23 December 2021, The Tablet

Driven to distraction


Extra time

Driven to distraction


 

I'M NO great fan of Formula One; it just doesn’t particularly grab me. But being a general enthusiast for sport, I like a climactic conclusion to a contest as much as the next man, so I wasn’t going to miss the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton was up against Max Verstappen for the drivers’ championship title. Normally this is done and dusted long before the last Grand Prix, but this year they’d been neck and neck for months and, thrillingly, the winner was to be decided in this final race of the season. With so many of us having become engaged in what was happening, this was Formula One’s golden opportunity to win a new audience. For many people it would have been the first time they’d ever made an appointment to watch a Grand Prix. What a showpiece; what a shop window.

And they blew it. I can’t explain in detail what unfolded because, despite the commentators’ attempts to clarify matters, I remain baffled as to the specifics. But this is what it boiled down to: Lewis Hamilton had built up a big lead on Verstappen and was on the brink of winning the race and the title. Job done. Then another car crashed and, while it was cleared out of the way, something called a safety car came out, behind which all the drivers tootled around the course in an orderly manner until they were good to go again.

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