Max Verstappen was last year’s Formula 1 champion, you may have heard. He won it in controversial fashion in Abu Dhabi — controversial only to people who are not fans of Max Verstappen. I had thought, naively, that at some point we could all move on but, no, the FIA is still investigating the matter, and it’s not going to be settled for several more weeks.
It’s unclear what, exactly, that probe entails, but the FIA said last week that it would be conducting a full investigation of the incident. Which gave McLaren CEO Zak Brown occasion to say what he thought about it this week, even though McLaren’s cars had nothing to do with the Abu Dhabi controversy.
Asked by Motorsport.com about potential damage that’s been done to F1’s image by the Abu Dhabi fall out, Brown said: “I think with all controversies in sport, in time, as soon as the next season starts, the wounds start to heal.
“But I do think the FIA needs to come out with a, here’s what happened, here’s how and why we think it happened. Here’s what was right, here’s what was wrong, and whatever they’re going to come out with in the report, and then show that they’ve taken action to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“I don’t think this was a malicious decision,” he said. “So for those that might have a view that the sport’s corrupt, etc. I don’t agree with that.
“Do I think potentially a different decision could have been made? Yes, probably. But I want to wait to see what the FIA comes out with.
“I think we’ve all seen in sport before, referees make decisions that the people disagree with. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong. It gets pretty exciting. But then the [new] season starts and it soon becomes a thing that, while you never forget about, it was a thing of the past.”
Brown’s cars, again, had nothing to do with the outcome in Abu Dhabi, but this is Formula 1 in a nutshell, an endless controversy in which Zak Brown will say that, yeah, it could’ve gone a different way, but also it’s a thing of the past now, so who cares.
Anyway, for some reason, the FIA has said that it will not release its findings until March 18, which ensures that, for the next two months, the matter will not rest, with the complicating factor being that it’s unclear if Lewis Hamilton will come back at all, because of how everything went down. Brown had this to say about that recently to The Guardian:
“I wouldn’t be shocked if he stopped, so no one should take for granted that he is coming back,” he said. “We should not discount or not recognise his frustration, his anger. Maybe he has not made a decision and what he is doing is taking time to make that decision to make sure. Because once it’s made, it’s made, I don’t think we should rule it out or make light of it.”
Lewis Hamilton has long adopted the attitude of a great and dominant champion, which is that the world is against him and that he must bend it to his will, which accounts for a lot of his success, but also feeling pretty hard done by when things don’t go his way. That the FIA won’t release its findings until the Friday before the first race of the season in Bahrain gives them two months, then, to try to thread the needle because, surely, like the fans, they want Hamilton back this year, too. Then, please, I don’t ever want to talk about Abu Dhabi ever again.