The Inside Line #82: The perfect storm, or a perfect finish?

TILI Logo PrintAnd, finally, we’re here. The last race of the season and the dreaded double-points finale that, irrespective of whether it costs Lewis Hamilton the title or not, will change every record book in the sport, see teams finish in positions in the constructors’ championship they probably shouldn’t, and risks turning F1 into a laughingstock. If everything goes as wrong as it could, I genuinely fear for the fallout. As long as the right driver wins the title, I’m not bothered with how it plays out. And that right driver is undoubtedly Hamilton.

I’m no Hamilton fan per se or Hamilton apologist [1], but his dominance over the second part of the season deserves to be rewarded with a second world title. He’s clearly been the better of the two Mercedes drivers over the course of the year, and he shouldn’t have to finish second if teammate Nico Rosberg wins in Abu Dhabi just to secure his crown. Under the normal points system, as in the one we’ve almost done 95 per cent of this year’s races with, Hamilton would have to finish no worse than sixth to win the title, which sounds about right for a driver who has won double the number of races of his teammate. Quite frankly, if Rosberg does win the title thanks to double points, it’ll do him as much harm as good, as everyone will know he’ll be a world champion with an asterisk. “Rosberg was the 2014 world champion, but …”. Double points, as I may have mentioned once or twice [2], is a cheap gimmick to capture the casual sporting fan who probably isn’t into F1 in the first place. And threatens to incense those people who follow the sport through thick and thin, good time zones and bad. Worst still, it isn’t needed – and Abu Dhabi shows us why.

The atmosphere before the race at the Yas Marina Circuit in 2010 was electric. The air felt heavy, everyone was jumpy, your senses were on hyper-alert. With four drivers in contention for the title in the final race, something that had never happened before and hasn’t happened since, you had sporting drama, organically created, at its finest. That Sebastian Vettel won the title despite (a) being third in the championship coming into the final race and (b) having not led the title race all season until after that last race was a fittingly dramatic conclusion to a fantastic season of ebbs and flows. Who needs double points when you can have that? My vivid memories of that night were pushing through the Vettel victory celebrations to get to Mark Webber and be the only journo granted a one-to-one audience with him at the circuit, one that still pains me to listen to now [3], and seeing fellow Aussie Chris Dyer buried in his phone as he sat, very much alone, outside the Ferrari hospitality unit, a look on his face that suggested he knew he was going to be made the scapegoat for the tactical blunder that saw Fernando Alonso mired in the midfield and not able to do anything about Vettel winning the race and the title. Sure enough, Chris lost his gig and I never saw him at a race weekend again. Sporting and human drama wrapped up in one 90-minute race, no need for gimmicks and WWE-style nonsense.

A comprehensive preview of the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi, the championship permutations and the ramifications of either Hamilton or Rosberg winning the title is the main focus of Episode 82 of ‘The Inside Line’ this week, while we also look at the debate surrounding closed cockpits in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s accident at Suzuka just last month. It would be a huge step for Formula One to adopt closed cockpits given its history, but learning from Bianchi’s crash and what could be done to prevent such an avoidable accident in future has to be the priority of those in positions of power in the sport, more of a priority than screwing one another over for extra money and power at the very least. [4]

Check out ‘The Inside Line’ on Fox Sports 5 and ESPN if you’re in Australia, and check local guides if you’re watching in one of the 30-plus countries elsewhere that broadcast the show.

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[1] The cheerleading we’ll hear from a vast majority of the British media this weekend will be nauseating.

[2] OK, about 100 times. Especially here.

[3] There was no skill in getting Webber that night – after many years of a journo/sports star relationship with him, I just asked and caught him at the right time before he found something better to do – but having to deliver when I was as disappointed as I was for him was a serious challenge. Seeing him as devastated as he was and knowing him like I do, I knew that he was contemplating retirement from the sport there and then as we had to listen to the Vettel victory celebrations as background music to our laboured chat. As it was, my story set off a chain of events that was to impact my career from that night to now, and probably the future as well. Not all of it was great, but all of it – now – was worth it.

[4] As Bianchi remains in a Yokkaichi hospital in a critical yet stable condition, all of the grubby cash-grabbing, whining and posturing by people elsewhere in the sport is a disgrace, to be honest.


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