Former Formula 1 driver Gabriele Tarquini reckons that Max Verstappen would have been crowned champion sooner than the season finale were Bernie Ecclestone still in charge of the sport.
Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton were involved in a number of contentious battles last year, most notably in Silverstone, Monza Brazil and Saudi Arabia as Mercedes and Red Bull engaged in persistent wars of attrition with race control.
The Dutchman was handed seven penalty points over the course of the year, and was also handed a grid penalty for the incident at the Italian Grand Prix that paved the way for Daniel Ricciardo’s eighth career victory.
The late Niki Lauda always philosophised that stewards should let the drivers go at it on track, and this is the environment Tarquini testifies drivers raced in years gone by.
“The stewards almost ruined everything,” he said in conversation with Championat.
“In the past, battles such as theirs were the norm. It never occurred to anyone to consider what happened as any violation.”
The Italian acknowledges that Hamilton was well worth his record eighth world championship, but also maintains that, under an Ecclestone stringency, Verstappen would not have had to wait until the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi to get the title wrapped up.
“Without a doubt, Lewis deserved his eighth title,” he added.
“But the dominance of Mercedes has dragged on for too long, so from this perspective, Max’s victory is more interesting for the sport.
“Yes, the fate of the title was decided on the last lap of the last race, but I am sure if Bernie Ecclestone had been there Max would have become champion much earlier.”
Interestingly though, he finds that the Dutchman would not be champion purely on the basis on what happened throughout the 23 races, but rather that the former supremo would have seen the necessity in changing the status quo in the sport.
“Why? Because eight consecutive constructors’ championships and six titles for Hamilton – well, this is too much,” he explained.
The title was settled after a controversial Safety Car restart by race director Michael Masi allowed Verstappen to pass Hamilton on the very last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December, and the Australian has since been removed from his position by new FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem.
He will be replaced by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, who are to receive support from Herbie Blash and a virtual control room.
Former F1 driver Marc Surer disagrees with the decision to replace the 44-year-old, but is glad to see the significant changes made to race control, particularly the return of former deputy race director Blash.
“I think it was an overreaction of the FIA to get rid of Masi, because overall over the whole season and over the last years he did not do a bad job,” he told Formula1News.co.uk.
“But the good thing is they re-organised the management and I am very, very happy that Herbie Blash is back.”
Freitas and Wittich have been put in place for this week’s first pre-season test in Barcelona.