It is great news that the Formula One world championship will be decided here in the UAE at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in two weeks’ time after a faultless drive from Lewis Hamilton in treacherous and chaotic conditions in Sao Paulo ensured the title race goes to the wire.
Nico Rosberg, who for a while looked like he might see his title bid washed away, will be more than happy with second and still has the advantage as he only needs to finish third in the final race of the season to take his first world crown.
But don’t expect Lewis to hand over his title without a fight and watch out for the young Max Verstappen who was sensational on Sunday and could still have a say in who takes the crown, despite Mercedes boss Toto Wolff having a word with his father to suggest his son should back off and stay out of the title tussle. As if!
It should be a great race at Yas Marina Circuit. Sunday’s three-hour rain-lashed demolition derby that was the Brazilian Grand Prix also threw up questions about whether the race should have started behind a safety car and then red-flagged when some drivers clearly thought otherwise. It was an almost impossible decision for F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting to make, particularly at an old fashioned track like Sao Paulo that probably holds water more than modern circuits.
It’s future on the F1 calendar must now be uncertain, which in itself is sad given it is synonymous with the legendary Ayrton Senna who is buried a short distance away. The other problem is that the layout of the circuit means that if a driver aquaplanes he is almost certainly going to hit a wall at high speed, as we saw on Sunday.
Whiting had to weigh up the option of giving spectators the show they want and deserve to see against the safety implications. Whether we are prepared to admit it or not an accident completes the spectacle of watching an F1 race, although obviously one without serious injury. Fans want to see hugely talented drivers who get paid huge amounts of money doing battle in exciting situations.
The first red flag yesterday was totally understandable after Raikkonen aquaplaned immediately after a safety car was withdrawn and smashed into the wall before spiralling across the circuit. It was a miracle nobody hit him and there was debris all over the pit straight.
The second red flag after conditions worsened, which sparked boos from the crowd, was borderline because drivers, including Hamilton, said the circuit was fine and they wanted to race. In the end Whiting was damned if he red flagged it and damned if he didn’t.
At different stages of the race some drivers were saying it should be stopped while others were keen to crack on. In the end the red flags were right with safety taking precedence over unacceptable dangerous entertainment. It should also be remembered that Jules Bianchi died after his car aquaplaned and crashed in Japan in 2014 and the legal repercussions of that tragedy are still active. That would have been in the minds of Whiting and his advisors.
At the end of the day motorsport is dangerous and that is part of the appeal and the drivers are the only ones who can truly assess the conditions, and their ability to deal with them.
On Sunday, Whiting made the right call by listening to them and eventually letting the race finish. It also gave the drivers the chance to prove just how exceptionally gifted they are to be able to give their all in conditions most of us would find terrifying.
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