Once again, just as the debate about whether Formula One still provides enough of a spectacle to wow the fans gets going, the sport serves up another race for the ages. And once again, it was the young prodigies of the sports who were at the heart of it.
Max Verstappen is already a cult hero, and not just in his homeland. Aged just 21, the Red Bull driver now has six Formula One wins to his name after recovering from ninth place to win the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, June 30, 2019. His win came at the expense of fellow youngster Charles Leclerc who will have to wait a little longer to earn his first win after guiding his Ferrari to second place. The Monégasque driver is currently priced at 5/1 in the Formula 1 odds to triumph at the British Grand Prix, while Verstappen can be backed at 10/1.
The race in Spielberg was notable for the incident on Lap 69 when Verstappen overtook his rival on the inside of Turn Three to snatch the lead. Rather than backing off, Leclerc attempted to hold a wide line but was there was not enough room and after brief contact, he was forced into the run-off area. The incident prompted a three-hour inquiry from the stewards, after which the result was allowed to stand.
The decision brought relief from those worried that ultra-strict governance of racing incidents could spoil the sport as a spectacle. Only a few weeks before, Sebastian Vettel had been penalised at the Canadian Grand Prix after stewards decided he had re-joined the track unsafely, forcing Lewis Hamilton to take evasive action. Vettel famously responded by switching the podium numbers in front of the parked cars after the race.
Let them race
The problem stems from the definition of what does or does not construe a racing incident. But hopefully, Sunday’s incident will set a precedent that will allow drivers to feel they can race wheel to wheel without being penalised in situations where there is no clear infringement.
With two exciting drivers emerging at the same time and others waiting for their opportunity, there is a feeling the sport could be entering a golden new era. For that to happen, those regulating must take into account what F1 fans expect from their sport. This means you have to let drivers race each other and you have to put them on circuits where they can race to their full potential.
Neither of the two drivers involved in the controversy will be in contention for the World Championship this year, but they still provided one of the most memorable finishes to a race so far this season. And the fans loved it.
Throughout the years, F1 has always been subject to criticisms of one-team or one-driver domination. But it has always answered in the best possible way by providing some of sports great moments. Those moments are not created by those who play safe, they are created by those who want to push the sport to new levels of excellence by testing the limits of what is possible. Right now, we are blessed with a couple of precocious talents who more than fit the brief.