Hate is toxic. It serves no purpose. Moreover, it saps our energy that could otherwise be attributed to a productive cause. Yet, it persists, almost shamelessly so.
And it wouldn’t require one to be an Einstein to know what realm of sport is full of hate and vitriol at the moment, providing an atmosphere marred by negativity, not devoid of any. The current atmospherics of Formula 1, the world’s fastest-form of single-seat racing, are divided into two clans, for the lack of a better word.
One that supports Lewis Hamilton and his remarkable win, even if that happened at the cost of the man leading the 2021 world championship race, retiring not long after the five lights turned green. And on the other, there’s Max Verstappen’s army that desires Hamilton to be suspended, lamenting the fact that a 10-second time penalty was anything but just and that a stop-and-go 10-second penalty would’ve sufficed, if at all.
Two Sides, F1 Divided
Where hate factors in all of this are that those who saw the opening lap collision around the Copse corner at the action-packed British Grand Prix have taken sides and won’t relent, waging endless wars on the social media stratosphere long after the race is done and dusted.
Suddenly, we wake up one day to see the man much admired and respected for all his achievements, knighted for his excellence, has become the most hated man, it seems, in Formula 1.
Interestingly, at the same time, the man who, in his young career, often ran into the likes of the Raikkonen-Vettel duo, going as far as weaving on the straights at Hungary, 2016 with Kimi in pursuit (an act that could’ve led to an accident), Max Verstappen, is everyone’s sentimental favorite.
Moreover, Verstappen is hail and hearty, which is terrific after enduring such a high-speed clash with Hamilton, at a speed no less than 180mph, further doused the already post-race tension-marred atmosphere in fire by his observations on Lewis Hamilton. He, as of yesterday, proved to be his undoing.
He dreaded the sight of Hamilton, a seven-time world champion and a titan of the sport celebrating in the aftermath.
Hamilton, until such time, had worked extremely hard; served a penalty, passed the flying Ferrari of Leclerc to complete what was, at least, in the end, a fair race win.
The Source of Calamity?
What might have irked Max was seeing Hamilton indulge in what may have occurred to him as “over the celebration,” jumping all over the Silverstone track while hoisting the British flag high. It’s not hard to understand how Verstappen feels, the tremendous force with which he contacted the side of the track could so easily have thrown him upside down, causing multiple fractures and several broken bones. This is, frankly, not to incite Lewis’ admirers, one of which I am.
But what is impossible to digest is the hate that of all people, Verstappen is receiving on social media. There are countless many who are rewinding to the scenes of the 2020 Bahrain podium, where thanks to good fortune and heaven’s grace, Grosjean escaped what would’ve been a fatal crash (into the barriers).
The fans’ version is: “how can you (Max) say a word on Lewis’ celebrations when you, yourself, were on the podium.”
The only question I have, having witnessed both the ill-fated Bahrain race as well as yesterday’s tension-fuelled Silverstone race, is, did Verstappen cause the collision to Grosjean? Was he not concerned about him?
If you happened to have seen Netflix’s Drive To Survive, you’d note every single driver was concerned about Grosjean’s safety. That included Verstappen.
“Is Grosjean safe?,” was the byline. So, the critical question here is: why is Verstappen being trolled? Who, had he not crashed, may well have gone on to extend Mercedes’ misery by collecting Red Bull’s sixth-consecutive victory?
It’s difficult to predict anything in Formula 1. After all, it’s a sport where only one thing is sure: uncertainty. Want proof? Was Perez always slated to win Baku? Who expected Vettel to bag a podium in that dramatic contest?
How many thought Giovinazzi, not Kimi, would open the account for Alfa Romeo in 2021?
But implicit in Formula 1 being a slugfest of speed and a tug of war between different temperaments, is the ability to hold the fort and back your instincts. This is precisely where all drivers are unique. Some play safe, some go for the kill.
Before the Crash
In the 2017 US Grand Prix, when Verstappen moved over Raikkonen, in the final lap itself, The stewards found that all four wheels of the car were outside the racing line or permissible limits. He wasn’t spared and was handed a penalty, which brought the Iceman onto third. He expected it gracefully, without relenting or complaining.
Though, on his part, Hamilton, who according to many, was guilty yesterday (not from Toto Wolff’s eyes though), obviously didn’t cause his first collision. In the past, he’s been guilty of colliding with former Red Bull driver Alex Albon, on both occasions compromising the youngster’s race. Though he became a subject of hate, yesterday’s contact could well have seen him being the subject of a severe accident, forget Max.
It would’ve been a treacherous sight to see two great drivers out of the race and on the ICU bed, with no certainty of when they’d have returned. But, of course, Hamilton saw and sees it differently. A Senna-fan, he went for a gap that existed, for had he not, he would’ve lamented himself about not utilizing his killer instinct, something that, over the years, has made him a legend.
It’s precisely here where lies a fundamental question, at what cost is one willing to make a difficult move, even if the consequences turn rancid? Wasn’t Hamilton’s attempt to pass Verstappen a bit too desperate a move, forget what corner or turn the effort to get Hamilton made the better of the pacy Red Bull?
This being a home Grand Prix for the Mercedes driver, a track where he’d collected seven wins before yesterday’s victory, a robust exemplary record. With 350,000 in attendance, there was no chance Hamilton was going to disappoint fans, right? And hence, this move, albeit poorly attempted, one whose veiled intent couldn’t hide the desperation, after all, to get the better of a driver who turned the tables on Mercedes, right? What else is one to presume? Moreover, there’s something the FIA may want to answer but won’t be coaxed into answering. Back in the 2018 British Grand Prix, at the very same venue as yesterday’s dreadful clash, Kimi had tangled into Hamilton, then second on the grid, chasing Vettel, who’d gotten off to a flier to take the lead. But for causing the barest of touches, which could well have been seen as a racing accident, the Iceman was given a 10-second penalty.
Now if you do revisit the episode, you can compare the two accidents and see the damage the other driver suffered. Three years back, Hamilton slipped to the back of the field and made up to reach second thanks to an incredible recovery drive. His car had to box for a few changes. But he wasn’t a victim of a dreadful crash unintentionally caused by Raikkonen.
Yesterday, for causing a high-octane crash, which, as iterated before, could’ve caused significant damage to both drivers, including severe injuries, Raikkonen extended Hamilton the same treatment. This was when his on-track adversary crashed out.
Is It Fair?
So who’s to decide if that’s fair? Who’s right, and who’s not, is something we cannot pass our verdict to. It’s something that’s up to the FIA and one’s conscience.
What’s critical to remember is that Red Bull’s hard-fought lead has now been severely curtailed. As a result, the social media space is roaring with fans offering silly threats, “we will take revenge when it comes to the Dutch GP!” And this isn’t the atmosphere one desires in a sport that is currently seeing with two great drivers drawn into a brawl of speed.
Yet, a question remains. How far does fair treatment find a place when Formula 1 has to pass harsh judgments?
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