Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out
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Formula One has been warned it is heading into ‘dangerous territory’ following the controversial finish at last month’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, by ex-driver Stefan Johansson. The ending of the 2021 campaign last month saw one of the most dramatic finishes in the sport’s history, as Max Verstappen pipped Lewis Hamilton to the title on the final lap.
However it was not without its controversies, as FIA director Michael Masi made a contentious call late on to allow a number of lapped cars to take over a safety car on the final lap.
That left the once-comfortable Hamilton neck-and-neck with Verstappen, as the pair were left to play out a one-lap shootout to decide the championship, despite the former being around 12 seconds clear of his title rival a handful of laps earlier.
Dramatically Verstappen was the man who prevailed late on to collect his first F1 title, however the fallout that followed later was monumental.
While some praised director Masi for providing such a nail-biting ending, the majority slammed the theatrical finish – including Johansson.
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In his blog the former driver wrote: “In the end, I think both Max and Lewis deserved to win the title this year.
“They both drove at such a high level and both their teams operated at equally high levels, and it would have been such an incredible ending to the year to have it decided fair and square on the racetrack.
“Instead, we now have this endless controversy and polarization.
“I’m sure the folks at Liberty are not complaining as this has lifted F1 to a whole new level in terms of people following.”
Johansson went on to add that he believes the circuit is now heading into ‘dangerous territory’, comparing it to the show-like feel of WWE.
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He added: “But, if this is the direction it will continue, where the entertainment comes before the sport, I think we’re getting into a very dangerous territory.
“I would hate to see F1 turning into the Motorsports version of the WWF [now known as WWE], where it’s just a show and the sport is secondary to the entertainment.”
The ex-Ferrari and McLaren man also spoke about the impact of the hit Netflix series that gave fans an inside look into F1 – Drive to Survive.
Whilst he felt the series did lots to increase the popularity of the sport – especially in the USA – he personally was not a fan.
“The Netflix show has obviously helped lift the profile of F1 immensely, especially in the US,” Johansson added.
“I know how many of the teams and drivers feel about it, but you still can’t deny the impact it’s had. Personally, I had to tune out after 15 minutes.”
Moving forward the Swede hopes F1 can find a ‘good balance’ between marketing the sport, whilst also ensuring drivers remain heavily focused on their job behind the wheel.
He commented: “I think it’s important to find a good balance going forward, I appreciate social media and marketing from every possible angle is important.
“But I would hate to see the drivers turning into some sort of comedians and clowns rather than brave young men doing their thing on Sunday afternoons.”
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