The Monza chicanes have been annoying people on a fairly much constant basis since 1972 and they, and the delicately poised nature of what is a match race for the world championship, created another opportunity for race fans to grind their teeth in frustration yesterday.
Unless of course you like your F1 racing served with a generous side order of controversy in which case the latest ‘two-into-one won’t go’ clash between the two title protagonists comes with the compliments of the chef.
And therein lies the rub.
For years now many fans have been pining for the so-called good old days when the leading drivers had nothing but barely contained – and often entirely uncontained – contempt for their closest rivals, a delicious frisson that added drama and tension to what can often appear to be nothing more than an anodyne engineering project rather than a full blooded sport.
The problem, though, is that motor racing is dangerous and the implications of these fractious relationships are often too difficult to contemplate. But we must. Lest someone gets hurt.
The stewards of the meeting, charged with making the difficult decision on how to apportion blame for the incident, decided Verstappen carried the greater burden of culpability because he never got quite alongside in the ‘to and fro’ dance through Monza’s infuriating first ‘variante’.
In that they were entirely consistent and predictable for which they deserve credit. Therefore, Verstappen has copped a three-place grid penalty for the next round in Russia, an outcome which, in the paradoxical nature of the game, is as frustrating as the Stewards’ decision is merited.
In their judgement they referred coldly to “car 33” and “car 44” as if they were self-driven machines uninfluenced by human emotion and subjective decision making.
The stewards have to make their assessments based on the merits of each individual situation but perhaps the powers that be need to take a macro view and understand that Max Verstappen, given the human dynamics of the situation, was simply never going to back out of a wheel to wheel situation with his only championship rival. And neither was Hamilton.
In that, there can be little criticism of the drivers. They’re human, passionate, talented, focused, and totally committed. However, a little cooling off session at FIA headquarters might be in order.
Maybe a short video session showing the juicier moments of the 1989 and 1990 Japanese Grands Prix would be appropriate, followed by a light lunch sponsored by Toto Wolff and Christian Horner. While they’re at it, maybe the two team principals should chow down for some quality time.
It’s a great F1 season. The FIA need to keep their hands on the pressure relief valve.
As for the chicanes? They’ve caused more crashes than they were meant to prevent. But that’s a hoary old chestnut to be toasted over the fire another time…