The disparity between the quality of entertainment that the French and Austrian Grand Prix provided was immense, from one weekend that Christian Horner has described as “one of the most boring I can remember being involved in”, to the intensity and thrill that was the Austrian Grand Prix. Yet the excitement of the race was left with a bitter taste as once again the stewards needed to intervene to decide the result. Two out of the last three races have been decided in the steward’s room and it’s about time that they just let the driver’s race!
When Max Verstappen made that move on the inside of Charles Leclerc I thought it was one of the best moments of the season so far. Verstappen managed to take full advantage of his fresher tyres and would have probably passed Leclerc regardless. Instead Max made a smart and daring dart down the inside of Charles at the third turn. Max had managed to fight his way through the field from seventh to catch up with Leclerc with just a few laps to go. With the orange army there to support him emotions must have been high, and Verstappen would have been desperate to get past. But as soon as those wheels touched, and Leclerc went off the track I could almost hear him screaming down the radio for an investigation from the stewards for the slightest of touches.
It is hard to criticise Leclerc though as I would have done exactly the same knowing how Formula One works, especially after leading the race since the start, it must have been frustrating to have lost in that fashion. Nevertheless, it is just as frustrating for the fans to hear drivers who have been overtaken instantly call for a steward’s inquiry.
For me, Verstappen’s overtake should have never gone to the stewards, it was an outstanding move and the touch of tyres was clearly a racing incident. Yet we had to sit and wait for three hours after the race for Verstappen to be officially declared the winner. I have read the reasons behind why it took so long, and they are simply absurd. Even if it was a close call, I wouldn’t expect it to take three hours to make a decision. Luckily the stewards decided correctly, and Verstappen wasn’t robbed of an absolutely mind-blowing performance and a well-deserved victory.
I find myself completely agreeing with Verstappen who said “It’s hard racing or we have to stay home. If those things are not allowed in racing then we have to stay home.” Hard racing is correct! A moment which had fans on the edge of their seat, probably for the first time this year. With the way the season is going the last thing we need are less overtakes and more French Grand Prix’s. If you start punishing drivers for such incidents, you are surely going to dissuade them from attempting overtakes in the future.
Repeats of the French Grand Prix need to be avoided. Christian Horner has expressed his opinions on how the Formula One product is fundamentally wrong and you have to hope that the new 2021 regulations, which are still being decided, will make a significant difference to the sport. But I urge those with influence over the sport to let them race!