Formula 1: Hamilton and Verstappen crash at 190mph
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Red Bull boss Helmut Marko believes Formula 1 icon Niki Lauda ‘wouldn’t have let’ the feud between his team and Mercedes escalate in the manner it did during the explosive 2021 season. Max Verstappen sealed his maiden world title in dramatic circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after he and bitter rival Lewis Hamilton went into the season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit tied on points.
The Dutchman dramatically overtook the seven-time world champion – who had dominated from the beginning of the race – on the final lap as a late Safety Car and tyre change swung momentum heavily in the Red Bull driver’s favour.
In a final lap shootout to decide the F1 title, the Red Bull ace quickly made the move on the Brit and held his nerve to secure the first championship of his career.
Mercedes were seething afterwards and launched two protests immediately to the FIA – with their fury largely aimed at race director Michael Masi after he initially decided to not allow cars to unlap themselves, as is tradition, only to change his mind to set up the final lap showdown between Hamilton and Verstappen.
Mercedes and Red Bull clashed on a number of occasions across the exhilarating campaign, with the on-track tension between Hamilton and Verstappen leading to off-track battles between Toto Wolff and Christian Horner.
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Marko believes Lauda, who worked as a non-executive chairman for the Silver Arrows from 2012 until his death in 2019, would have diffused the situation.
“It would not have escalated so much with Niki Lauda,” Marko told ServusTV.
“It would certainly have been tough because he doesn’t like to lose either.
“But it would have gone with more composure.”
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The epic finale was the culmination of a year-long battle between Mercedes and Red Bull, with team principals Wolff and Horner engaged in a number of heated interviews where they would fire shots at one another.
Despite the exciting drama amid the war of words, Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has called on the relationship between the bitter rivals to improve ahead of the 2022 season.
“Those who live with certainties mean they sleep well,” Domenicali told Speedweek.com after the 56-year-old received the Lorenzo Bandini Award in Italy.
“But we have many doubts and we have to face them.
“We have issues that will eventually have to be managed.
“We will have to evaluate day-by-day the relationship that must be recovered between Red Bull and Mercedes to avoid the personal clashes we have seen that serve no benefit.”
F1 will return in 2022 for pre-season testing on February 23 before the opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.
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