How F1’s political battles raged on through the winter
The fallout from Abu Dhabi kept Formula 1 in the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the off-season. But wider global events have also brought their own challenges as F1 prepares for its new era to begin
At the end of the longest season in Formula 1 history, which finished less than two weeks before Christmas, the paddock felt in need of a real break. December 2021 was always going to bring a big shift for F1’s political landscape, with the end of Jean Todt’s tenure as FIA president and the start of a new regulations cycle. But few could have predicted how much would change between the last race of 2021 and the first of 2022 as controversy on track, political tension off it, and the outbreak of war resulted in some seismic shifts.
F1’s news cycle never really stopped through the winter. Fans eagerly – sometimes too eagerly – wanted updates from the FIA regarding race director Michael Masi’s future amid the fallout from the 2021 Abu Dhabi finale. Lewis Hamilton’s future even seemed in doubt after the fashion of his title defeat left him “disillusioned” with F1, according to Mercedes chief Toto Wolff. Uncertainty loomed.
Esteban Ocon likes to point out he’s the first driver since Lewis Hamilton to emerge from a spell as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate with a superior overall points record. While some may disagree, as LUKE SMITH discovered, the 2021 Hungarian GP winner reckons it’s not just luck which has made him France’s pre-eminent Formula 1 driver of the moment…
The death of Dietrich Mateschitz last month has not only deprived Red Bull of its visionary founder, it has shorn Formula 1 of one of its most influential benefactors. Mateschitz himself was famously media-shy, preferring to let the brand do the talking on his behalf. And, while it’s now normal to speak of Red Bull F1 titles and champions made, Mateschitz never assumed it would be easy or even possible – as ANTHONY ROWLINSON discovered during this previously unpublished interview from 2006…
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