In the dying embers of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, reference was made to the unforgettable climax to the First Division (now Premiership) of 1989 when Arsenal had to win 2-0 at Anfield to take title away from the home side. And thanks to Micky Thomas’s amazing goal deep into stoppage time did just that.
At the same juncture, the commentary team could’ve referenced Eric Cantona’s goal in the 1996 FA Cup Final, Padraig Beggy’s last ditch heroics in winning the Epsom Derby aboard Wings Of Eagles. Yet I don’t think any of the above would get near encapsulating the drama which marked the conclusion of this season’s Formula One World Championship.
The only sporting occurrence which this corner could even consider comparable would be Sergio Aguero’s sensational strike against Queens Park Rangers which handed Manchester City the Premiership title on goal difference. Another reason why the two events chime is that, ultimately, mistakes from the vanquished were their own undoing.
Here, that was in the guise of Mercedes, crazily, leaving Lewis Hamilton out on the same set of tyres for more than 40 laps of the 58 circuit event. Though even that wouldn’t get within an ass’s roar of capturing all the drama. Which occurred not only today but in the closing stages of what was my first season properly attuned to affairs of the chequered flag.
Both of the main protagonists in the story, Hamilton and the ultimately triumphant Max Verstappen found themselves in hot water with the Stewards, Christian Horner and his opposing team Principal Toto Wolff engaging in running sniping battles and, in the end, eventual outcomes determined as much by circumstances outside of the control of either side as anything else.
The only other sporting event in which this writer can recall also-rans having such an impact is loose horses in the Aintree Grand National. Particularly the one in which race favourite Clan Royal was carried out by loose horses on the first circuit.
In this instance, it was again dross at the back of the field breaking down who had an unforeseen impact in the end. When cars break down, you see, depending on where the incident happens, the Safety Car may have to come onto the track. This effectively equates to a Police escort in front of the field. During which all competitors have to be reducing their speed by 40% and there’s no overtaking allowed.
Also, while the Safety Car precedes the field, teams may take a Pit Stop if they so wish. Red Bull duly did, kitting Verstappen out with new tyres at a crucial stage in the drama. Whereas, despite repeated pleadings from Hamilton, the Wolff pack decided to leave their man on the same ‘shoes’ for the majority of the day’s action.
Winners in any sport – or other walk of life for that matter – thread very close to ‘The Line’ and occasionally cross it. Did Horner do exactly that when contacting Race Director Michael Massi very late in the day regarding the overtaking of lapped runners in what ended up being frenetic one lap match between the two prize fighters?
I would in no way claim to be fluent in the Governance of F1 but surely Massi wouldn’t have willfully facilitated a flouting of the regulations he is presumably charged with upholding. Conversely, mind you, Mercedes were hardly going to lodge a complaint about the conclusion to events. Though it’s unclear what if any recourse would be available to Wolffie and his pack at this stage. What is certain, though, is that this new convert is already in the pitlane getting geared up for next season!