Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing
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Fernando Alonso thinks Max Verstappen had to overcome more bad luck than Sir Lewis Hamilton did during the 2021 F1 World Championship. Verstappen took the title in sensational style at last Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, overtaking his rival on the final lap after a safety car had scuppered a seemingly comfortable lead for the Mercedes driver.
The matter didn’t there however, with Mercedes duly launching a protest into the way race director Michael Masi appeared to deliberately speed up the safety car process to ensure there was a final lap of racing.
Their case was dismissed however, and despite then serving notice of an intent to appeal, the team released a statement on Thursday confirming they would not be pursuing that course of action.
The fallout has continued though, with both Hamilton and Toto Wolff boycotting the annual FIA prize-gala in Paris on Thursday night, with Wolff saying in a virtual press conference this week that the pair were “disillusioned” with how events transpired at the Yas Marina.
Now Alonso, who famously shared a fractious relationship with Hamilton during the British driver’s debut season in 2007, has had his say on the finale.
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And despite conceding that Hamilton was hard done by, the Spaniard felt that Verstappen deserved his maiden title over the course of the season.
“It was a matter of time before he won the trophy,” said Alonso. “He was lucky. Without the safety car, Lewis is champion, with the safety car Max is champion. It is a pure luck thing.
“If you take the 22 races, any of the two could be the world champion. More than any other year, if you could split the trophy in two, this was the year to do it.
“I had a little more, 51-49, for Max and I was clear from the beginning. I thought that over the season, there were a couple more unlucky moments for Max than for Lewis.”
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Hamilton had triumphed in six of the last seven championship campaigns, the only exception coming in 2016 when Nico Rosberg finished top of the standings. And Alonso thinks a new name at the helm is good for the sport.
“And the new is sometimes more attractive than the old. A new champion is good when you see the grandstands.
“If Max wins, one day, four or five championships, a new guy will come and he will be the big attraction. That is what I feel now.”
He did however, praise Hamilton for “driving on another level” in the latter half of the season, and admitted it was hard not to sympathise with the manner in which he was denied a record-breaking eighth championship.
The 40-year-old himself enjoyed a strong finish to the season, last month securing a first podium finish in seven years when he finished third in Qatar.
And in Abu Dhabi, both he and Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon claimed points by finishing eighth and ninth respectively.
It meant Alonso, who will remain with the team for the 2022 campaign, finished his return season 10th in the standings, with 81 points.
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