Conspiracy or paranoia?

There has been much jingoistic rubbish spouted in the past 24 hours to rationalise how Lewis Hamilton was ‘robbed’ of the Formula 1 driver’s title yesterday at Interlagos in Brazil.

Depending on who you listen to, their level of paranoia, and their objectivity/knowledge (or lack thereof), Hamilton has been the victim of a conspiracy involving some combination of the FIA, Max Moseley and Bernie Ecclestone, including the possible collusion of Hamilton’s own team, McLaren.

Utter, utter codswallop.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware that Formula 1 is a ‘business’ where decisions are as often determined by political agendas rather than any concept of sporting fairness. On occasions too numerous to mention, the rules and even the results of races have been, ahem, amended to encourage a close championship finish, generate additional column inches or punish a team or driver who has stepped out of line.

2007 has been no exception. The $100m fine – the heaviest in the history of all sports – levied against McLaren for their part in the ‘Spygate’ scandal was undoubtedly related to team principal Ron Dennis’s long history of rubbing the powers-that-be up the wrong way. And the fact that the team was stripped of all its points for being the recipient of confidential Ferrari design information, while its drivers – one of whom, Hamilton, was already being hailed as the Tiger Woods of motor racing – were allowed to retain theirs was farcical, an obvious victory for commercial interests over sporting justice. Apparently the drivers shouldn’t be blamed for being innocent beneficiaries of secret information which helped them go faster. In the same way that Marion Jones should not have been punished for being (as she claimed until recently) the innocent beneficiary of performance-enhancing drugs which helped her run faster. Oh no. Perish the thought.

Anyway, enough is enough. Let’s have a quick look at two of the more popular conspiracy theories.

1. At the Chinese GP, McLaren deliberately kept Hamilton out 2-3 laps too long as part of a secret agreement to scupper his title hopes.

Yes, it was a terrible decision, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. What we do know is that the weather was changing by the minute, so McLaren and/or Hamilton (despite the team taking the blame for it, no one really knows) held out as long as possible before deciding whether to switch to wet or dry tyres. Running an extra two or three laps, even losing 7-8 seconds per lap, was preferable to wasting perhaps 30 seconds potentially making the wrong tyre choice which would have then required an additional stop to correct the error. (I’m reminded of the European GP at Donnington in 1993, when in similar conditions Alain Prost spent the entire afternoon switching from slicks to wets at the first sign of rain, only for it to immediately stop, necessitating an immediate switch back to dry tyres. In the meantime, Ayrton Senna stayed out on slicks, tiptoed through the damp patches, and promptly won the race at a canter.) So McLaren made the wrong call in changeable conditions, something they have been known to have a weakness with historically. If they had wanted to throw the race, there are far more subtle and less embarrassing ways they could have done so.

2. Felipe Massa was clearly helping his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, so why did Alonso overtake Hamilton at the start, and then not help him later?

Of course Massa was supporting Raikkonen, as the Brazilian was already out of the championship running. Alonso, on the other hand, was in a position to claim the title, and therefore had his own interests to protect.

So Alonso overtook Hamilton: so what? It relegated Lewis to fourth place, which would have been enough to clinch the title anyway as long as Alonso didn’t win the race. Hamilton’s subsequent disastrous attempt to reclaim third spot was both reckless and unnecessary, and belied his inability to turn down his racer’s instinct at a time when a cool head was called for. No matter what, to suggest that Alonso, the reigning two-time world champion, should have sacrificed his chances from the start to aid his rookie team-mate is ludicrous beyond words.

As for later in the race, if either Raikkonen or Massa had retired in the closing laps, then Alonso would have been champion, so he had to push and hope right to the end. And even if Alonso had strategically retired on the final lap, the additional point this would have earned Hamilton was still insufficient. (He would have been level on points with Raikkonen, but the Finn would still have been ahead on count-back, having won more races.)

I’ve heard a number of other arguments, from the vaguely plausible to the downright nonsensical, but quite honestly I wouldn’t waste any more time than I already have debunking them.

I prefer instead to look back on a season which has given us a thrilling title battle, several exciting races, and more twists and turns than an Alpine pass. At the end of it all, three drivers – Raikkonen, Hamilton and Alonso – were separated by just one point, and it was the one who had been all but mathematically out of it with just two races left who ultimately triumphed.

Let’s be quite clear about this: Kimi Raikkonen’s championship win is neither fortunate nor undeserved. Yes, Hamilton suffered from a combination of bad luck and poor judgment in the final two races. But equally Kimi had suffered even more misfortune with mechanical failures in mid-season. He has driven beautifully, consistently fast and virtually error-free, throughout the season, and a lesser competitor would have given up the ghost facing a 17 point deficit with only two races to go. But Raikkonen did what Raikkonen does: ignore everyone else and focus on doing what he needed to do, win both races and hope for the best.

Which was exactly what he did. While all around him were falling off the track in China, Raikkonen charged through the field to win. And yesterday, under the most extreme pressure, he drove with the ease of a Sunday driver. It was his sixth win of the season, two more than either Hamilton or Alonso. And it is a title which only the most churlish would deny a driver who is widely regarded to be the fastest on the grid in terms of raw speed.

Congratulations, Kimi. Technically, he is still only champion subject to an appeal by McLaren against fuel irregularities being turned down (which it will be), but he has won fair and square, untainted by accusations of cheating. He is absolutely a worthy winner.

As for Lewis Hamilton, he has had a fine season, far exceeding everyone’s expectations and so nearly becoming the first rookie driver to win the world title. He will be back next year, better and wiser for the experience, and he is clearly a champion-in-waiting. But success is by no means guaranteed. In a sport where the machines are as important as the driver, it has to be remembered that McLaren will not necessarily be competitive next year (just as they weren’t last year), especially with the millstone of that $100m fine around their necks. A great team/driver combination one year can easily be an also-ran the following year, and this year’s bright young thing can quickly become yesterday’s man. Just ask Jenson Button.

Anyhow, it was a dramatic end to a thrilling season. Sure, the Machiavellian political manoeuvrings add spice to the mix, but they shouldn’t be taken too seriously and they shouldn’t be allowed to detract from the first three-way finish to a world championship since 1986.

Conspiracy? Don’t make me laugh.

Alonso sacrifice his own title aspirations to aid Hamilton? Why should he?

And as for the notion that Bernie somehow has a big red button in his trailer with which he can orchestrate the results he needs by destroying engines or exploding tyres? Oh come on …

… Everyone knows the button is blue.


About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

One Response to Conspiracy or paranoia?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Now let´s see.¿What was the temperature at ínterlagos at the moment the controvercy was being ínvestigated….what was the temperature ínside the fuel tanks of the cars that bid Hammilton…They had to for sure have something fishy to addquire all that good speed…Who was the one complaining about this…….isn´t this the same old´fellow that coplained about a moving floor on the Ferraris not long ago….Humm…..may there be a possibility that someone that someone knows all the tricks….Eh….let´s see….Maybe someone who has tested all the cheatting possibilities…..but wait, now they are all hunting him….. becareful of the witches Li´l Lewis because ít ís Halloween,they are out to get him and they might just get YOU……´Ohwait…..Denniiis ´please dont take him áway….Take´^KIMI’s Throphy but ´not hiiiiim….How will I ever win another crown,Oh noooo!!!!!!…..Paranoia……O.K…..Quit all the BS and lets go back to real racing world whereKIMI is king O.K.

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