Lewis Hamilton took the win for the final race of the season but was it enough after talks that he could now be sacked by team bosses at Mercedes…
Lewis Hamilton may have driven himself into trouble with his Mercedes team after defying direct orders near the end of Sunday’s gripping Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where the British driver lost his title to teammate Nico Rosberg in a nerve-shredding finale.
Hamilton won the race but needed Rosberg to finish outside of the top three in order to retain his title.
In order to further this bid, he used a technique known as backing up. It was designed to slow Rosberg down and allow pursuing drivers Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and Dutch teen Max Verstappen of Red Bull to catch up.
Had they both overtaken Rosberg, then Hamilton’s win would have been enough for the title. Vettel and Verstappen were right on Rosberg’s tail in the closing stages as Hamilton refused to accelerate — even after Mercedes asked him twice.
To do so, he would have deprived a Mercedes team-mate, Nico Rosberg, of the prize — but there is a moment when driving becomes an individual pursuit and it was reached in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
It was only Hamilton’s decision to disobey orders that lifted what should have been one of the global events of the sporting year above the mundane.
Had Hamilton done as told, he would have gone around the circuit 55 times, a comfortable distance from second-placed Rosberg, who would have been equally at ease heading off the rest of the field. Who would pay a premium to host that? More importantly, who would wish to watch it?
How many teenagers are engaged by F1 these days? The rise of sports such as mixed martial arts shows that younger audiences demand action.
F1 can certainly deliver this but often chooses not to. With an over-reliance on team instructions and incomprehensible technology, the sports risks alienating itself from all but the most intense petrol-heads. If Hamilton is in trouble for racing, what market will there be, long term, for F1?