though he couldn’t take full advantage of it.
How can that be? Does the defender who deliberately fouls an opponent have the choice between a free kick and a red card or a penalty and a warning? Does the drummer decide whether he succeeded in winning, or does the boxer have the final say on his ability to continue. Who is in charge here?
The final reboot saw Esteban Ocon (right) start in front due to a battle involving the two rivals
So Succession and Drive To Survive and Squid Game and a little more Wacky Races. This circuit brought that out of all, teams and many drivers, even though Hamilton was by far the coolest. Ahead of the race, the two main team managers, Wolff and Christian Horner, were asked about their thoughts on the Jeddah circuit, away from the cameras.
“Dangerous,” Wolff concluded. Horner was no exception. “Damn dangerous,” he said. The intimation was that the drivers were saying the same thing. An extraordinarily fast track with blind corners, entering unexpected traffic, was the main complaint. Not that runners don’t like to run, just like fighters like to fight.
But some of F1’s rougher edges have been smoothed out recently. It must have been a shock to come up with a new track that was high speed, high octane, and high wire.
Combined with the adrenaline rush that would already be there given the championship race’s good balance, it’s no wonder elements have reached new levels of madness. With maybe more to come. Meeting next week.