1996 Formula One World Champion Damon Hill is hoping that the FIA will take the lead before the final round of the season and let teams know what penalties will be incurred if the championship is decided on a collision as it has been in F1 in the past – Incidents like the 1990 Championship winning crash must be avoided.
In a past Sky F1 featurette from 2019, a group of drivers including Max Verstappen were shown a clip of the controversal incident involving Senna and Prost in Japan in 1990. Perhaps surprisingly, some, including Max, actually supported the blatent purposeful crash into Prost by Senna.
Could this be an insight into the young Dutchmans mentality for this weekends Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi where both he and Lewis Hamilton are tied on points, but Max leads in victories. If the two were to DNF, then Max would become Champion. Certainly the young Dutchman so far has show zero f%4ks given in a 50/50 on track maneuver if such a scenario crop up.
In the video player below, Max agrees with Gasly who said he would do the same as Senna by confirming “yes, who wouldn’t”.
In 1990, Ayrton Senna qualified on pole, but was unhappy with the dirty side of the track it was situated on, arguing that pole should always be on the racing line. He and Gerhard Berger then went to the Japanese stewards, to request a change of position of pole to the cleaner left side of the track.
The stewards initially agreed but an injunction by FISA president Jean Marie Balestre later that night rejected the decision and the original pole position remained on the dirtier right side of the track.
At the start, Prost took the lead, but Senna attempted to take the inside line into the first corner. The two drivers made contact, sending both off the track and into instant retirement. The crash meant that Senna had clinched the Drivers’ Championship for a second time, as with one race left in the season, Prost could not overtake his points tally.
On Sky Sports F1 post race coverage, former Champion and Sky’s Formula 1 pundit, Damon Hill, reflected on similar controversal situations in his past with Michael Schumacher, particularly Australia 1994.
Hill, the victim of a much-criticised manoeuvre by the German at Adelaide when Schumacher lost control of his Benetton and came back onto the track as Hill was entering the corner. Schumacher reacted by steering towards Hill, who could do nothing to avoid contact.
The world championship leader was left in the tyres in a damaged car, which eventually forced him to retire on his return to the pits due to a broken suspension arm. At the end of this round, Michael Schumacher became the 1994 World Champion.
Another example was Schumacher and Villeneuve in 1997. Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve competed in the final race of the 1997 season in Jerez, Spain, with the German leading the Canadian by a single point before the race started. But Jacques Villeneuve had more wins than his rival (7 to 5).
It was therefore enough for the Canadian to take a single point from Schumacher to be crowned 1997 world champion. As for Schumacher, the German could still claim the world title as long as he finished just ahead of Villeneuve and could even be crowned in spite of a withdrawal or a finish outside the points, provided that Villeneuve suffered the same fate.
At the time, there were suggestions before the start of the race that Schumacher was likely to crash into Villeneuve to take the world title, forcing Bernie Ecclestone (then FOCA boss) to warn the teams that if the title was to be awarded as a result of a crash, the culprits would be severely punished.
On Sunday’s race, Schumacher was two seconds ahead of Villeneuve, but the Canadian – whose car was fitted with fresher tyres – was attacking like hell to get back on his rival until Villeneuve attacked Schumacher at the hairpin at the end of the straight.
Surprised, Michael Schumacher drove to hinder his rival from passing, but his Ferrari went straight into the gravel trap and remained stuck. Villeneuve was able to continue on his way, finishing third and taking the 1997 world title.
After the finish, Michael Schumacher was disqualified for dangerous driving, but the German still retained his victories.
Commenting on the current Formula One battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, Damon Hill did not suggest that the Red Bull driver would resort to controversial manoeuvres in the Abu Dhabi finale this weekend, despite the apparent approval of the 1990 crash by Max, but the Briton does believe that the Dutchman’s driving style bears some similarities to Michael Schumacher’s:
“There are people who drive without compromise. And I think Max is one of those people. He is very skilled and he is brilliant and it is exciting to watch. I think Lewis, who has to deal with that, is now very cautious – he’s not intimidated but he’s very wary of Max and probably rightly so,” Hill said on Sky Sports.
So this weekend the two men will battle again on track in Abu Dhabi for the grand finale of the 2021 season. Before this final round of the year, Verstappen and Hamilton are tied on points (369.5 points), but the Red Bull driver has the advantage in terms of wins over the Briton (9 wins for Verstappen compared to 8 for Hamilton). This means that if both men retire next Sunday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen would be crowned for the first time in his career.
As in 1997, some will say that Max Verstappen only has to crash into Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes for him to retire, but Damon Hill hopes that the FIA will let teams know in advance what the penalty risks are if there is a collision this weekend at Yas Marina:
“There was a precedent set in the championship in 1997 where (Michael) Schumacher’s points were taken away. So if we have a (collision) situation, I think the FIA should let the teams and drivers know in advance what they are likely to do. Are they going to take points off? What is the penalty?”