‘Safety Car end should’ve happened when Lewis Hamilton was robbed in Abu Dhabi’

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton looks concerned.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton looking concerned at the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Formula 1 pundit Peter Windsor believes the Safety Car finish at the Australian Grand Prix is what should have happened when Lewis Hamilton was “robbed” of a record-breaking eighth Formula 1 crown at Abu Dhabi 2021.

Following a late red flag in Melbourne, an attempted two-lap sprint to the end was suspended when chaos ensued at the restart, with multiple collisions causing another stoppage.

After a long delay, the race finally ended with Max Verstappen leading the field at a reduced pace behind the Safety Car to secure his second victory of the 2023 season.

Verstappen clinched his maiden World Championship in controversial circumstances at the 2021 season finale after the race director, Michael Masi, set up a one-lap duel between runaway race leader Hamilton and Verstappen on significantly better tyres.

With F1 making a conscious effort to conclude races under green flag conditions, Windsor believes the spectators’ positive reaction to a Safety Car finish at Albert Park is proof it would have been no bad thing had Hamilton collected an eighth title under caution in Abu Dhabi two seasons ago.

Speaking via his YouTube channel, he said: “They finished the race [in Melbourne] behind the Safety Car. Ring any bells?

“That’s the finish we should have got in Abu Dhabi in 2021.

“I didn’t see any Australian fans – and they’re pretty vociferous at the best of times – complaining or booing saying, ‘no, we want this race to finish as a proper one-lap race, this is terrible.’

“They were all cheering and clapping – exactly as I said they would have in Abu Dhabi ’21 if they’d finished it behind the Safety Car, as they should have done, and Lewis had been cruising round to win his eighth World title.

“That, to me, was absolute proof – again – of what went wrong in Abu Dhabi and I still feel very hot under the collar about that as well.

“I still think it’s rotten that they completely blew that and Lewis Hamilton was robbed of that eighth title in that one incident.

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“Of course, you don’t win or lose a Championship in one race. What I’m talking about is the decision that was taken.

“And nobody cared at all [in Melbourne]. The Australians just loved that Safety Car, they were all cheering.

“I thought actually a couple of the drivers might wave to the crowd, because it wasn’t as if you could overtake, but they didn’t.

“But nonetheless, it was nice.

“They came round slowly and everybody stood and cheered and clapped and it was a great moment – just as it would have been in Abu Dhabi in ’21.”

On a recent Twitch stream, Windsor painted the picture of the crowning moment Hamilton lost in Abu Dhabi, claiming it could have been a unique scene in the history of F1.

Asked if Hamilton will ever take back what was taken from him at Yas Marina, he replied: “I don’t think he will, no.

“Are we thinking that three years from now there’ll be some lawsuit that Mercedes will suddenly realise they should have taken out? No.

“I don’t think it was when Lewis was gentlemanly enough to shake the hand of Max on the podium, which I think was an incredibly powerful thing for Lewis to have done.

“I think it was when Mercedes acquiesced and said, ‘let’s get on with it, we’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen again’ or some other platitude and then that was it. No more. Not going to happen.

“So, sadly, I think that Championship is lost. Max won it.

“But I think Formula 1 lost a great opportunity there to have one of the greatest racing drivers of all time winning the record-breaking eighth World Championship and having one celebratory lap behind the Safety Car to take the chequered flag with fireworks going off, dramatic music and Lewis Hamilton becoming an eight-time World Champion.

“I think, for those that say it’s great to have a race finishing as a sprint to the flag instead of behind the Safety Car, that’s my answer to you people.

“I think Formula 1 lost a massive opportunity that day.

“And it won’t happen again, I don’t think, a moment like that.

“I’m basically saying, ‘will Lewis even win another World Championship?’

“I hope so – he deserves to have that eighth – but the way things are going I doubt it.”

Hamilton is without a victory since the penultimate round of the 2021 season and suffered the first winless season of his career during Mercedes’ troubled 2022 campaign.

He currently sits fourth in the Drivers’ Championship after claiming his first podium of 2023 in Australia.