Deliberate NASCAR crash shows F1 are getting something right

Michelle Foster
Bubba Wallace looking down. Austin March 2022

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace looking down. Austin March 2022

As Formula 1 crosses the pond to America, PlanetF1 looks at the United States’ most recent NASCAR race and asks ‘how is that even allowed?’

NASCAR is America’s premium stock car racing series, one where the mantra ‘rubbin’ is racing’ is as old as time.

It is a racing series where drivers are given the green light to tag one another, and by that they mean hit one another, unfathomable in Formula 1.

Don’t get me wrong, Formula 1 fans appreciate a good crash and that moment where your heart is in your throat as you wait for that “okay” to be heard over the radio.

As nine-time F1 podium finisher Martin Brundle recently told GQ Magazine: “You know, everybody likes to see a big crash don’t they really, or a spectacular crash.”

But on Sunday NASCAR allowed it to go too far at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Racing for position Kyle Larson pushed Bubba Wallace up the track, they didn’t make contact but the momentum sent the No45 into the wall.

What happened next is mindboggling.

Wallace then came down the track and hit Larson in the right rear, spinning the reigning NASCAR champion into the outside wall.

Championship hopeful Christopher Bell was the innocent bystander caught up in it.

Larson’s crew chief Cliff Daniels said that was retaliation if ever he saw it, although Wallace denied this.

“Cliff is smart enough to know how easily these cars break, so when you get shoved into the fence deliberately like he did, trying to force me to lift, the steering was gone,” Wallace said.

“He just so happened to be there. Hate it. Hate it for our team—super-fast car. We had no short-run speed. As you were seeing, we were kind of falling there.

“Larson wanted to make a three-wide dive-bomb, never cleared me and I don’t lift. I know I’m kind of new to running at the front, but I don’t lift. I wasn’t even in a spot to lift and he never lifted either and now we’re junk.

“So, just a piss poor move on his execution.”

Asked if retaliating was the right thing to do, Wallace replied: “Stop fishing.”

To add to the madness, he then confronted Larson as they stood by their stricken cars with a whole lot of pushing and shoving.

Wallace has since apologised: “Upon reflecting, I should have represented our partners and core team values better than I did by letting my frustrations follow me outside of the car. You live and learn, and I intend to learn from this.”

Amazingly there were no consequences for the crash or the ensuing physical confrontation. And by none I mean zip, zero, nada, nothing, sweet fu… you get the picture.

[Update: NASCAR has announced Bubba Wallace has been suspended one race for intentionally wrecking Kyle Larson]

Can you imagine that happening in Formula 1?

The last time Formula 1 saw deliberate contact between two drivers was Michael Schumacher into Jacques Villeneuve at the 1997 European Grand Prix.

Schumacher went into the race leading the championship by a single point. Leading for bulk of the first 47 laps, he was attacked by Villeneuve on lap 48, the Canadian edging ahead through the Dry Sac corner. Schumacher turned in.

The Ferrari driver retired from the race with Villeneuve holding on to take third place and the title by three points.

Schumacher was later disqualified from the 1997 standings, the FIA ruling that his “actions were deliberate” but “not premeditated”.

However, the most recent shoving moment was a lot more recently with Max Verstappen caught on camera pushing Esteban Ocon after the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was furious with the Frenchman as they tangled as he tried to unlap himself off the Force India driver, Verstappen losing the win as a result.

Confronting Ocon at the weighbridge, FIA officials had to intervened with both drivers summoned to the stewards.

The Red Bull driver was ordered to serve two days of public service after race stewards ruled he ‘started an altercation’.

Now I’m not saying Formula 1 is perfect, the sport can’t get a wet tyre to work or write a regulation without leaving a grey area, but at least it doesn’t condone drivers deliberately causing crashes that could result in injury or worse.

As Brundle continued: “Nobody wants to see anybody hurt or certainly killed in the name of sport.”