The year of sprints, ‘the show’ – and rising stock: A political review of the 2021 F1 season


Posted on

| Written by

The start of 2021 brought change at the very top of Formula 1’s management structure with the appointment of Stefano Domenicali as president and CEO of F1’s commercial rights holder, with the actual racing season ending with a bang of seismic proportions when the sport crowned Max Verstappen as its first non-Mercedes world drivers champion since 2013.

Back then it was Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, so the drinks company bookends seven years of Mercedes driver dominance.

Almost overlooked in all this drama was that a week after that most contentious victory Jean Todt stepped down from the FIA presidency, having reached both the three-term limit and maximum permissible age (75) at re-election, the Frenchman’s place taken by Emirati Mohammed Ben Sulayem – significantly, the first non-European to hold world motoring’s top job since the formation of the federation in 1904.

In the process the make-up of the FIA World Motor Sport Council underwent drastic change: Germany, France and Italy lost seats their delegates had believed were safer than the halo device, with Fabiana Ecclestone, wife of former F1 tsar Bernie, gaining one of the places. Although the official word is that the nonagenarian won’t have a say in the WMSC, the smart money has it that he will be influential…

Domenicali’s appointment had, of course, been scooped by RaceFans in September 2020 and his start date was awaited eagerly, not because incumbent Chase Carey had done a poor job – quite the contrary, in fact – but simply because after the American had brought stability to the sport after years of profit-plundering by the previous commercial rights holder, CVC Capital Partners, it was time for the sport to move up another gear.

The FIA begins 2022 with a new president
Carey had instilled stability by presenting a totally revamped Concorde Agreement – one that levelled F1’s financial, sporting, and regulatory playing fields – to teams on a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ basis. There had, of course, been push-back – not unexpectedly from Mercedes F1, who wanted matters rolled over a year – but Carey stuck to his guns, and the covenant was signed by all parties in August 2020, effective 1 January 2021.

Simultaneously the FIA introduced a formal budget cap of $145 million, reducing by $5m per year in each of 2022/3 and to be reviewed thereafter, which dealt a triple whammy to major teams: Not only would they need to lay off staff and reduce resources, but do so while racing 2021 cars – albeit modified versions of the previous year’s designs – all while simultaneously developing 2022 cars to F1’s ‘new era’ regulations.

A watershed year approaches: Out goes the (eight-year-) old formula, in comes a much vaunted ‘new era’, which promises increased on-track action at lower costs. Originally scheduled for 2021, it was delayed a year due to Covid. Ironically, the on-track battle was so close it produced the first points tie heading into the finale since 1974, and after seven years of Mercedes hegemony some questioned whether the new regulations were in fact needed after all.

The flipside is that framing entirely new regulations takes at least two years – the prescribed minimum period if the balance of performance between automobiles is heavily impacted – and back in 2019 no one foresaw that 2021 would deliver the most dramatic season in three decades. How does Domenicali see the situation?

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“The 2022 regulations will provide a crucial additive for the championship,” he told RaceFans in Abu Dhabi. “While 2021 has been incredible, we still have cars that cannot follow each other closely [due to current aerodynamics]. The new regulations were delayed a year but they are designed to improve the racing.”

The 2021 season also saw the end of F1’s 13-inch rubber, the sport’s prescribed dimension since 1985, replaced by lower-profile 18-inch tyres. How they ultimately perform is open given no direct comparisons are possible simply because they were tested on ‘mules’, F1-speak for emasculated test cars. Pirelli is bullish they will perform better under all conditions while being more road relevant despite adding 14kg to overall car weight – an undesirable trend.

While F1’s revised prize money structures – which treat all teams equally save for top three performance bonuses and a (reduced) historic stipend to Ferrari – will take at least three years to fully wash through the system despite the provisions of the budget cap, there were immediate effects, not least that Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari admitted to reducing the number of upgrades as the season wore on.

However, the revised governance system, which gave all teams equal votes – save that Ferrari retained its veto, albeit in diluted form – enabled the FIA to expedite rule changes, and thus pit stop regulations and ‘flexi-wing’ provisions were “clarified”, for which read “considerably tightened” during the season rather than being delayed for the new year. In effect, the powers of the major teams were clipped.

That said, a lowlight of 2021 is that F1 did not commence its planned rewrite of F1’s regulations, having previously promised to streamline them provisions to eliminate conflicting clauses – in particular, those contained in the sporting regulations. While such a revamp cannot be completed in a year – certainly not if approached diligently – the longer the delay, the greater the chances of Abu Dhabi’s fiasco repeating itself.

Feature: Which Drive to Survive scenes triggered Verstappen’s accusation of fakery?
Simply put, there were too many inconsistencies during the year for even the most ardent fan to not question whether Liberty Media, as F1’s parent company the ultimate holder of the commercial rights, and Netflix, producer of the smash hit series Drive to Survive, had hijacked regulatory control of the sport. Not without some justification did

Another lowlight in the eyes of many – although not to promoters or broadcasters – was the emergence of sprint qualifying. Sprints are here to stay – six are planned for the 2022 F1 season – although the overall concept is constantly evolving as Liberty Media, the FIA and team bosses thrash out a better solution to

As the season progressed so the considerable catfights and continuous bickering between Mercedes and Red Bull escalated as expected during a championship as tightly poised as the one just past. One sensed the calm and cool hand of Domenicali, who had the advantage that he had once been ‘one of them’ during his Ferrari tenure, working away behind the scenes whenever flames of dissent threatened to engulf the sport.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“Stefano is charming, he’s Italian, he’s friendly, but don’t be mistaken,” was McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown’s verdict when asked by RaceFans to rate Domenicali’s first year in office. “Underneath that charming likeable guy there’s an immense amount of drive and toughness, and that’s been good for all of us.

Analysis: F1 has only worked out one thing about sprint qualifying: It wants more
“He’s been able to get things over the line, he knows all the characters. There are new races coming, new TV deals coming, sprint races, trackside partnerships. He’s picked up the baton from [Carey], and he’s sprinting with it.” Pun presumably not intended.

Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer was equally appreciative of Domenicali’s first year achievements, with his stand-out moment being this year’s sell-out USGP. The ex-Ford USA executive smiled as he recalled incessant requests from Detroit associates desperate for tickets.

“You can attribute some of that stuff to Netflix,” he says, “but Stefano is taking that and turning it into what we need to do. He’s found opportunities to build on and exploited others and is doing a great job.”

This is borne out by F1’s share price: On the day Domenicali first slid his feet under the F1 desk it was valued at $40.74; as this written 51 weeks later, FWONK is trading at an all-time high of $62.60. Thus it has appreciated by over 50% in a year despite the effects of Covid which saw one round knocked off the calendar, of that contentious finale and of gathering rumours that Lewis Hamilton may not return.

In early July we indicated Valtteri Bottas was heading for Alfa Romeo – to much disbelief, including from senior team executive Pascal Picci, who subsequently departed in a huff – and that George Russell was a shoo-in for the seat.

Significantly, Hamilton’s contract extension was signed that weekend, before it became known that Bottas, whom he lauded as “the best team mate I’ve ever had”, was to leave Mercedes. Could that, rather than Abu Dhabi fall-out, be the real reason for his current doubts, particularly as Hamilton subsequently admitted to not having a veto over who his team mate might be?

Kimi Raikkonen, Sauber, 2001
Feature: How F1’s greenest debutant defied his doubters and left as its most experienced racer
There were never any doubts, though, that Kimi Raikkonen would bow out this year, having come in as F1’s least experienced car racer – with 23 single-seater starts on his CV – and leaving it with the most F1 starts – a record 349, albeit a tally likely to be beaten by Fernando Alonso. Intriguingly, both made their debuts in Australia in 2001, both are world champions and both took sabbaticals during which they raced elsewhere.

During the British Grand Prix weekend we revealed F1 was in talks with Qatar for a race, with a longer term deal on the table although the Gulf peninsula will sit out 2022 due to clashes with its FIFA World Cup schedule. The race came to pass in November – four months from start of talks to start of race is surely some record.

Qatar also has a 17% shareholding in the Volkswagen Group, which is considering an entry into F1 via either or both its Audi and Porsche brands. Last week we revealed the existence of a letter from Audi CEO Markus Duesmann to the FIA and F1 stating a decision will be taken in early 2022.

One of the pre-conditions set by VW Group for entering F1 was that the MGU-H – a massively complex, eye-wateringly expensive technology which is increasingly irrelevant to road car makers – be scrapped in order to reduce costs of both entry and competition as engine supplier. That was agreed at the last full WMSC meeting of the year, so let us now see which way VW jumps.

Last year Honda chose to exit the sport and its timing proved, as usual, impeccable. Having won its first world championship in 21 years the company that professed to love racing leaves no longer able to leverage Verstappen’s title.

Honda logo, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Feature: Have Honda chosen the wrong time to pull out of F1 – again?
Is Honda really leaving F1, or doing so in name only? RaceFans understands Honda will continue supplying unbranded engines from its Sakura base in Japan to Red Bull Racing and sister team AlphaTauri until the end of 2025 (for an inflated fee) – which will, though, be cheaper than Red Bull Powertrains gearing up for manufacture and rebuilding of power units, facilities for which exist in Japan.

Finally, in 2021 F1 bid farewell to two iconic characters, the controversial and enigmatic ex-FIA president Max Mosley and arch-racer Frank Williams, knighted for services to motor racing despite the odds he endured throughout. Both shaped F1, albeit in vastly different fashion, and there are no doubts F1 would be an utterly different place without their respective involvements. Williams, in particular, is sorely missed.

During 2021 F1 delivered a greater spectacle than it had any right to due to the omnipresent disruptions of Covid, while changes at the top echelons of the sport bookended a season that mixed political drama, on-track action and sporting intrigue to perfection during a season that saw two protagonists – seasoned veteran in the best car versus coming man given a first bash in a top car – level-peg on points going into the finale.

As a result – and despite the eventual result – all F1’s key metrics headed in the right direction in most major markets, particularly in the USA and Asia. The 2022 championship will be hard pushed to outdo the season just past, but that is a perennial problem with unexpected classics. Who a year ago could have foreseen how 2021 would pan out?

Next season will be hard-pressed to equal 2021, let alone beat it; if it does, don’t bet against FWONK hitting $100.


Browse all RacingLines columns

58 comments on “The year of sprints, ‘the show’ – and rising stock: A political review of the 2021 F1 season”

  1. Despite the closeness of the championship, I am left feeling that the 2021 competition was the least sporting I have witnessed – and I’ve witnessed more than 40 seasons.

    And that’s why, I’m out.

    1. Why the need to announce it?

      Looking for attention?

  2. F1 crossed the line in Abu Dhabi. Sporting fairness and integrity was sacrificed for the sake of the show. I for one will never be watching DTS again.

    1. They crossed the line many times before Abu Dhabi. The number of unnecessary red flags for example… And the pointless sprint…

      1. Red flags are not against the rules, and usually give EVERYONE the same chance to change tyres etc In Abu Dhabi the race director ripped up the rule book, butchered the established sc rules, knowing what he did would give Max a MASSIVE advantage over a Lewis Hamilton who had been a class of his own in that race. By trying to create a show, Masi virtually gifted the title to Verstappen

        1. Again, to use red flags is strictly defined in the rules. But bending the rules favoring lewis is not problem.
          There was never a red flag situation. There was no danger a normal SC could not handle.
          A SC is called out to clean up the track and resume racing as soon as possible. Not for racing behind the SC. We all know how Spa went and the critics are right there.
          So the problem is not masi but the bad gamble Mercedes made and Lewis knew the danger the moment the SC was called out. ( listen tot the radio traffic!) toto knew the moment the race was resumed they failed in their strategy and tried ( rather successful looking at the hamfans) to attribute the problem to masi.
          As shown by the stewards no rules were broken but used to resume racing..

          1. Merc’s strategy was correct, if they had pitted, Max would’ve stayed out, take track position and then Masi would’ve spotted his chance to crown Max champion by finishing the race (quite correctly) under the safety car.

      2. It all started in bahrain.
        I’m happy that it only took over 10 years and a British driver losing the championship (ironic) for most people to realise f1 is completely gone, happy nonetheless.
        The top teams don’t race they dictate.
        They make the rules, they are race direction and the media.
        F1 has been super political ever since the 90’s however the fia and Bernie often stood stronger than the teams. The teams still had their way but the fom was not as meek as it is since 2010.

        1. Silly post from @peartree as we all expect by now.

          “Carey had instilled stability by presenting a totally revamped Concorde Agreement – one that levelled F1’s financial, sporting, and regulatory playing fields – to teams on a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ basis.”

          How meek of him.

  3. Quite a good review. This season has left me with many conflicting feelings about the state of the sport, most notably, the state of sporting regulations. If you gave me an option of fixing those sporting regs but having sprints every weekend, or getting rid of sprints but leaving the sporting regs as they are, I would choose the first option every day of the week. Not just to avoid a repeat of Abu Dhabi, but the ridiculous contradictions that keep catching people out (most notably red flag restarts, as seen with Raikkonen in Imola).

    Again, I highly doubt Lewis will leave the sport.

    Also looking forward to the new technical regs and cars. I hope the field can be quite close and that the racing will improve. That said, I’m not sure if I could take another year of the same Mercedes vs Red Bull bickering we had this season.

    Finally, it’s a fitting time to say farewell to those we lost this year in F1 and motorsport: Max Mosely (who controversial as he was, implemented a lot of safety improvements during his time in charge)

    Frank Williams (arguably the greatest team principal of all time, and if not the very best, certainly right up there)

    Murray Walker (the definative voice of Formula 1)

    Nathalie Maillet (circuit director at Spa), Carlos Reutemann

    Al and Bobby Unser (legendary in Indy)

    Mansour Ojjeh

    Johnny Dumfries

    Adrian Campos (a huge loss to the feeder series family)

    And all the drivers and young riders who tragically died in the sport they love. Farewell all, you will be sorely missed.

    1. Absolutely right, RandomMallard,

      This season had, for me, those defining few laps at the Hungarian grand Prix that may well have settled the Drivers’ World Championship. That was when Alonso defended against Hamilton – had Hamilton won that race, the situation in the final race may not have been ‘for the show’.

      Here, in Melbourne (Australia) those of us who only have access to free-to-air television were given a raw deal by Channel 10 when their few minutes of ‘highlights’ were screened very late on the Monday after the race. So late, in fact, that I did not bother to stay up to watch the last three races. For the entire season, I had my hearing instruments switched off because I cannot abide the idiotic commentary from David Croft.

      All of my information from the final races has been through reporting and comments on this Website and I thank you all for that. However, this year for the first time in many years, I took an interest in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and found it to be refreshingly interesting, even though I had the commentary switched off – just like Formula One, I could see and interpret what was happening. My congratulations to Black Jack and the crew, the arrival in Hobart at 1:37 am was a most enjoyable experience.

      Keep up the good reporting!

  4. I still love the sport & I still love all the elements of it I always have. The competition, The technical element, The development race & the push towards performance & pushing the limits to achieve it.

    However I am starting to find myself in a weird place because for as much as I love the sport i’m actually starting to despise ‘the show’ because for the 1st time in the 31/32 years i’ve been a fan i’m starting to feel like the show has become more important than the sport & that certain elements & decisions are been made for show rather than sporting purposes which is something that just doesn’t sit well with me.

    I was for example thinking recently about the amount of red flags we have had the past 2 years, I think i’ve honestly seen more in the past 2 years than all the previous years i’ve been watching combined & the only thing that has changed is the introduction of standing restarts which was something introduced purely for the show.

    Then there’s the sprint format, Something I still cannot stand. Not just because I do honestly feel that the sprint race takes away something from the GP but also because I just don’t like how it changes the feel/flow of the weekend & how it changes the other sessions. And again I just don’t like how it means some race weekends become more valuable than others in terms of points.

    There’s other things as well such as the point for fastest lap that I just don’t see any value in & which for me just turns the end of more races into a bit of a farce than anything else & which for me makes fastest lap even less meaningful than it was before given how it’s more often than not more about who has the gap to pit for fresh softs rather than who actually set the fastest lap during a race stint.

    For me there’s always been a sport/show balance & the thing I always loved about F1 was that I always felt that the balance had the sport above the show. Yet again recently i’ve felt that’s changed & going into 2022 for the 1st time I honestly truly feel like the show is now above the sport & I just don’t like that & that is going to be the thing which will eventually turn me away…… Or I guess a better way of putting it would be push me away from a sport I still adore.

    1. @stefmeister +1

      I could have written exactly the same comment, and all I would have changed would have been switching 31/32 years for 26/27 years. Agree with every word, and it’s exactly how I feel as well.

      1. CD (@clipperdael)
        29th December 2021, 14:40

        Same for me, well if you switch it once more to 25 years. I’ve already found myself less and less enthralled with F1 since Liberty started making changes and despite last season being the closest in many years F1 has only been #3 on my list of motorsports interests in 2021. Sadly it seems they’re headed towards an entirely different future to what I’d be interested in watching and I fully expect the series to slip down further. As it is now I don’t even have any plans to watch F1 closely anymore, I guess I’ll turn it on when there’s nothing else to do but I’m not going to sacrifice other things or plan my weekends around the schedule.

    2. @stefmeister We could be on the turning point for F1. I’m not sure is F1 “scared” (not sure if the right word) to lose audience and not get the new ones on board with all these changes. Change is good and we should learn about our history but as in any sport if you overdo it, it won’t work. I haven’t followed Nascar but what I have heard it has gone downhill and I’m afraid F1 will follow it down the hill.
      We have had season where more than 5-6 drivers have won a GP and it hasn’t felt artifical. e.g 2012. F1 has also made some odd decisions to deny winning streaks to continue. It has happen to Williams, Ferrari and now Mercedes.
      If tomorrows F1 is really going to a direction where everyone can have a change to win it’s not F1 anymore. There should be teams that can fight for championships, teams that can fight for the podiums, teams that can fight for points and the rest. Young talents can start from the back and move up as they get more experienced. The magic is there if a team manages to get an unexpected result by driving not by stopping the race 3 times and getting the safety car out 2 times or by qualifying 2nd and not race at all.
      In the end it was a thrilling season but it left a bitter taste. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future we would have some sort of “superfinal” where all the drivers could have a change to win the championship in the last race(s) just because they want the show to continue throughout the season.

    3. Totally agree with those sentiments.

      Increasing share prices are driven by sentiment as much as hard data, the show lives only because of the sport. If the former controls the latter both will suffer.

      There cannot be sport if the rules are not understood the same way by everyone taking part.

      If the real sporting fans leave the new ‘show fans’ will not sustain F1.

    4. Interesting – I feel exactly the same having started following the sport in 1994.

    5. @stefmeister +1

      I too see a few worrying trends, and agree 100% about the sprint abominations ruining the flow of those weekends. 6 of them this year – it’ll be interesting to see how they “rate” (I won’t be watching/going to any of those)

      I’m also interested to see how the share price goes if for some reason 1 team (let’s say Alpine as an example) turns up with an absolute rocket that completely dominates every race all year. Will there suddenly be more changes to “spice things up” in an attempt to create something mere competitive or will they allow things to find their natural order?

      Looking forward to the next season, but with some reservation that there could be a continuance of the sorts of controversial things we saw this year.

    6. I mostly agree with this, however I am okay with the increased use of red flags. I think the reason for more red flags is twofold: 1. A desire for greater track safety when marshalls or equipment are on track 2. A desire for more racing laps rather than losing several laps of racing to the yellow flag. The standing restart after the red flag and the ability to change tires under the red flag create the problem – not the red flag itself. The tire problem could be partially fixed by sticking to the rule that damaged parts can only be replaced with like parts – i.e. no changing to a different compound tire.

      Race control needs to understand it is not their duty to inject excitement into the race.

      1. Davethechicken
        31st December 2021, 17:15

        I disagree, The Red flags trend is a bore. When the safety car was introduced, many seasons ago now, it felt like the racing was now contrived and controlled to improve the show. No point in having a 20sec lead on second place as the sc would line them all up nose to tail again.
        My feelings on the SC haven’t changed. It has totally changed racing for the worse.
        Now the silly contrived red flags are a new low. Look at Baku this year, the Red flag after Max crashed was a joke.
        They could have lead the hated sc through the pit lane to clear the accident safely but no, a restart for the show. Absolutely no other reason other than not to end the race under sc.
        It is also pathetic to see free pit stops under either sc or red flag.

    7. Jose Lopes da Silva
      31st December 2021, 9:28

      Why were you not bothered when they changed the rules in 2003, including a perfect qualifying system, as they were afraid of a continued Ferrari domination?

  5. I think it says it all about gender equality that it’s thought that a lawyer elected to the WMSC will be influenced because she is female.

    The new formula is necessary: my memory of 2021 is processions and just how far ahead of everyone else Lewis and Max were. Hopefully George Russell can get involved in the contest. Perez’s actions in Abu Dhabi were shameful, but an indication of how poor this generation of cars were at “racing”.

    The public bickering and lobbying of race control needs to stop. No doubt someone will be moaning about the new tyres given the change in suspension settings they’ll induce.

    1. The reason it’s felt Fabiana will be influenced is because her spouse is Bernie Ecclestone. Had Bernie’s spouse been male, the same problem would have ensued.

      1. Exactly @alianora-la-canta, the point is not so much about Fabiana herself but rather about her spouse who is surely still very much interested in meddling in the world of F1 and no doubt will be gladly providing insights, inside knowledge about the whole F1 world and his views on what F1 needs to try and influence the sport through her.

    2. Perez’s actions in Abu Dhabi were shameful,

      So you disagree with 99% of the F1 fans.. no problem but a good indication of your position.
      Perez did nothing Bottas did not do also during the season. But with less effect with Max who anticipated better.
      Except Hungary that is.. nobody expected a Bottas Bowling action to that extend. Bottas holding max up to make a double stack possible.. bottas left on track to delay max etc etc..
      The first half of the year max had to fight two mercedes cars.

  6. Another oldie here. I’ve been watching since 1976, however I think we have to accept that F1 operates in the current media environment.

    When I started following F1 there was no internet, F1 was only occasionally on the radio or TV in the UK. If a British driver didn’t win then even the results wouldn’t be announced on the news/sport roundup.

    I can remember waiting until the Thursday following the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix to read the result in Motoring News!

    It’s easy to take for granted the involvement of mass media. But if the show is dull then the handful of people who regard themselves as ‘true enthusiasts’ may not be enough to keep it on TV.

    If you want to be able to watch it you have to accept some degree of show – whether we crossed the line this year is up for debate…

  7. Happy that established rules had been broken to gift their preferred driver, simply for the show? No thanks. Don’t get me wrong, if Verstappen had won without the rules being manipulated, i would be the first to applaud him.

    Alternative non-Brit views—saw this on reddit, apparently the older guy is in disbelief that Masi handed Max the title

    Here’s another non-Brit view

  8. I enjoyed the first 57 laps of the Abu Dhabi race. The last lap, however, was a farce, and left me feeling distinctly disillusioned with Formula 1.

    I know you’re thrilled, because Hamilton lost, but honestly– Had Max won on merit, I’d have accepted it, and grudgingly cheered. Had Max won because Hamilton’s PU or gearbox failed on lap 57, I’d have still respected Max’s win, although I’ve reached the age where one grumbles about such things. :)

    But Hamilton comprehensively out-drove Max for 57 laps, and then Masi cherry-picked which rules he felt should apply in order to have a “motor race”, and ignored the rest– and by doing so changed the outcome of the race and the championship and proved F1 is now “spectacle” rather than “sport”– all in one decision, which the stewards backed 100%.

    I suspect as soon as Alonso and Hamilton are done with F1, so am I.

    1. Dieter is very obviously biased against Lewis and the utter injustice perpetrated on him. See the post race whinging about him not attending the press conference and now insinuating a new teammate rather than being robbed of the title may be his reasoning for not wanting to continue. Whitewashed F1 media to a tee.

      1. I saw that—-all he was concerned about was Lewis getting punished for the gala absence. Dieter showed his true colours

  9. Winning a Championship is not done in the last lap. You have to work a entire season for it. There were good times and bad times.
    This was by far the most exciting season for at least 8 years.
    Most people who followed this season were getting use to a dominant team with some crumbs for the rest.
    A battle between two drivers of the same team is no comparison with a battle between two teams . Two drivrs with different driving styles. Lewis had to go all in this year for the first time since he lost he title to Rosberg. He even used the simulator to be better prepared but at last to no avail.
    He was beaten fairly by the younger generation and besides those energetic battles there were some nice victorys for other teams also.
    Yes, there were a lot of stewarding inconsistencys starting at the first race and ending on the last race.
    But for a lot of people this was a top season. New fans enthousiastic and old fans reinvigorated.
    Of course there are fans who are deeply disappointed and it will take some time to grieve. Some will stop watching and a lot of new people who start watching. After 8 years of Mercedes dominated boredom the F1 lives again.

    1. Imo 2017 and 2018 Ferrari v Merc was better than this year….at least those seasons were conducted without all the rule bending we saw Masi do in 2021

      1. Not really. Apart form the stewarding the seasons were completed half way . So no, not comparable at all.

        1. Two races from the end isn’t being completed at the half way stage. In fact you’ll find Vettel leading at the half way stage in both seasons. 2017 and 2018 had proper wheel to wheel battles between Seb and Lewis, rather than the constant crashes we saw between Lewis and Max. 2017 and 2018 was allowed to play out fairly, not being manipulated for the show like 2021 was

          1. apart form the illegal engine the excitement was gone half way.
            Vettels error in germany ended effectively his performance.
            But you are free to get excited by such races. Some are even excited when they see Lewis lead for the entire race and cruising to the win for 5 seasons.

          2. Ferrari illegal engine was 2019 and no, the excitement was still there at the half way stage because Vettel was leading. Even going into Singapore 2017, i can recall Merc praying for a miracle, because Vet was on pole, Ham down in p5, with the upcoming tracks to favour RB. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s too easy to downplay 2017 and 2018, but at that time, in the moment, Merc were seriously concerned about Ferrari’s threat. Ham and Vet had some brilliant battles without crashing, such as Spa 2017, Spain 2017 etc

          3. you are right about the illegal engine. At least when they were caught with it.
            We know the stories from Hamilton and Toto building a story of an exciting season. Or the underdog position they always claim..
            I guess with a little experience most people will see through that.. not all obviously.
            And indeed, claiming a season is a typical hindsight thing.. you are referring to things said during that year.. mostly PR talks.

        2. I recall Ferrari stating their car was on par with Mercs, so no, Merc were not playing any underdog role. The two teams were fairly evenly matched-give or take. IMO, these were much better seasons than the manipulated 2021, where the show became priority to such an extent that the race director deviated from his own rules and ended up gifting one of the title contenders the championship

          1. Selective memory I see.
            Look at some of totos interviews. It’s an art how he creates an underdog position.
            Great stuff, ready for stage.

        3. It’s clear you’re desperate to validate your paper champion erikje, unfortunately your reasoning sounds desperate and hollow. Perhaps you also enjoy WWE if you found that finale a satisfying conclusion.

  10. 2021 – the year F1 jumped the shark.

    1. I couldn’t have put it better myself

  11. There might be a danger of an overreaction to the end of the last race. Had Masi ordered no lapped cars past or all lapped cars, then I don’t see there being any controversy. As long as his decision was grounded in the rules. The fact he let some cars race and not others means his decision wasn’t fairly applied through the field. Surely a condition inserted into the regulations to ensure no decision is taken to affect the outcome for certain cars not all again would solve the main contention?

    Yes there are other issues to discuss and clarify, such as code of conduct when wheel to wheel or what radio communications are allowed with race control. But from a sport integrity perspective, I would just want an equal and fair application of the regulations to all drivers and teams.

    1. There are already rules about that, notably ISC 1.1.1.

      The problem is that the FIA is the sole arbiter of whether something is fair, and they obviously have a very different definition to myself and many others. If they think that Masi’s decision was fair and sporting, them nothing added to the rules about it will make any difference at all.

  12. Quite a lot of negativity here so I’ll offer a counterargument: F1 is in fantastic shape.

    There has been no point in its history when things were done perfectly, or everyone was happy with regulatory decisions made. That’s not to bury Masi’s calls, but I’d take him over Balestre any day. What does matter is the level of competition in the sport is far beyond what we’ve seen in the past decade – how quickly people forget the 2013-2016 period of increasingly tepid racing, disillusioned fans and appalling leadership!

    Liberty have raised eyebrows over their plans, not all of which I’m in favour of, but they have a plan and are intent on implementing it. Which sounds basic, but is infinitely better than CVC leeching the sport dry. They’ve brought life to a formerly dying sport in a way I presumed unthinkable even 5 years ago.

    Bring on 2022!

    1. Unfortunately it looks like the FIA are leaching the sport dry (they’ve already managed to render one season’s action completely moot), whether Liberty is OK with that or not. Most of the people I know face-to-face who watched F1 in 2021 have already confirmed they will not watch it in 2022 due to the FIA’s behaviour and the excessive length of the calendar.

      1. People who stop watching are typical viewers who are fan of only one driver. No problem with that but they are hardly the kind of viewer F1 wants to bind. Real F1 fans are often fan of one or more drivers but are looking for the formula one sec..
        When Lewis put max in the barrier in Silverstone i was very dissapointed but still followed the race. There are more drivers to cheer for and more excitement then lewis or max.. maybe something you never knew i guess. F1 can survive without lewis.
        Fia should take action on stewarding and make it clearer for the fans to follow. Even single driver fans who do not know much of F1. This year they started on the wrong foot and ended on the wrong foot.

        1. Max put himself in the barrier by failing to bail out as Lewis did all season to avoid a collision. He simply lacked the awareness to do the same.

        2. No. A lot of fans will be walking away from F1 because of how the safety car restart was handled in Abu Dhabi. You can’t have high level competition with uncertainty about the rules or how/if they will be applied.

          Fans stop watching F1 for all kinds of reasons, not just that their favorite driver is not doing well or has experienced some apparent injustice. I stopped watching F1 when they started visiting Bahrain in 2004 and I didn’t come back for 12 years. It will be even easier for fans to walk away from the sport now than it was for me back then, schumacher domination or not.

      2. Jose Lopes da Silva
        31st December 2021, 9:33

        I haven’t met a single person saying will not watching in 2022.

  13. Liberty have chosen to go down the road of fireworks and drama to increase the eyes on the sport. They have succeeded in the short term, but is it just a sugar hit that can’t be sustained?

    1. For as long as I can remember, friends who don’t follow the sport have admitted that they “only watch the start, because that’s when you get most crashes”.

      So I suspect this will be very much sustainable.

  14. The season was exciting but there was a lot of appalling stewarding action or inaction and interference that you could predict the fiasco at the end.

    The unwillingness to address questionable driving from a particular driver has made me question the intergrity of the FIA controlled race control and stewards in executing their mandate.

    Race control took an active interest in the championship battle, that we have almost forgotten one of the most controversial issues that occured in the last few races, the apparen disregard for safety protocol to ensure the driver in championship contention finished his qualifying lap.
    The fact that the confusing outcome of the attempt at manipulation of the outcome of qualifying resulted in a few drivers receiving penalties does not absolve Race control of flouting it’s own safety standard to focus on the Show.

  15. A lot of us have been complaining about the sport and “so and so year probably being my last time watching this sport”…for 20 years. We’re all still here.
    F1 changes literally every ten years. The F1 of 2000 was very different from 2010 and that itself was very different from 2020. The mythical early 2000s was an era of processional races where every weekend Michael would show up to win. Same with Seb and Red Bull, same with Lewis and Mercedes. At least now, F1 is gaining a tremendous amount of new fans, respect and global recognition. I couldn’t tell you the last time Formula 1 dominated normal family discussions as much as it did this year, and that too in a country that is NOT receptive to things other than cricket. There are a TON of changes that F1 should make to make it even better, not least of which are the sporting regulations Dieter mentioned, but I fear sometimes some of us long-time fans here become too pedantic, too afraid of change, maybe even too scared to interact with the new fans and help them understand the sport better. It’s better to have someone to share the sport with than to watch it all alone, at least for me. I come to Racefans for the more decent commentary and discussions that you couldn’t find on Twitter or anywhere else for that matter if you looked for it with a microscope. My friends call me a “nerd” for constantly linking discussions on this website. I hope we can be more constructive in the future rather than lamenting the loss of some fictional bygone era that lives only in our minds, and genuinely stop threatening to quit the sport every time something happens. I would not begrudge you but I would miss you.

    1. ‘help them understand the sport better’

      But F1 has clearly signalled that it is no longer a sport and is now an entertainment show, India was correct in 2013 when it removed tax exemption for F1.

    2. +1
      F1 was nearly dead at one point. Who the hell wants to see a driver in a car with such an advantage that they can cruise around to endless titles and you know they will be champion after the first few laps of the first race? To me that’s even less of a ‘sport’ than what people are complaining about on here.

  16. F1 was never really a true sport with such an uneven playing field. The rule changes being made now are what should have been done 15 or 20 years ago. It seems like it’s all the Hamilton fans who were happy to watch boring processions of the last few years and are now unhappy because their man lost yet another battle where he has had a challenger. I enjoyed watching Max win his first world title and even tho he should have won it sooner I was glad to witness all the drama this season brought. Next year I’d like to see the Ferrari’s and McLarens up there too all battling it out for wins and a title.

Comments are closed.