Column

Verstappen and Hamilton warned: a crash can have serious consequences

Verstappen and Hamilton warned: a crash can have serious consequences

08-12-2021 20:44 Last update: 16:29
49 Comments

GPblog.com

Will the world title be decided by a crash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton? Plenty in the F1 paddock are taking it into account in the run-up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In that case, Verstappen would be the new champion, as he recorded the most victories this season, wouldn't he? Well, it might be a bit more complicated.

Really unlikely?

Earlier this week Peter Oord told the NOS that a points deduction in the event of a crash is 'unlikely'. He clarified that whether or not Verstappen won the championship should not factor into such a situation. "Yes, it's the last race of the season, the denouement of the world championship, but for the stewards this race is no different than the first, or the twelfth," Oord spoke.

However, there is a precedent that shows that the FIA did take this into account. We have to go back to 1997 - the year that Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve were involved in a fierce battle for the title. Before the last race in Jerez, Schumacher led the standings with 78 points, one more than Villeneuve.


Crash

The sensation began already during qualifying. Villeneuve, Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen all clocked exactly the same time - 1:21.072. The Canadian was first to set this time and was therefore allowed to start from pole, ahead of Schumacher who was second and Frentzen who was the last of the three.

At the start of the race Schumacher overtook Villeneuve immediately, just as Frentzen did. Frentzen let his team mate pass him not long after. Until the second series of pitstops Schumacher stayed ahead of Villeneuve, although the Canadian was now less than a second behind him. On lap 48 Villeneuve tried to overtake the German, but Schumacher turned in to Villeneuve. With that Schumacher seemed to try to tap his rival off the track, an action which failed, because it was Schumacher who eliminated himself.


Convicted

Villeneuve finished the race in third place, securing his first and only Formula One world title, yet the drama was not over. Although the stewards described the collision as a racing incident, Schumacher had to report to the FIA. Before the race, FIA president Max Mosley had said that anyone trying to influence the championship would be punished.

Therefore Schumacher appeared before a disciplinary committee of the FIA. The commission found him guilty of deliberately trying to eliminate Villeneuve during the race in Jerez, although according to the commission there was no evidence of premeditation. Schumacher's punishment was nonetheless severe: he was completely eliminated from the final standings of the 1997 season, but he was allowed to keep his race victories. His Ferrari team escaped punishment.


Lesson?

In the run-up to the decisive race in 2021, the FIA have not suggested any consequences such as those of 1997. Still, Hamilton and Verstappen would do well to keep in mind that there are rock-solid consequences for a deliberate crash.

Video player

More videos