Martin Brundle quashes talk of an ‘asterisk against’ Max Verstappen’s 2021 title

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen pats Lewis Hamilton on the back. Hungary July 2022

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen pats Lewis Hamilton on the back. Hungary July 2022

Martin Brundle insists there is no “asterisk against” Max Verstappen’s 2021 title, even if it is spoken about forever there is still nothing that will change the result.

The 2021 Formula 1 World Championship has gone down in history as one of the most exciting ever, and also one of the most controversial.

It was a campaign in which Verstappen, searching for a first Drivers’ Championship, took on Lewis Hamilton who was chasing a record-breaking eighth.

The protagonists recorded 14 1-2 results in the 22-race season, two big crashes at Silverstone and Monza, and had numerous other niggles as they raced wheel-to-wheel.

Off the track their team bosses went at it too, trading barbs and even accusations of cheating – Red Bull’s front wing followed by Mercedes’ rear wing.

Going into the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi tied on points, Hamilton had a lead of some 14 seconds in a race in which Verstappen was unable to match the Mercedes for pace.

But it all changed when a late Safety Car resulted in race director Michael Masi making the controversial call to allow only the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves.

With much fresher tyres on his Red Bull racer, Verstappen pounced at Turn Five to take the lead. He held off a counter-attack from Hamilton, racing his way to the win and a first World title.

Mercedes were fuming and there was talk of protests with F1’s rumour mill suggesting they’d agreed not to on condition Masi wouldn’t be around come 2022.

While that has never been confirmed, the Australian did lose his job with the FIA implementing several changes to avoid a repeat situation.

That, though, did little to quash the chatter and almost 12 months on Sky Sports’ found themselves in hot water with Verstappen and Red Bull after Ted Kravitz used the word “cheating” in his post-United States debrief.

But he’s not the only one who wonders whether there’s still an “asterisk” by Verstappen’s 2021 title success, Craig Slater putting the question to former driver turned pundit Brundle.

Brundle replied: “I think we have to be clear that championship is not going to change.

“It’s a year ago, there are no asterisks, it’s not going to change. That is the defined result of the championship year.

“Lessons can be learned from it and we can talk about it forever but other than the stewards penalising Max for what…we’re not going to unravel that. Never going to unravel it.”

As for fellow pundit and 1996 World Champion Damon Hill, he recalled that his “immediate reaction to the finish was ‘well you can’t say it’s not exciting’. I mean, it was unbelievably exciting.”

He continued: “Unfortunately there was this kind of debate about the Safety Car and what should or shouldn’t have happened.”

But, he added, even if Abu Dhabi was voided, Verstappen would still be the 2021 World Champion as he had more race wins on the board.

“Now we’ve been there, we’ve done that, the results stands,” the Briton continued. “How would you unravel an event like that? Even if you were to annul that race, Max will still be champion.”

Jenson Button didn’t weigh in on Abu Dhabi specifically other than to say he felt for both drivers as they crossed the line at the end of a “physically and mentally tough” season.

“It was such a spectacular season, probably one of the best seasons we’ve ever had in the sport,” said the 2009 World Champion.

“And that’s why it came down to that last race and it came down to the last lap of that race.

“So it’s really difficult for me as a racing driver talking about race because I know how both those drivers felt when they crossed that line. It’s really physically and mentally tough.”

Read more: Abu Dhabi, one year on: Why Formula 1 was the real loser