Lando Norris doubles down on view of Max Verstappen’s controversial title triumph

Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out

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Lando Norris has suggested that FIA race director Michael Masi’s controversial decision to let some cars unlap themselves under a late safety car at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was purely made for entertainment purposes. Lewis Hamilton was in a strong position to win his decisive final-day showdown with Max Verstappen and clinch an unprecedented eighth world title before Nicholas Latifi’s retirement changed the entire trajectory of the contest with five laps to go.

The Williams driver was pushed wide by Mick Schumacher as they battled for position and ended up in the barriers after failing to wrestle his car back under control.

The safety car was deployed in order to allow the debris to be cleared, with Masi initially declaring that no lapped cars would be able to unlap themselves.

Verstappen took advantage of the situation to pit for a fresh set of soft tyres, while Hamilton was told to stay out in order to avoid losing track position.

The two championship rivals ended up with five lapped cars between them before Masi changed his mind and reversed his earlier call just seconds before the safety car was ordered to return to the pit lane.

The decision gave Verstappen a clear run at Hamilton on much quicker tyres when the green flags were eventually waved at the start of the final lap.

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He quickly passed the Brit and held his advantage to take the chequered flag and seal his maiden Drivers’ Championship triumph in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

Norris was among those to question Masi’s decision-making after the race and the McLaren driver has since cast further doubt over the integrity of the result.

“I don’t know what decisions were made based upon things the stewards said in the first place,” Norris told RaceFans.

“If that [decision to maintain the order] then made Lewis or made Mercedes make the decision to not box, but then later on they suddenly said now they’re allowed to overtake, then I guess that’s not acceptable.

“I don’t know exactly what was said or what was done or so on, but a controversial end, that’s all I can say.

“I didn’t actually know it was only the first three or four [lapped cars] up to Max [going past], so it was obviously made to be a fight.

“It was for the TV, of course. It was for the result. Whether or not it was fair, it’s hard for me to decide.”

When quizzed on whether he was surprised about initially being prevented from unlapping himself, Norris added: “Sometimes they let you go, sometimes they don’t.

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“It’s just fifty-fifty, half the time. But the call, they said they’re not going to let us pass. So I’m guessing that was a message to say they were just not going to let us pass at all.

“But then to suddenly do it just for the final lap and for a one-lap shootout, I’m a bit surprised by.”

Meanwhile, fellow McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo was also left wondering what had happened after the last-lap debacle in Abu Dhabi.

The Aussie star, who crossed the line in 12th place, told his race engineer via team radio: “I’ve got no idea what they did with letting cars through.

“Obviously I wasn’t really [involved] in that anyway, but it seemed strange. Glad I am not a part of that, whatever just happened, it seemed pretty f****d up.”

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