Ex-Formula 1 driver David Coulthard has hailed seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton as “fantastic”, after being asked to give his opinion on how the British driver dealt with the controversy that followed the 2021 season finale.
The Mercedes driver, of course, lost the 2021 title on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after being overtaken by Max Verstappen following a brilliant lunge by the Dutchman.
That overtake, though, should never have happened; at least it wouldn’t have done had the sport’s rules and regulations been followed by former race director Michael Masi.
Hamilton had led virtually the entire race and was comfortably on-track to claim an unprecedented eighth World Championship, before a Safety Car was needed in the closing laps of the race.
A Safety Car was released after Nicholas Latifi crashed in the final sector, resulting in the entire field bunching up behind the 38-year-old.
Understandably, Masi was in a rush to get the race restarted before the final lap, which was rapidly approaching.
In order to get the race restarted with one lap remaining, it was first revealed that no lapped cars would be able to un-lap themselves, meaning that five drivers would remain between Hamilton and Verstappen, who was in second.
However, moments later it was revealed that only the five drivers between Hamilton and Verstappen would be allowed to un-lap themselves, something which resulted in Hamilton calling the race “manipulated”.
Masi then immediately ended the Safety Car to ensure that the last lap could take place under green flag conditions, meaning he broke two rules.
The first of which, was only letting five cars un-lap themselves, with the rule effectively stating that it’s either all or none.
The second rule that was broken by Masi, was that he instantly restarted the race after letting the five-lapped cars overtake Hamilton.
Had he followed the rules, then the Safety Car would’ve completed one more lap before coming into the pits; however, that additional lap would’ve been the final lap of the season.
If Masi had followed the rules then the race would’ve ended behind the Safety Car, which would’ve seen Hamilton win the race and the championship.
The race was investigated by the FIA during the winter break after the 2021 season had finished, with the verdict having been that Masi made a ‘human error’.
Given everything that happened during that night at the Yas Marina Circuit, Coulthard was seriously impressed by how Hamilton conducted himself; however, he believes Hamilton’s post-race approach would’ve been very different if he was younger.
“The way Lewis handled it was fantastic,” Coulthard told reporters at a recent Red Bull event in Dublin.
“Maybe when he was younger, it would have been more difficult to do that. But he’s in his late 30s, he’s done a few laps, and I think with age comes maturity.
“The benefit of youth is you don’t know, so you’re not scared of anything. As you get older, you obviously start to understand consequences and things like that. But that maturity I think enables you to deal with different situations.”
Whilst Coulthard praised Hamilton for the “maturity” he showed, he admitted that had it been him in Hamilton’s situation then he’d “still be complaining”.
“I would have kicked off,” he added.
“I would still be complaining to the European Court of Appeal!”