Paddy Lowe ‘quite happy’ Max Verstappen took 2021 title in ‘sport of jeopardy’

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton leads Max Verstappen into the last lap of the Abu Dhabi GP. Yas Marina December 2021.

Green flag is waved as Lewis Hamilton leads Max Verstappen into the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Marina December 2021.

Former Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe admitted he was “quite happy” to see Max Verstappen win the World Championship in 2021, even though it came in controversial circumstances.

The events of Abu Dhabi in 2021 sparked widespread outrage and debate when a late Safety Car was brought back in for the final lap of the race, when FIA rules at the time legislated that the race could, and perhaps should, have finished under Safety Car conditions due to the requirements needed for lapped cars to overtake.

But the race restarted for its final lap and Verstappen, on fresher soft tyres, was able to pass race leader Lewis Hamilton and keep hold of the lead, earning his first World Championship in the process amid controversy which resulted in a lengthy FIA investigation, before race director Michael Masi eventually left his position with the governing body.

Lowe, who joined Mercedes from McLaren just a few months after Hamilton and was present at his teams for his first three World titles, including his 2008 triumph, spent more than 30 years in Formula 1 overall – and he explained why his love of “jeopardy” in motorsport played a part in an opinion which he acknowledged would be “controversial”, recounting his own experiences of when he has been on the wrong, and right, side of the regulations.

Speaking exclusively to and beginning on what he enjoyed about the newly-finished 2022 season as a whole, before elaborating on his views on 2021, Lowe responded: “I enjoyed seeing the resurgence of Ferrari, they developed a great car.

“I think it’s a real shame that wasn’t translated in the end into better results. So that was a sort of a good thing and a bad thing, I think. Great to see them with a good car, but not so great that it didn’t score all the wins it could have done.

“Great to see some change in the world order around the leading three teams. You know, I think noteworthy, completely not to my surprise, that the same three teams are at the top despite the cost cap, because of their embedded excellence in engineering and the tools for engineering great cars, which don’t go away with a cost cap.

“So I think it’s been good to see some disturbance but in another way, it’s still a shame there’s so much spread down the grid.

“I love jeopardy in racing, so I like to see different things happening and people struggling through but succeeding.

“It’s been a lot of variety in the season, I know Max won a lot of races but there has, despite that, been a lot of variety. So I think that’s good.

“Good to see Max secure a championship without any argument. I was quite happy that he won it last year, actually – which is probably controversial, but Formula 1 is a sport of jeopardy. It always has been.

“Nothing’s fair in Formula 1. I’ve been on the wrong side of fairness many, many times and then [on] the right side of good luck as well.

“That’s the nature, that’s the interest, that’s the excitement of the sport, actually. It’s not a sport where everything should go to plan and always the best person by some analysis should win. That’s why we watch and love the sport and there’s never a right answer anyway to anything.

“I did feel sorry for the race director [Masi] actually, I think he got the wrong end of that really unfairly to me. There was no right or wrong answer there. He did his job, he was the ref.

“But going back to this year, good to see my previous colleagues at Mercedes, obviously they didn’t hit the ground in the right place, but terrific job of recovery to a very respectable performance by the end of the season – and that’s a team that [you] should never underestimate, and we’ll see where they come back next year.”

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