Liverpool controversy reignites 2021 Abu Dhabi GP scandal

Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2021 F1 world championship under controversial circumstances in Abu Dhabi.

Liverpool’s Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday sent shockwaves of déjà vu reminiscent of the dramatic 2021 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

This race witnessed a gripping showdown between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, both tied in points for the championship title heading into the final round.

In that Formula 1 showdown, Hamilton had established a comfortable lead and appeared destined for the world championship when a crash further down the field prompted the safety car’s deployment, bunching up the pack. 

According to the rulebook, the race should have concluded under safety car conditions, preserving the running order and crowning Hamilton the victor. 

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However, a ‘human error’ during the subsequent investigation led to a one-lap restart, allowing Verstappen to overtake Hamilton on fresher tires and seize the title.

In an uncanny parallel, events at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday triggered a familiar phrase, this time from the PGMOL, the referees’ body. 

They stated, “The goal by Luiz Díaz [when the game was 0-0] was disallowed for offside by the on-field team of match officials. 

“This was a clear and obvious factual error and should have resulted in the goal being awarded through VAR intervention; however, the VAR failed to intervene.”

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The Abu Dhabi race controversy had led to the removal of Michael Masi, the FIA’s race director, from his position, yet Hamilton did not receive the win or championship he deserved. 

Fast forward two years, and it appears increasingly likely that Hamilton’s shot at clinching a record-breaking eighth championship has slipped away, with Red Bull’s dominance on the rise and Mercedes losing ground.

Liverpool, too, has seen little meaningful remedy in the aftermath of the controversial decision. 

PGMOL chief Howard Webb reportedly spoke to the club, likely extending an apology, while VAR Darren England and assistant Dan Cook were withdrawn from officiating duties for Premier League games on Sunday or Monday.

However, Liverpool cannot regain the point (or perhaps even the three) they believe they rightfully deserved. 

Instead of being one point ahead or behind reigning champion Manchester City, they remain two points adrift. 

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While this may not seem significant at this early stage of the season, Manchester City has previously clinched titles by a mere point twice in the past five years, raising the stakes significantly. 

Any dropped points, especially under circumstances beyond their control, feel particularly harsh.

Ultimately, the repercussions for those responsible may be relatively minor, but the damage to Liverpool’s season remains irrevocable.