It was billed as Formula One’s greatest climax. F1 was able to give the world exactly what they wanted. However, F1 seemed to be ignoring the notion of fairness and sporting justice, as well as a level playing surface. The sport did its own wheel spin with the rules and determined the winner based on the promise of drama and spectacle. We loved watching it.

It will stream on Netflix in the future, no doubt. Right now, however, sober reflection on how Max Verstappen came to be 2021’s champion driver is leaving more than a few observers feeling nonplussed, not to mention a little queasy.

F1 will gain new fans by showcasing a man-made finish, which is difficult to understand outside of the four walls that govern race control and that appears to be fair to all? 

Max Verstappen (right) won the championship after passing Lewis Hamilton on the final lap

Max Verstappen (right), won the championship, passing Lewis Hamilton during the final lap

Hamilton looked certain to win the title before a late-race safety car bunched the pack up

Hamilton appeared certain to win, but a safety car in the last race threw the bunch together.

Mercedes felt rules weren't applied regarding lapped cars being allowed to unlap themselves

Mercedes believed that lapped cars were allowed to unlap without rules

Is this the first Drive To Survive title? Was it based on what the audience believes is the best. Michael Masi’s official title is race director, but isn’t he taking the second part of that role too much to heart?

Here was orchestrated action, strings pulled, plot-line and drama almost scripted from the director’s chair, a hasty late rewrite. Whatever the teams and their drivers signed up for this season, it surely wasn’t The Truman Show.

Red Bull seemed happy last Sunday, but would have been furious if that happened.

Paul Harris, of Monckton Chambers, was standing on the Paddock Club’s balcony at Abu Dhabi Circuit turn 1. If Formula One was just about having the fastest car, Mercedes wouldn’t have felt the need to engage the Barrister of the Year for 2021, as awarded by the Litigation Tracker team of The Lawyer. 

Max Verstappen celebrates after Mercedes had two different protests rejected by the FIA

Max Verstappen celebrating after Mercedes’ two protests were rejected by the FIA

Harris represented Manchester City at the Court of Arbitration for Sport against UEFA. That was an unusual away victory for a City fan, such as Harris. This must have been like losing to a 90th minute offside win at Old Trafford. It happened while the referee was still unconscious from being knocked down while tieing his boot laces and looking in the wrong direction. After giving the goal, he wakes up.

It is not important to consider whether Verstappen earned his year-end prize. You don’t need to think about whether Verstappen is a good champion for motor racing, or whether it was good for Lewis Hamilton to be beaten. Forget even that anyone who loves sport thinks finals and titles should be decided in the arena in the most dramatic way possible — and this was.

It still doesn’t make it right. Masi might have decided that instead of trying to deliver the perfect season, he would rather it be decided by a court or arbitrator. 

Hamilton reacted sportingly after the race despite his gutting defeat in Abu Dhabi

Hamilton, who was beaten in Abu Dhabi by Hamilton at the start of the race, displayed a sporty attitude.

What happened prior to the final lap in Abu Dhabi on Sunday will be picked over, the way F1 fanatics still discuss the rights and wrongs of the Senna-Prost era, or of Michael Schumacher’s dirtiest tricks. It may first be discussed by silks or independent arbitrators.

Not that sharp practice gave Verstappen the drivers’ championship against all odds. This was achieved in just one season, with one special lap. How he came to be level with Hamilton for that lap, however, is the issue that will concern Mercedes’ legal team and maybe that of the FIA over the coming days. The watching world may have revelled in the spectacle of a single lap shoot-out for the drivers’ championship, but the way that was set up was as unfathomable as it was seemingly unfair.

Mercedes lodged immediately two protests. This was surprising considering Mercedes had already submitted the trophy to appeals and also sent out celebratory fireworks in the night sky.

It was also suggested that all other options remain open, although wise minds feel Mercedes is smart to not antagonise further the FIA.

Decisions taken, decisions reversed and instructions given or modified. You’ll find the baffling specifics elsewhere

A quick recap is that Hamilton finished 12 seconds ahead of Williams on lap 52, while Nicholas Latifi, Williams, crashed his car at Turn 14 just one lap later. The race was then stopped by a safety car during which Verstappen tried out new fast and soft tyres. With one lap remaining, it resumed and Hamilton was ahead. Verstappen pitted for new fast soft tyres.


Michael Masi, an Australian has served as F1’s race director since 2019. He is also F1 safety delegate, permanent starter, head of F1’s technical department and is responsible for the safe running and operation of every grand prix.

What is the longest time he has been a race director?

After Charlie Whiting’s sudden death, Masi was promoted.

Are there any scandalous activities he has been involved with?

It was he who caused the Belgian Grand Prix to be abandoned in 2021. He tried to start the race, and used his powers of suspension to slow down the race clock. However it was abandoned only after few laps.

Race director Michael Masi has faced criticism for his safety car call on Sunday

Michael Masi, race director of the Race Director has been criticized for Sunday’s safety car call

Hamilton had to go through those cars in real time, Verstappen didn’t. He even admitted that, had the race played out without Latifi’s misjudgment, there is no way he would have caught Hamilton. It became the finale F1 wanted, except Hamilton’s tyres were older and slower and he was at a huge disadvantage.

Meaning Verstappen won — the race and the championship. Crazy, yes. Exciting, yes. Dramatic, yes. How should a sporting competition be resolved? Undoubtedly. But fair? Correct? Logical? Reasonable? It is mighty hard to argue that case, even if the Barrister of the Year wasn’t staring daggers at you across the room.

It was a stolen title — by the stewards, by the race director, by the need for drama. And that’s not Red Bull’s fault. Verstappen and Red Bull did nothing wrong. He just wasn’t the best driver on the day. This was about winning the race. It was fair.

In defence of Verstappen, he’s had a brilliant season. Prior to the race a lot of his contemporaries — and not just those with an axe to grind against Hamilton — said he was the driver of the year. He’s been the man most likely to challenge Hamilton’s domination for some years. He’s brave, he’s bold, a little reckless on occasion, and young. It’s an exciting package.

Hamilton deserved to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would have handed him the title

Hamilton should have won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This would have given him the title

Masi had given Verstappen the edge, but Verstappen still needed to pass on his final lap. He wasn’t overtaking Ernie the milkman, either. The seven-time champion of the world, Ernie the milkman was not overtaking him either.

Verstappen was determined to beat Hamilton. He is the first driver since 2008 to win the title in a lesser vehicle because Mercedes claimed the constructors’ championship. In 2008, that was Hamilton’s first title. Verstappen had just turned 11 years of age at the time.

It can also be argued Red Bull’s strategy was a huge factor. Hamilton was questioning Mercedes for keeping Hamilton out of hard tyres before his misfortune caused that to be a mistake.

A different strategy would have made the single-lap shootout more competitive. Verstappen may not have been the best judge by making it so straightforward. 

Verstappen had a brilliant season and still had to make that last lap pass despite his good luck

Verstappen was a star in the season but had to finish that lap pass regardless of his great luck

‘It’s a motor race, we went motor racing,’ Masi snapped at Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff when he first protested about the final lap. And that’s a valid observation.

It would have ended a fantastic season with a parade of cars behind safety cars that led to the chequered flag. But it would have had the desired result.

Hamilton deserved to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and, if doing so made him drivers’ champion, that was how it should be.

Masi was able to see the benefits. World-wide, the eyes of Formula 1 were riveted to watch a spectacular race and an amazing piece of high-octane theater. After so many years when F1 was decried as dull and predictable, this was his sport’s great chance, truly its drive to survive. Masi decided instead to provide that.

And we get it. We understand that it would make football more interesting if the referee gave two goals to one team and sent a player to the sidelines to announce the next goal. We’d all be glued to that finale. Doesn’t make it fair, though. Doesn’t make it sporting. Doesn’t make it right.

Formula One crossed over the boundary between reality television and competition in Abu Dhabi.


Nicholas Latifi (26 years old) is a Canadian citizen of Iran-Italian heritage. He currently drives for Williams.

Was he successful?

Red Bull was presented with an opportunity to win the title by accident. As team principal Christian Horner put it: ‘He’ll be getting a lifetime supply of Red Bull.’

After his spectacular accident, the safety car was brought in just as Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) was about to claim a record eight title. Incidentally, Latifi’s car has a Mercedes engine.

Is he a former driver?

In 2020, he made his F1 debut at Austria and hasn’t looked back. However, he finished second in Formula Two in 2019.

Does he have a tendency to crash?

The driver spun out of control during the qualifying session for the Dutch Grand Prix. It caused an emergency stoppage and a delay that was significant.

The safety car had been brought out after Nicholas Latifi's late-race crash in Abu Dhabi

Following Nicholas Latifi’s Abu Dhabi late-race accident, the safety vehicle was created.