The ‘will he/wont he’ saga of whether Lewis Hamilton will take part this season took another turn a few days ago with the FIA statement about its ‘detailed analysis’ of events at last year’s Abu Dhabi season finale. It stated that the outcome of this investigation will be announced at the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Bahrain on 18 March – ie the first day of practice for the opening round of this year’s championship. Which sounds like the governing body decoupling itself from what it might perceive to be an attempt by Hamilton to apply pressure, refusing to be held hostage to the driver’s decision by effectively forcing him to make it before he knows the outcome of the investigation.
But however unjust what happened in Abu Dhabi was – and the misapplication of the sporting regs changing the outcome of the race and the title was unjust – there is zero chance of the outcome being changed. That just isn’t going to happen. There will likely be some changes made to the regulations to avoid a repetition, there may be some associated personnel changes.
That will doubtless enrage fans of Hamilton and please his detractors, such is the unfortunate tribal aspect of much of F1 fandom. But there are some other important de-couplings to be made here.
Only Hamilton knows the reason for his current silence
Grand Prix Photo
The first is that between how Hamilton’s refusal to confirm he will be taking part is being viewed and how it may actually be from Hamilton’s own perspective. They are not necessarily the same at all. It’s being widely assumed that he’s chosen to make himself a martyr to the cause of exposing what he believed in Abu Dhabi was a manipulation. Which suggests he’s taking up a position for the purposes of transmitting a message. But what about the position of not even thinking about what the outside world perceives, of simply being deeply hacked off because of a belief that the regs were misapplied – thereby making the whole battle for a championship potentially meaningless, that the ground beneath him has moved like shifting sand? If he cannot trust that the game is going to be fair, he may not wish to take part. Only he knows what the true motivation is, but there’s an important distinction to be made between internal and external here. His actions may be driven by a completely different motive to what is being assumed.
The rules were incorrectly applied. That’s the injustice. Not who lost out and who benefitted.
The other decoupling it would be useful to make in trying to understand what is happening here is that of the campaigning from Hamilton’s fans to reverse the decision. It’s a very understandable reaction but it’s a protest based on the fact that it was their driver who lost out to the misapplication of the rules, rather than a protest against the misapplication itself. It’s not the same thing because it’s irrelevant who benefitted and who missed out. Would those same fans be campaigning for the correct application of the regs to be enforced if it had been Max Verstappen who’d lost out to Hamilton by the same process? No? If not, the protest is effectively just saying we didn’t like the outcome rather than saying we object to how the outcome was arrived at.
The injustice is the way the outcome was decided. The actual outcome is 100% irrelevant.
For the record, as I’ve made clear here before, yes I 100% believe the rules were not correctly applied. And yes that changed the outcome of the race and the championship. That’s the injustice. Not who lost out and who benefitted.