Max Verstappen’s victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was steeped in controversy.
With the Red Bull driver entering the world title showdown on level points with Lewis Hamilton, there was an unerring inevitability about their clash at the Yas Marina Circuit ending in dramatic style.
A late safety car caused by Nicholas Latifi’s crash allowed Verstappen to bunch up to Hamilton, who was leading at the time, when it had looked as though overtaking would be impossible.
Verstappen vs Hamilton carnage
Not only was there enough time for Verstappen to switch to fresher tyres, but the FIA appeared to change their minds when it came to allowing the backmarkers in the pack to move out of the way.
It had, after all, looked at one point as though Hamilton would canter to the title on one final racing lap as Verstappen tried in vain to surpass both all of the lapped cars and the Brit in time.
But alas, the controversial race management of the FIA ultimately paved the way for the dramatic ending that we received with Mercedes lodging two protests about how the situation was handled.
And although the Formula 1 authorities have hitherto batted away the Mercedes protests to confirm Verstappen as champion, that hasn’t stopped the feeling of unease amongst those who watched.
Norris’ conflicted post-race interview
In fact, McLaren’s Lando Norris appeared to speak for many F1 mans when he expressed his confusion and dissatisfaction with the way that the Abu Dhabi GP was allowed to conclude.
During his post-race interview, Norris opening admitted that he was ‘not so sure’ about the way in which the championship had been resolved in a tone of voice that was evidently conflicted.
“I’m not too sure what was said from the FIA,” Norris said. “At first we weren’t allowed to overtake, as the backmarkers, so if that influenced decisions to Mercedes and to Lewis and that’s the reason they didn’t do their pit-stop…
“But then the FIA suddenly changed their minds and they were allowed to let us past. That’s where I’m not so sure.”
All for TV?
And according to the Guardian, Norris later hinted that the decision might have been made purely for entertainment by remarking: “It was obviously made to be a fight.
“It was for the TV, of course. It was for the result. Whether or not it was fair, it’s hard for me to decide.”
It’s easy to see oneself in Norris when thinking about the way in which the race ended because regardless of the rules, there was just something tonally and thematically that seemed, well, off.
But perhaps it’s just the joy of racing that a nine-month championship in which Verstappen and Hamilton have slugged it out most weeks was decided on the final lap of the final grand prix.
However, you can rest assured that the chequered flag hasn’t yet fallen on the most dramatic finish to a F1 season in recent memory quite yet because there is plenty of discussion still to be had.