Formula 1

Mika Häkkinen: “We will be talking about this for a long time”

December 14, 2021January 6th, 2022

FOR the longest season in Formula One history it was incredible to see the World Championship decided on the last lap of the last race.  I could not believe what happened on Sunday and I know that’s how the fans feel about it too.  We will be talking about this for a long time!

After Lewis made such a fantastic start from P2 on the grid and  took control of the race I really thought we were going to see a predictable victory and an 8th title.  Never mind that Max tried that big move on the first lap, a move that would have resulted in an accident except that Lewis had the option of using the run-off.

As I have said before, you should overtake using speed, skill and precision, not by driving your rival off the track.

When the Safety Car session caused by Nicolas Latifi’s accident came to an end, giving the two championship rivals one lap to decide the World Championship, it was clear that Max had a significant advantage.  On fresh, soft compound tyres he had so much more grip available than Lewis on his heavily used hards.

The overtake was inevitable, even though Lewis defended as best he could.  Max did what he needed to do, winning the race and claiming the championship.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton both looked totally shocked, though their words after the race were great to hear.  Perfect ambassadors for the sport.

Was Race Director Michael Masi right to speed up the end of the Safety Car period, letting the cars between Max and Lewis unlap themselves and setting up a race over one lap?

I think it would have been much worse if this World Championship had finished behind a Safety Car.  That really would have been such an anticlimax.

The Race Director’s decision, later supported by the four Stewards, is based on his understanding of the rules including his responsibility for deciding when the Safety Car returns to the pits.  Balancing decisions between ensuring safety and promoting racing is the toughest job facing the Race Director.

Looking at the result, in terms of safety and promoting racing, Michael did his job.  If Mercedes decides to protest the result of the race, and the World Championship for Drivers, the decisions which were made and the way the rules were applied will be examined in detail.  I don’t believe the results will change.

Max and Lewis are both Champion drivers.  Lewis has seven titles to show for it and Max now has one.

I think Red Bull Honda did a really fantastic job to take the fight to Mercedes this year and Max’s World Championship is deserved.  Lewis missed out on an extraordinary 8th title by the smallest of margins.  I think the fact that he and Valtteri Bottas won the Constructors Championship provides some balance.  The largest slice of the prize money will also help.

This was the closest possible fight, a season which seemed to be going Red Bull’s way until Lewis began his push towards the end of the season.  His victories in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia showed why he is such a star.  I believe he really lifted the team.

Three other performances on Sunday deserve my comments;

I thought Carlos Sainz Jr’s podium for Ferrari was a really great performance.  To finish the season ahead of team mate Charles Leclerc shows just how strong, talented and committed Carlos is.  Let’s hope that under the new regulations Ferrari give them both a quicker car capable of winning races.

Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez did the perfect job to support Max Verstappen in the race, staying out of the pits long enough to delay Lewis by around 7 seconds and come back at him with a fantastic overtaking manoeuvre to repass the World Champion.  I love seeing that commitment, wheel to wheel racing, and it again showed why Checo was such a great choice to partner Max.

My former team McLaren finished the season 4th in the World Championship, a really brilliant turnaround in performance over the last four years.  They really impressed me this year, Daniel Ricciardo’s win in Monza a real highlight and Lando Norris being one of the stars of the season.  The future is very bright for them, and think it is equally bright for Formula One.