At Jeddah, Formula 1 called the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to bring order to the championship lead between Hamilton and Verstappen. A brand new venue promised to be the place where everything would work out, but in vain! Something happened wrong and the roaring chaos between Hamilton and Verstappen plunged the Corniche Circuit of Jeddah into “yellow” madness. The chaos delivered FIA as MaFIA. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner also says Formula 1 is missing Charlie Whiting and gently hints that current race director Michael Masi cannot control the situation. How is it possible to control it at all? How did Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton drive the FIA F1 stewards mad?
The Jeddah circuit is not difficult, but quite difficult!
Ahead of race day, it was clear that the Formula 1 race near Red Sea port city in Saudi Arabia is a very tricky challenge. Psychologically and mentally, Arabian nights are hot rather than hot. Jeddah’s quiet and bright circuit in daylight turns into the most difficult race track in the evening. Whether we got the first outline in Friday practice or not, Saturday’s qualifying sessions proved just how treacherous the track is in Jeddah.
As fast as narrow.
Jeddah may look like a Japanese Suzuka, but it’s not really. Saudi Arabian F1 track is sudden and unexpected: with an average speed of 300km / h in the treacherous corners, it’s easy to confuse where to turn.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen came to the Saudi Grand Prix as two leaders despite the Red Bull driver’s eight-point lead. If Hamilton’s strong feature is the racing experience, then the opposite Verstappen is always “attack on the limit.” Such feature played a cruel joke with Max and promised additional headache to the FIA F1 stewards .
Verstappen was faster than the speed of sound, leading and overtaking the best possible time before finishing the third Saudi Arabian qualifying segment before hitting the wall on the final lap…
It seemed that there are only a few seconds between the coveted pole position, but in vain. What a daredevil! – cried the FIA F1 stewards at Jeddah. But who can stop Mad Max? Verstappen finished third in qualifying and nobody knew how he could avoid the gearbox damage. In case of damage, the Red Bull driver had to change and lost his starting position. Fortunately for Adrian Newey, who seemed to cry at the end, the gearbox was fine.
Saudi Arabia track was designed by Carsten Tilke. Apart from the fact that it is narrow, the traffic on a narrow path between two walls creates not only the danger, but also the psychological tension to the drivers. They understand very well that every mistake can be worth everything.
Another call for prudence came on the eve of the Saudi Grand Prix on Sunday. Formula 2 drivers Theo Pourchaire and Enzo Fittipaldi involved in the most serious crash. Pourchaire appeared to stall from third on the grid. His stationary car was hit by Fittipaldi. The track in Jeddah urged Hamilton and Verstappen to exercise caution and made FIA F1 stewards nervous before the start. But who can control these two when it comes to the F1 world Championship tittle?
Hamilton vs Verstappen and FIA as MaFIA
Max Verstappen accepted defeat on Saturday’s qualifying session very calm. Equally calmly, he did not going to give up, no matter what it may cost him. The track configuration played into Mercedes’ hands, as it was clearly better suited to Lewis Hamilton. It was better start, better speed, better pit stop time. Lewis Hamilton seemed to have won already this weekend, but Jeddah is very tricky! Despite the hard braking of Valtteri Bottas, which cost Verstappen time to come out of the pits, the following red flag allowed both Red Bull drivers to change tires without losing time. Mick Schumacher crashed his car. And red flags stopped the race. Hamilton was on fire, but there was no time for sentiment.
And the fight started, a real fight – a conflict of interest between two different drivers from two different teams. Mercedes vs Red Bull, Hamilton vs Verstappen, the higher tension touched down each of the two teams and all of the FIA F1 stewards in Saudi Arabia. The restart on lap 15 showed once again that Mercedes was faster, but Max Verstappen is Max Verstappen, he never gives up.
Tension had reached its peak.
Bet the FIA team had their heads in their hands, who already didn’t care that this is a tough track with an average speed of 300 km / h! At that moment, nobody knew what these two could manage. Is there any way to judge this chaos, when the drivers were weaving through narrow lines and Max Verstappen had cut Turn 2 to lead? Tension reached its peak.
Sergio Perez lost the car. Charles Leclerc got the blow from Perez. At that moment the drivers came like a massively tense lava, led by Verstappen, Hamilton and Esteban Ocon, which no one could stop.
FIA’ race director Michael Masi, Hamilton and Verstappen.
Michael Masi represented the FIA as the race director. He decided to take control the situation and stopped the race again with red flags due to lot car parts from Perez, Leclerc, Mazepin and Russell. The F1 race director had to make a decision very quickly because every second the overall picture was changing. Furthermore, all the radio messages were streamed to the whole world.
Masi suggested Red Bull reclaim the position, skipping Ocon. Michael also got confused as to who was taking which position! Red Bull agreed to omit Ocon, but not Hamilton. Masi repeated the suggestion and asked Red Bull to skip two cars again. What a madness! If not, the Red Bull driver will be punished after the race.
Michael Masi clearly understood as this fight was been heating each second. F1 race director politely explained everything when it was need. There was a comment that radio messages like those were similar to bargaining or seemed more political than clear orders from the FIA. But the FIA Formula 1 management didn’t want to put themselves between two fires, especially when it came to Mercedes vs Red Bull. Second restart Max Verstappen started third, but who could stop Red Bull?
Why FIA became the maFIA?
The easy answer is that there were no clear rules.
Verstappen had led the grid, and the next five laps 18-23 were the quietest of the entire 50. Vettel and Tsunoda collided on lap 23. Fernando Alonso poured fuel on the fire, saying there were many car parts on the track in Jeddah. He had complained that the race director had ordered the safety car only in virtual form. Michael Masi had no clear decisions about the safety car and red flags. The FIA’s decision was tentative.
At the time it was tough to decide whether it was better to launch the safety car on the track. This would have stopped the intrigue of the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen for a while. What if it had been better to continue the most hotly contested race in Formula 1’s history in very dangerous conditions?
It seemed that virtual safety mode had required the real pace car at Jeddah, as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel collided soon after. The chaotic and tense atmosphere caused F1 fans to assume that the FIA was like a mafia with no clear rules to follow.
Hamilton and Verstappen’s epic moment at F1 Saudi GP
In this chaotic situation, it was better to stop the race and clear the track, but the whole world watched the fight of two main heroes Hamilton vs Verstappen. It was risky, very risky to maintain virtual safety mode lap after lap.
Hamilton eventually overtook Verstappen in the battle for the lead. Bet that the FIA F1 stewards were already ready for another collision, stared at the stream with closing eyes. That was for a reason. Max again pushed Hamilton off the track and retained the lead. Michael Masi again asked Red Bull to return the position, messaging to the team radio, which was translated all over the world. Otherwise that would be the penalty. Red Bull team was not ready to give the lead.
Mercedes focused on their two drivers, had no idea on how Red Bull to ready to give position Hamilton. Leader Max Verstappen made a hard brake for Lewis Hamilton to take a lead position back. But Hamilton didn’t understand such a gesture as Mercedes weren’t ready to Red Bull would be so good with Masi’s order. Hamilton collided with Verstappen.
How the FIA became MaFIA in Jeddah?
Huge misunderstandings or how the real conflict began in Jeddah.
Mercedes had asked Masi why Verstappen did not gave the position. Race director was still trying to have all his patience. He assured that Verstappen was already done it and it was impossible to making repeat every message to each team.
It meant that Mercedes had no idea on command for both teams. Red Bull was need to give the position, while Mercedes to take it. Thus, at that moment it seemed the real misunderstandings came at Jeddah. Such a mess was impossible to imagine. That came a worthy reason to think that it is not the FIA, which takes control on everything, but just a mafia, which plays on misunderstandings rules.
Once again, FIA F1 stewards called on Verstappen to return the position to Hamilton. Max played with the rules, skipping Hamilton on lap 42 and immediately overtaking again. Race stewards had enough of waiting – and gave Max the traditional five-second penalty. Verstappen skipped Hamilton on lap 43. Lewis immediately took off like a full rocket.
Too many questions for Michael Masi
The Formula One race director Michael Masi made decisions with the Saudi Arabia F1 stewards and yes, you can say the drivers drove him crazy and made this Arabian night a nightmare. However, everyone was surprised at how frivolous the drivers were. F1 fans identified the FIA in the mafia for constant negotiations, persuasion, because after the Saudi Grand Prix there are still more questions than answers.
Why was there a red flags after an accidents in the first half of the race, but not after collisions in the second part? Why did the safety car appeared when everything was clean but not when there was a real danger? Would Max Verstappen have had a dangerous braking had he known he would be disqualified? And what about Valtteri Bottas? There are dozens of questions!
What is the point of that?
It seems that Michael Masi and the FIA F1 stewards team inadvertently became the stumbling block between Red Bull and Mercedes. The stewards themselves would probably need a long holiday after all the chaos. Michael Masi’s problem is that he was a soft and politically correct person. He was cautious and somewhere he did not want to interfere in the hot Formula 1 story that was going on.
So it probably seemed a bit elongated compared to normal, however it is very much a normal discussion that takes place. When I saw it happen at Turn 2, I immediately suggested to the stewards that I am going to give the opportunity [to Red Bull] to give that place back.Michael Masi to F1 official
After the race, the Saudi Arabia F1 stewards punished Verstappen with ten seconds and two penalty points. At the same time, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner remembers about Charlie Whiting. However, in Red Bull they seem to have forgotten a little bit that Charlie would not ask or offer.
The Hamilton and Verstappen have done their jobs like crazy. Masi had to think immediately about the safety of everyone. But the most significant thing is that there will be endless disputes. Most were concerned about FIA’s image, as in some terms FIA came to be a mafia with no clear rules to everyone to follow.
We found that such a situation, despite the chaos, caught people’s attention. There is no wonder, that Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 became one of the most watched race in the world.