‘Towards the unfair side’ Lando Norris weighs in on F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix controversy

Lando Norris loves the Hamilton and Verstappen drama

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Lando Norris is a British-Belgian racing driver currently competing in Formula One with McLaren, racing under the British flag. The Formula One star, 22, shared his thoughts on one specific controversy, which took over the sport last year, with Scott Mills and Chris Stark on BBC Radio 5 Live last week.

During his interview, Norris was asked whether the “ending to last season” was “good” or “damaging” for the sport.

This comment was made in reference to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last December, which saw driver Max Verstappen speed to victory ahead of sporting legend Lewis Hamilton on the final lap.

Michael Masi, who was removed from his role as race director, was at the heart of the controversy after deciding to allow only the cars between race leader Lewis Hamilton and title rival Max Verstappen to un-lap before a restart. 

British car racer Norris told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s controversial. I mean it’s still something that’s going on now, right?

“I don’t know. I’m just lucky that I wasn’t involved in it too much. I think I’m happy to say that.

“I think it was tough, like, some people absolutely loved it. I think more as sporting people, we’re probably on the side of just not liking it quite as much.

“Obviously, they put on a great show, but the thing is, we don’t want to just be a show for people.

“We don’t want to see, ‘everything’s fixed and rigged’ – we hate that stuff,” he admitted.

“We want to be a sport where there’s great competition and it just creates a good show off the back of it and I think that’s the important thing.

“We just want fairness between everything, and that’s something which is very important, in all sports, is fairness.

“And I think a little bit of what happened was towards the unfair side of it and that’s what caused so much of the controversial ending to Formula 1.”

Formula 1’s safety car rules have since been changed to make it impossible for a race to be conducted in the manner of 2021’s controversial title decider.

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Masi was dropped as race director late last year as a result of failing to apply the rules correctly in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The controversy stemmed from his decision to only let cars between race leader Lewis Hamilton and title rival Max Verstappen to un-lap before a restart, which potentially gave the latter an unfair advantage.

The governing body FIA has now made it clear “all” lapped cars must un-lap themselves before a restart and claimed the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had created a controversy that is “tarnishing the image of the championship”.

Up until driver Nicholas Latifi crashed during the tense race, Hamilton had been leading 51 of the 58 laps. 

However, the crash brought out the safety car with five laps remaining, with the Red Bull Racing driver stopping under yellow for a fresh set of tires, and Masi letting the drivers separating Verstappen from Hamilton pass the safety car under yellow.

The race resumed with one lap remaining and Verstappen restarting second behind Hamilton, with the driver going on to pass him in the fifth turn and win his first title.

After the backlash to his win, Verstappen claimed he felt “a bit sorry” for Latifi, who had received a torrent of online abuse since his crash.

Listen to the full BBC Radio 5 Live podcast here.

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