Johannesburg – It was around the fifth race, with Nicholas Latifi seemingly twiddling his thumbs instead of having them on the steering wheel of his Williams, dilly dallying at the back of the grid, that it became clear that Formula One had fallen into a familiar pattern.
Williams, it was clear, would suck. Ferrari, meanwhile, was battling with the pressure of early season expectation, while one team was building up a head of steam to dominate.
For once, it wasn’t Mercedes, but rather Red Bull.
The roles were reversed but the outcome remained the same. That was perhaps the only real surprise this season – even George Russell’s first GP victory was predicted, but that it took until the penultimate race in Sao Paulo was a late fulfilment.
This Formula One season was tedious at best, a repetitive slog that repeated itself over and over and over and over …
The new rules and regulations that changed the car design to groundforce effect did allow for closer racing, but mostly it failed to promote overtaking and the promised wheel-to-wheel action. DRS was far too powerful.
Instead, it too created infuriating DRS-trains as cars locked-chained behind each other for entire races, unable to pass one another on the straights, or anywhere else. It is understandable that there would be some teething problems applying the new philosophy but the outcome of Red Bull winning 17 of the 22 races just shows how poor the other teams were in grasping the concept.
Red Bull’s victories were easy, some even at a canter; and despite Ferrari’s early promise – and, oh boy how the Scuderia repeatedly shot themselves in the foot this year – they were never in danger or under consistent pressure of losing.
Remain peeved about 2021 all you want, spit angrily about them breaching the cost cap and “cheating” to your heart’s content, the fact of the matter is they were imperious and the rest of the field abysmal.
Likewise, Max Verstappen was simply brilliant.
Many will argue that the 25-year-old did not deserve his first drivers’ world championship. That remains debatable.
There can be no such dispute this time around. He made no mistakes, and was cool, calm and collected on track when he needed to get the business of winning done.
It is just such a pity that he remains an unlikeable champion, masterful as he can be. The Brazilian Grand Prix case study where he refused to aid his teammate Sergio Perez, having already defended his title, was especially telling and inexcusable.
Verstappen remains at times petulant and childish, which belies his maturity when racing and his excellence behind the wheel. Perhaps the zeitgeist has decreed that he be now cast in the role of antagonist, and that will be his fate until he morphs into an elder F1 statesman such as the now retired Sebastian Vettel – bless him – or Fernando Alonso.
Lewis Hamilton revealed earlier this month that he would be pleased to see the back of W13, and to be honest, I am be glad that this season has come to an end.
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