Now that the dust has fully settled on last year’s incident-rich Formula One World Championship, it’s fair to say that we have witnessed dirty driving of the kind rarely seen before by Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton as ‘they were vying for the title of world champion.
The season that decided the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix final has been the whole season condensed, in a nutshell, namely dubious overtaking and appallingly officiating as race director Michael Masi and his men have turned into something So what should have been the F1 race of the century into the farce of the century for well-explained reasons.
There were three types of reactions following that momentous night at Yas Marina: Max fans were delighted, and rightly so, for the Red Bull ace more than deserved the title; Hamilton fans were furious and felt robbed as we neutrals watched in bewilderment.
What is clear, neither of these two great drivers deserved “this” final and, of course, neither did F1 fans.
Among those appalled by what he witnessed that night was former F1 driver Stefan Johansson who fears for what lies ahead as the rules of engagement bar is now a notch or two higher. low, or one might ask: are there any?
As pioneers of the dark arts of racing – Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher – have now been usurped by Max, as well as Lewis, albeit to a much lesser extent, with their dose of questionable tactics.
The development of this worries Johansson, he wrote on his personal blog: “The problem we now have on the right track is that Max has taken the Senna playbook and the Schumacher playbook to a whole new level.
“In general, I think there is a good code of conduct between the pilots. Most of the current new generation riders run very clean but hard, there have been some great battles this year but they are not at the forefront and so it goes unnoticed for the most part.
“Nobody cares about the guys in fifth or sixth place,” lamented the Swede.
Johansson: I don’t have much optimism for the changes of officials
It was clear that Masi was overwhelmed not only by the scale of the feud between Red Bull and Mercedes, as well as their drivers who were too often collision magnets last season.
In the Brazilian Grand Prix, Verstappen went far beyond the boundaries of fairness with his Hamilton charge defense which ended in a stunning victory out of nowhere at first, but not before driver Red Bull did all he could, and more, to prevent the Mercedes overtaking him.
Uncontrolled and unpunished crimes have simply lowered the bar of decency, which Johansson says does not bode well for the sport: “I don’t have much optimism for the changes in officials.
“Every year, decisions about standards of conduct and their application get worse, more and more muddy with more and more gray areas. If Max can get away with what he’s been doing in some cases this year, then as Leclerc said: okay, great. If this is how we are going to run, then this is how we are to run.
Failure to help the cause of decent standards of conduct are avenues that do not punish mistakes, in fact, in some cases, may even provide an advantage. The runoff areas that never end are used for ill-gotten gains when a wall or a grassy edge would put an end to all shenanigans from the standpoint of driver survival alone.
Plus there’s a silly feeling of invulnerability brought on by the “no consequences if I brake too hard” type of tracks, which of course is misleading as evidenced by those big crashes at Silverstone and Monza.
The Montreal Champions Wall comes to mind!
Johansson believes the track design and ‘safety’ encourages drivers to go beyond the call of duty, to delve into the dark arts like Verstappen and Hamilton did on several occasions last season: ” Many of these incidents would be automatically avoided if they changed the runway design and got rid of the huge areas of runoff, which we currently have on almost every runway.
“This track disinfection resulted in more problems than they were trying to solve in the first place. It’s ironic that we didn’t seem to have nearly the number of incidents in Monaco for example, where the limit of the lane is essentially the guardrail.
“If the drivers know where the limit is, they will obviously stay within that limit, because if you pass you will end up in the guardrail and your day will end. But when you have a runoff area the size of two football fields, and no clear rule of what is and isn’t allowed, it becomes a complete joke.
“Apparently it’s okay for anyone to go over the limit of the track at the start, for example, in the same way it seems okay not to even try to turn until you’re actually on the white line or even beyond when you are fighting for position.
“Then it’s up to the race management guys to decide what’s right and wrong. It is a horribly flawed system and there must be some way to avoid it in the future. “
Johansson: The way the tracks are currently designed is an open invitation to trouble
As for solutions to the problem, Johansson suggested, “Anything but the asphalt that is currently in use would be better in my opinion, whether it is grass, gravel, or anything that slows the car down enough to force the driver to pull away. lift back onto the track, or risk damaging the car and it will not be able to continue.
“80% of all incidents in which race control must be involved at this time would be automatically avoided. Pilots will always go to the limit of what’s possible, and the way the tracks are currently designed is an open invitation to trouble.
“None of the drivers have a clear understanding of the rules, let alone the people in charge of the race, it seems. It’s frustrating and boring for everyone involved and could be fixed very easily.
“It’s interesting that we seem to have similar complaints from the folks in MotoGP now, where the large clearance areas haven’t done anything to address the safety issues or it just made it worse.
“I think it is time to drastically rethink the design of the tracks in general and in particular the clearance zones which are currently being implemented”, added Johansson who took the start of 79 Grands Prix, scoring twelve podiums but none. Victoire. He drove for Shadow, Spirit, Tyrrell, Toleman, Ferrari, McLaren, Ligier, Onyx, AGS and Footwork.