~ by Chris #16 Demaras ~
Casual fans and media outlets have described the 2021 Formula 1 season as an “instant classic”. Sounds like an action movie; the G.O.A.T., the reigning champion, challenged by the young lion. The protagonists entered the final race tied on points. You can’t write stuff like this!
But poor Nicholas Latifi, Canada’s greatest contribution for Formula 1 since Lance Stroll, crashed out with a few laps to go. If the race director had just thrown the red flag, the viewing public would have been treated to something special. The racers would have stopped in the pitlane for fresh tires, while the track was swept of any debris, and a standing-start, 5-lap sprint to decide the outcome of the Championship would unfold on live TV.
Instead, a ‘miracle’ was crafted by circumstance. Hamilton could not pit from the lead for fresh tires, due to the possibility of the race finishing under yellow. Verstappen was able to pit, contra to Hamilton, then regain all the lost time when the field bunched up behind the safety car. Hamilton was heard shouting over the radio that the race had been ‘manipulated’. Maybe this was payback by the racing gods for Brazil 2008.
Formula 1 wanted a highlight reel moment to decide the championship. Many expected a Senna vs Prost collision like 1990, but instead, Hamilton took the lead at Turn 1 and dominated the race. That wasn’t going to cut it in the age of Netflix! The race director’s decision to allow the five lapped cars between Hamilton (on old hard tires) and Verstappen (on new soft tires) to be released and immediately restarting provided the drama. A 22 race season all culminating in a final lap battle…no matter how fair a fight it turned out to be. Verstappen surely wishes he could have been allowed to prove his worth on track. Instead, his championship title has an asterisk next to it.