Aussie F1 star Daniel Ricciardo has opened up once again on last season’s controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finish and its fallout.
Ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix – the first since 2019 after Covid saw the 2020 F1 season halted ahead of the race, while the 2021 edition was canceled – Ricciardo told his side of the story from last years’ championship decider.
He also said that after the drama, he is sick of the behind the scenes drama and just wants drivers to be able to drive,
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After Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton came into the final race of the season tied on points, the Mercedes champion appeared to be heading for his record eighth title until Williams’ Nicholas Latifi crashed five laps from home.
Hamilton had a big lead at the time but was on old hard tires, while Verstappen pitted at the perfect time for fresh soft tires but behind lapped drivers.
But a heavily debated call from Aussie FIA race director Michael Masi saw the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen moved out of the way and Verstappen overpower Hamilton for his maiden world title, amid a storm of controversy.
On 10 Sport, Ricciardo spoke about the most controversial finish in F1 history.
After a slow finish to the season, Ricciardo finished 12th, a lap behind Verstappen and Hamilton, but the first of the drivers who wasn’t told to unlap themselves.
It meant he was right behind the two leaders and had the best seat in the house to see his former Red Bull teammate Verstappen claim his first world championship.
Ricciardo said in the past that he felt for Hamilton and that still hadn’t changed months on.
“At the time, I couldn’t believe what happened,” Ricciardo said.
“And I remember 2008 when the championship ended on the final lap and I was like‘ that will never happen again ’.
“And I was seeing it happen in front of me and I was just like‘ oh my god ’.
“I felt for Lewis because no safety car or whatever and he’s probably just having a comfortable win. I put myself probably more in his shoes that night and was just like ‘oh, that hurts’. “
Hamilton took some time to get himself back together after the final lap madness but the Brit spurned retirement talk to return for 2022.
While Ricciardo said he felt sorry for Hamilton, he understood it was a tough decision at the moment.
“It’s hard because probably with hindsight, you’d say ‘yes we red flag the race, everyone can put on whatever tires they want and we do a standing start for the last five laps or whatever,” Ricciardo said.
“But then it’s like, to finish under safety car you’re going to get a lot of scrutiny even if it’s maybe the right thing. You’re still going to get ‘well you can’t finish a world title under a safety car’.
“It was what it was. Whether it was a wrong decision, a bad decision, a good, a right, whatever, I think it kind of highlighted that probably the issue wasn’t necessarily Michael (former race director Masi) or with Michael. It’s the broader picture.
“A person in his opposition not having enough support and then too much interference. Like that I didn’t like. Watching Saudi, the race before that, all this arguing during a race. It also doesn’t look professional. It all got a little bit messy. ”
The fallout from the 2021 finale saw Mercedes boss Toto Wolff call for the broadcast of communications between team principals and the FIA race director, as the FIA banned the communication outright.
When Masi made the decision to unlap the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen, Wolff screamed: “No Michael, this is not right.”
He also demanded Masi reinstate the lap before the final lap as a result, where Hamilton was leading.
After being essentially a dead man walking during the off-seasonMasi was removed as race director on the eve of the season and was replaced by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas in an alternating role, while Herbie Blash will be a permanent senior advisor.
It adds an extra layer of checks and balances and Ricciardo said it was a good move, despite offering a caveat that he wants drivers to just be able to race without slight technical infractions being the difference in a driver’s success.
“It sounds like we’re definitely going forward and trying to learn from things that weren’t executed well,” he said.
“But not every driver has the same idea about how to go racing.
“Sometimes I do get a little bit fed up with it and it should be just we race how we want to race and if someone serves it to us, then they can expect to get a dish back to them, and that’s old school.
“At times because it’s so hard to come up with solutions, if you do me wrong then just expect that it’s going to come back to you and maybe that is – I don’t want to speak out of like ego or anything – but it’s just maybe that’s just the way we all get respect because we know we’re going to get it back so maybe we all just stay a little under. ”
While Ricciardo’s has some ideas for what he would like F1 to look like going forward, he has more issues to start the season with McLaren.
Ricciardo had a 14th placed finish in Bahrain and a DNF while in a points position in Saudi Arabia.
The reports coming out of McLaren are no more positive however, as Ricciardo told Motorsport.com he was prepared for a long style without success in 2022.
“Look, if in two races’ time, we’re fighting for the top five, then okay, we’ll take it and that’s a bonus,” Ricciardo said ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
“But I think mentally to remain, let’s say, calm and chill and level-headed and sensible, you need to realize that we’re not looking for three or four tenths. It’s over a second if we want to fight the wins.
“So I doubt it’s going to come overnight. We have to just be patient. And I think for the wellness of the team, it’s important to do that. It’s too early to cause a ruckus. ”