F1’s Max Verstappen decision ‘was for TV’, Lando Norris claims

Verstappen passed title rival Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the season to win the championship but Mercedes were left furious at how the race unfolded

Jamie Braidwood
Monday 13 December 2021 09:52
Max Verstappen prevails in F1 world title shoot-out after beating Lewis Hamilton

The controversial decision to turn Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix into a final-lap shootout between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton for the Formula One world title “was for TV”, Lando Norris has suggested.

Mercedes were left furious after five cars, including McLaren’s Norris, were allowed to unlap themselves under the late safety car, leaving Verstappen directly behind Hamilton having already pitted for a fresh set of soft tyres.

The Red Bull driver then executed the crucial move down the inside of Hamilton to win his first world championship, but Mercedes launched a protest of the result after not all the cars on the track were given the chance to pass the safety car.

Mercedes saw both protests - the other concerning an alleged move from Verstappen to position himself ahead of Hamilton under the safety car - dismissed by the race stewards, confirming Verstappen as Formula One’s latest champion, but the team have lodged a notice of intention to appeal.

Race director Michael Masi came under fire from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who branded his decision to let some but not all lapped cars through as “unacceptable”, and Norris also expressed his surprise at how the dramatic race at the Yas Marina Circuit was allowed to unfold.

“I didn’t actually know it was only like the first [five] cars up to Max,” Norris when reacting to the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“So it was obviously made to be a fight, it was for the TV of course, it was for the result. Whether or not it was fair is not up to to me to decide.

“Sometimes they let you go, sometimes they don’t. It’s just 50/50 half the time. But they said that they’re not gonna let us pass.

“So I’m guessing that was a message to say, they were just not going to let us pass at all. But then to suddenly do it just for the final lap, and for a one lap shootout, then I’m a bit surprised.”

Norris’ McLaren teammate Daniel Ricciardo admitted he was left “speechless” by Masi’s decision, while Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso, who were also allowed to pass the safety car, said the end to the race was “strange” and “confusing”.

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