The rules were “rigged” against Sir Lewis Hamilton at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as he was beaten to the title by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, a Labour peer has claimed.
Mercedes felt aggrieved when they believed Verstappen appeared to push the seven-time champion off the circuit on the opening lap, before chaos ensued at the end of the race.
Williams’ Nicholas Latifi collided with the barrier, forcing the Safety Car to come out.
There were five lapped cars between the leaders – Hamilton and Verstappen – and race director Michael Masi initially ruled that no lapped cars would be allowed by. However, halfway through the penultimate lap, the Australian decided to allow only the five cars between the title protagonists to un-lap themselves.
The Dutchman, on fresh tyres, was therefore able to dive past the Briton on the final lap and claim his maiden F1 title.
Lord Peter Hain, a “lifelong Formula 1 fan”, has labelled the end of the race “perverted”.
“As a lifelong Formula 1 fan, I thought it was a perverted outcome. The finish was effectively rigged by the stewards in order to produce to a dramatic finale for the theatre rather than a racing outcome,” Lord Hain said.
The 71-year-old believes that even ardent Verstappen fans must see the polemic nature of how the finale played out.
“I think it has left a sour taste unless you are a die hard Verstappen fan, but even many of them have admitted that it has left an unpleasant taste in their mouth. Ok, the rules are very complex for the average fan, but at least there is a consistency there. This was clearly contrived and manufactured to allow that kind of finish.”
Hain then went on to praise Hamilton’s manner immediately following the race.
“I thought Lewis behaved with enormous dignity afterwards, going to the Red Bull pits to congratulate them, but he must feel absolutely gutted and that the rules are rigged against him.”
The FIA has confirmed that they will investigate the end of the race in Abu Dhabi, releasing a statement saying:
“This matter will be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers to draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media, and fans about the current regulations to preserve the competitive nature of our sport while ensuring the safety of the drivers and officials.”
F1’s governing body went on to suggest that this analysis will have a legacy on other championships as well.
“It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis, but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships.”
Though Hamilton was denied his eighth title in 2021, his Mercedes team did manage to seal their record-eighth straight constructors’ title.