2021 F1 finale shouldn’t detract from ‘best season for 40 years’ - Horner

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes the controversial ending to the 2021 Formula 1 season should not take away from the “best year” the championship has had for decades. 
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Me
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Me
© xpbimages.com

Following a fierce season-long battle, Max Verstappen ultimately beat Lewis Hamilton to the world championship in a highly contentious conclusion after FIA race director Michael Masi did not apply the correct rules during a late Safety Car period. 

Masi’s decision-making set-up a final lap shoot-out and left Hamilton exposed to Verstappen, who Red Bull had pitted for fresh tyres under the Safety Car. The Dutchman went on to pass Hamilton on the last lap to clinch his maiden world title in dramatic circumstances. 

But Horner does not think the events of last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix should overshadow the championship fight. 

“If you look at the season as a whole, we’ve had a lot of bad luck,” Horner told WION. “We got a little bit fortunate with the incident at the end of the race.

“The Safety Car was the inevitable response to that and I think tactically we made the right call. We pitted Max, Mercedes left Lewis out, and he was then going to be very exposed at the restart.

“And of course when the race did get restarted, which is always going to be the intention of the race director, Max had to go for it. He had one lap to make the pass, he did it and managed to convert the championship. So it was an amazing feeling, and an amazing end to an incredible year.”

Last season marked just the second time in F1 history - the other being 1974 - that two drivers had gone into a season finale tied level on points, while it was also the first inter-team title decider to go down to the wire since 2012. 

With the momentum dramatically swinging back and forth between Red Bull and Mercedes amid their intense battle, Horner reckons F1 enjoyed its best season for 40 years. 

The podium (L to R): Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing, race winner, and World Champion; Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1, second; Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal; Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari, third.
The podium (L to R): Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing, race winner,…
© xpbimages.com

“I think sport is all about competition and when you’ve got serial winners it becomes less attractive,” he said. 

“So I think the fact that there was a big rivalry between the teams, between the two drivers, every grand prix there was very little to choose between the two of them. 

"It was a fantastic year, the best year I think Formula 1 has had as a sport for probably 30 or 40 years.”

Amid the fallout at Yas Marina, Hamilton is reportedly considering whether to return to race in F1 this year after being left “disillusioned” with how the season ended. 

Horner admitted he wants Hamilton to continue and reignite his rivalry with Verstappen once more this year. 

“We certainly hope that Lewis will be around this year,” he said. “He’s still driving at an incredible level. The two drivers last year were in a league of their own.

“But ultimately it’s his choice, it’s his career, it’s his decision. I’m sure he will decide to do what’s best for him, what he wants to do, and that’s none of our business.”

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