No matter what way you look at it, Max Verstappen was lucky not to get a penalty for his aggressive driving, defending against Lewis Hamilton, during the 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix but credit to FIA Race Director Michael Masi for allowing them to race.
The Dutch ace was like a Bull in a China-shop from the moment the Red lights went out at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on Sunday, from second on the grid he muscled his way past pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas through Turn 1 to take the lead.
Then again later in the race, defending the lead from Hamilton, Verstappen clearly forced the Mercedes wide through Descida do Lago and a lap later weaved a few times too many as they roared out of Curva do Sol. However, Lewis and his Mercedes were simply was too good on the day.
Masi and the Stewards looked at the incidents and acknowledged that Hamilton would’ve probably done the exact same thing that Verstappen did had the roles been reversed and has on many occasions, during his career when the chips are down, but at the same time the #44 car was always going to get by such was the superiority it had in the World Champ’s hands on the day.
So they left it.
After the race journos suggested the “no further action” ruling was inconsistent, but Masi disagreed: “I disagree. If you look at it, as I’ve said many times before, you judge the incident on its merits, and you have a look at all of it. Let’s not forget we have the overall let them race principles. And looking at it all, with the angles we had available, that was the philosophy was adopted.
Masi: I looked at it a few times
“I think if you loom proximity of the cars heading to the apex, where it is, nature of the corner, fact both cars went off, neither car lost position or anything like that, was probably the general view. I looked at it a few times, Max wasn’t far off a black and white flag, to be honest,” revealed Masi
The black and white flag is a warning waved at a driver whose antics are unsportsmanlike; this can then be followed by a black flag, should the driver continue to behave in an unacceptable manner which, when waved, entails the errant driver returning the car to the pits and disqualification.
Despite making the controversial decision with what they had at the time, Masi says he will look again at the incident from a personal perspective once given more camera angles, as he only had the ones seen on television available to him.
He explained: “It was only the cameras that are broadcast, as I’ve said before, is what we have access to throughout. [The T-Bar angle] hasn’t been obtained yet. It has been requested. We have the forward-facing, 360, all the angles that we don’t get live will be downloaded and will have a look at them.”
But was Verstappen a little too naughty?
Masi replied: “Could be, absolutely, yeah … but we didn’t have access to it. Once we do it from the commercial rights holder we’ll have a look.”
Rules of engagement keep shifting in this F1 contest for the ages
Whatever the case the rules of engagement keep getting shifted during this riveting 2021 F1 title fight between the two top drivers of this era. And, it could be said, they have come a long way from their Monza and Silverstone collisions.
It’s tough out there in the battlefield and so it should be; F1 fans will agree as they are served a title race for the ages.
The chances of serious tears erupting during the race in Brazil were averted by the two best of the best pushing the envelope of sportsmanship (if it can be called that) but at the same time respecting the limits, while keeping on the right side of that very, very fine line between “rubbin’ is racing” and bent metal.
Make no mistake whatever Verstappen threw at Hamilton during their duel at Interlagos, most likely the Briton would have done the same thing to his Dutch rival and, with three races to go, be sure there will be more contentious moments between the pair. This contest is not over by a long way.
That moment when we all held our breath on Sunday 😮