Lewis Hamilton brought up his 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix heartbreak after an ending to last Sunday’s race at Monza which would have stirred up bad memories for Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton experienced the pain once felt by Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna as he and his fellow drivers finished the Italian Grand Prix behind a safety car on Sunday.
Max Verstappen won the race at Monza ahead of Charles Leclerc. The Italian crowd was furious that it concluded behind the safety car after Daniel Ricciardo’s late mechanical problem, which left the Ferrari star unable to attempt an overtake on the championship leader.
But, as the FIA pointed out in a statement that evening, the rules had been correctly followed and applied in this case, even if it did produce an anticlimactic conclusion to the race. However, things had infamously been done differently late last year, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
On that occasion, the safety car procedure was rushed so racing could resume on the final lap, and Hamilton lost out on the championship to Max Verstappen. And the Mercedes star later pointed out that there was a difference between the two situations.
“It always brings memories back – that is the rules how it should be, right?” he said. “There’s only one time in the history of the sport where they haven’t done the rules like that today and that’s the one where it changed the result of the championship. But it is what it is.”
Reacting to the race, Formula E star Sam Bird compared Hamilton’s experience to that of Ayrton Senna more than 30 years ago. The Brazilian had lost out on the 1989 title after being disqualified from the Japanese Grand Prix for a manoeuvre which, the following year, would have been allowed.
“For [Hamilton], it’s a horrible situation, because now they’re following the protocol correctly,” Bird told the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast. “If they had followed the protocol correctly, he’d be an eight-time world champion, to be honest, and Max Verstappen would be about to be a first-time world champion, a very impressive first-time world champion.
“It reminds me a lot of Senna, when he was driving. You had the FIA changing the rules of the final chicane at Suzuka, and Senna stormed out of the drivers’ briefing [at Japan in 1990] saying ‘this isn’t fair, you guys completely destroyed me last year, you took my licence away from me, you banned me. So I’m walking out’.
“It’s a little bit similar. I can certainly understand why Lewis Hamilton feels a bit aggrieved.” He later said the FIA would never have allowed the safety car restart to be fast-tracked again, “because can you imagine the fallout from that kind of situation again?”