Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Controversy15 Dec
Wow, wow, wow. What a spectacular finale to a spectacular F1 season! Who saw that coming?! Whether you’re a Lewis Hamilton or a Max Verstappen fan, it was the final race we all wanted to see.
Now, obviously the debate is still ongoing across social media. Michael Masi’s decision to allow five lapped cars to overtake essentially gifted Verstappen (on his fresh soft tyres) the 2021 title. Whether it was a desperate attempt for a TV friendly one-lap showdown or an equaliser from the attempted overtake by Verstappen on lap 1 – of which Lewis was able to retain the lead by cutting across the track, nobody knows.
The consensus from our guests (who had a stunning view of the last-lap restart at turn 12 from our VIP Hospitality Suite) is that Hamilton was the loser in a series of unfortunate events, after dominating the 56 laps prior. But, the vast majority accepted that Max had also driven superbly all season, and both were worthy champions.
The weekend got all of us here at RedEye thinking… this isn’t the first-time controversy has ruled F1. So, we look back at some of the sport’s biggest moments and ask you – where would you rank the Hamilton, Verstappen, finale at Abu Dhabi?
1989 – Prost vs Senna at Suzuka
Who can forget this classic? Senna, super-late on the brakes into the chicane as Prost closes the door on his title rival and McLaren-Honda teammate - contact. Both white and day glow orange cars come to a halt, as Prost’s car stalls leaving him walking away. Senna, however, had a helping hand from the Japanese marshals as he continued, crucially taking the escape road to re-join the circuit.
Senna would pit a lap later for a new front wing, chase down the beneficiary of his tangle with Prost, Alessandro Nannini in the Benetton, to claim the victory. However, Senna would later be excluded for bypassing the chicane on lap 47 following his coming together with Prost. McLaren’s appeal was rejected, which saw Prost leave for Ferrari as the 1989 World Champion.
1994 – Schumacher vs Hill at Adelaide
A season already full of controversy and tragedy, following Michael Schumacher’s exclusion from the British GP and subsequent two-race ban to Ayrton Senna’s untimely death in the San Marino GP. Damon Hill’s sensational drive in a wet Japanese GP saw the gap to championship leader Schumacher diminish to a solitary point, as the F1 circus arrived in Adelaide for the final round of the 1994 season.
The one-point gap between Schumacher and Hill meant that the title would be won by whoever finished ahead of the other. The German driver would take an early lead in the Grand Prix and seemed to be in control, leading Hill by around two seconds – that is, until the 36th lap.
Running wide at the East Terrace turn, the champion-elect clipped the wall and damaged his Benetton. Hill saw his opportunity and tried to pass on the inside at the following corner, resulting in the iconic image of Schumacher up on two wheels and into the barrier. Hill was forced to retire in the pits with suspension damage, making Schumacher champion of the 1994 season.
1997 - Schumacher vs Villeneuve at Jerez
Déjà vu from 1994, Schumacher and the lead Williams-Renault driver embroiled in controversy at a final-race decider in the European GP.
Schumacher, now at Ferrari, lead Canadian Jacques Villeneuve by a single point. Following a sensationally close qualifying whereby the two title protagonists and Frentzen, in the second Williams, all set the exact same time to the thousandth of a second, it would be the German in the Ferrari who took the lead of the race.
On lap 48, Villeneuve brakes late and goes for the gap left by Schumacher at the hairpin. Reminiscent of Adelaide a few years prior, Schumacher turns in on his opponent and makes contact with a Williams. Sent careering off into the gravel, the Ferrari is beached and forces the then two-time World Champion to retire. Villeneuve sustained minimal damage was able to finish the race in third, claiming the points to make him the 1997 World Champion.
Notably, with suspicions continuing to linger from his actions in 1994, Schumacher was excluded from the entire 1997 World Championship.
1990 - Prost vs Senna at Suzuka (again)
As in the preceding year, Japan hosted the penultimate round of the F1 World Championship and the stage for Prost vs Senna. Prost, now in the scarlet Ferrari, needed victory to stand any chance of becoming champion at the Adelaide finale.
Following a classic Senna pole lap, it was argued that the pole should have been moved to the outside, on the racing line. This request was vetoed by FISA President Jean-Marie Balestre, who Senna had wrongly accused of manipulating the stewards 12-months prior regarding his exclusion.
As expected, Prost got away better than Senna from the outside of the grid and lead down to turn one. Now I don’t need to tell you what happened next, it’s F1 folk lore?! Senna dives down the inside from a long way back and makes contact with the Ferrari, sending them both off into the gravel with race-ending damage. Senna was the 1990 World Champion.
A year later, Senna was remorseful for his actions, saying “It was not good for me and not good for Formula 1… We were both off and it was a s*** end of championship”
So, there we have it! What a season! Will next season be as eventful with the new cars? Will we go into Abu Dhabi 2022 with not just Red Bull and Mercedes going for the title, but also the resurgent McLaren and Ferrari’s as well? Maybe some surprises in the shape of Aston Martin, Alpine, AlphaTauri, Williams, Alfa Romeo or Haas?
Either way, don’t miss out on our VIP Hospitality and book your places early! 2022 F1 Hospitality Packages