Hakkinen slams ‘dangerous’ driving at the front in Jeddah

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen off-track.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull, go off the track as they battle in Saudi Arabia. December 2021.

Mika Hakkinen felt the actions of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton as they battled for victory in Saudi Arabia were not acceptable.

It was a Sunday evening of several controversies in Saudi Arabia, but the biggest came when Verstappen slowed to gift the lead to Hamilton at the request of his Red Bull team having cut the chicane at Turn 1 to stay ahead.

Verstappen lifted off, remaining in the centre of the track, but Hamilton tucked in behind, wary of passing the DRS line ahead and therefore giving Verstappen a boost with which to instantly fight back.

The result was contact as Hamilton hit the back of Verstappen’s Red Bull, damaging his front wing, and the Dutchman was given a 10-second penalty post-race, adjudged to have applied the brakes and caused the collision.

But two-time former World Champion Hakkinen said these games at the front were dangerous and should not have happened.

Max Verstappen just ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Saudi Arabia December 2021

“With Max being asked to give the lead back to Lewis, the solution was clear,” Hakkinen wrote in his Unibet column.

“When you have to let a car re-pass there is only one way to do it safely. That’s to make a clear move to one side, come off the throttle slightly and allow the natural speed differential to enable your competitor to re-pass you.

“What happened in Jeddah was dangerous. Both drivers knew the DRS activation line lay ahead, so neither wanted to be the first across it since that would enable the other driver to overtake them on the next straight.”

Mercedes also took issue with race management, saying they had not been informed Verstappen would try to let Hamilton past, hence creating confusion for their driver followed by the crash.

And Hakkinen believes going forward the processes and technology need looking at.

“We also now know that while Max had been given the instruction to allow Lewis to pass, Lewis had not yet been informed and was momentarily confused,” Hakkinen continued.

“As a result, I think the teams and FIA will need to look at the process, and perhaps the technology, used to send messages to drivers.”

Hakkinen also moved to shut down the theory Verstappen wanted Hamilton to crash into him. Instead, the Finn said it was simply because Verstappen was so desperate to be behind at the DRS line.

“Looking at what happened next, I don’t believe Max was ‘brake testing’ Lewis – that is, trying to force a collision which could easily have put both cars out of the race,” Hakkinen explained.

“Instead, he was trying to force Lewis to overtake him at that point. However, the way he slowed, and the position of his car on the track, was definitely a problem. The FIA have revealed Max’s car produced 2.4G-force under braking.”


Nonetheless, it is not something Hakkinen wants to see on the race track and looking ahead to the final round in Abu Dhabi, he wants a clean race that will crown a fitting champion.

Verstappen and Hamilton go into the title decider level on 369.5 points.

“Whatever the reason, it was not positive racing and the FIA were right to apply a penalty after the race,” Hakkinen stated.

“While we can argue about the size of the penalty – considering it did not change the results – the message is clear. Dangerous driving will lead to a penalty and if the FIA see a repeat of that kind of driving in Abu Dhabi I believe the penalty will be severe and immediate.

“I have always been of the opinion that you have to race positively, not negatively. Winning the World Championship should be all about speed, precision, race craft and proving you can beat the other driver in a straight fight – a sporting fight.

“That’s what I want to see next Sunday and I know that’s what the FIA, Formula 1 and the fans want too.”


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