Bickering between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen has elevated the F1 spectacle


Later Verstappen was ordered to give a place back, did, then immediately overtook Hamilton again. Less giving the place, more lending. At the end Verstappen was awarded driver of the day, as voted for by viewers. “Luckily the fans have a clear mind about racing,” he said, furiously.

This can be such an intensely technical sport but at times this year it has been reduced to the level of bad driving dashcam YouTube compilations. Engaging with it does not require a fine appreciation for racing line, downforce or drinks delivered by big bendy straws.

But it is the emotive rivalry which has made it appointment television and while Verstappen and Hamilton are doing the heavy lifting the supporting cast have helped. Human reaction GIF Toto Wolff chucked down his headphones in anger, Chrisitian Horner, who should be a calming presence, is instead a consummate stirrer.

The result is an unmissable spectacle. Never was that in more evidence than in the minutes dedicated to Michael Masi’s offer of a one place re-arrangement to Red Bull. Red Bull discussed, accepted, then Masi realised he had forgotten about Ocon. Red Bull had to reconsider and the radio silence was deafening. Somehow, it was utterly compelling. To be gripped by such minutiae shows the quality of this season.

There was also a sobering reminder of why the drivers are so tetchy. At one point Verstappen’s anger was directed at the safety car. It was going too slowly, he said. The cars did look to be absolutely crawling at that point. Keeping in mind how unsafe even 70mph can feel when driving a smaller, older car, what reduced speed was Verstappen was complaining about? 100mph.

That would be enough to endanger most of our trousers but for Verstappen it was insultingly slow. No wonder the mood is so strained when the stakes are so high.


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