The ending of this year’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive season is controversial, and many are saying the title should have gone to Lewis Hamilton, blaming Netflix.
Going into the final race of the 2021 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen, and Lewis Hamilton were level on points, meaning that either could take home the title. However, when the race began, Lewis Hamilton took the lead and was seemingly untouchable at the front of the pack, with a nearly 10-second lead. This was until another driver, Nicholas Latifi, went wide on the 15th turn and plowed into the wall.
The Safety Car came to the track as the marshals needed to clean up the debris made by Latifi’s crash. This is where the controversy starts. Verstappen made a quick pit stop to change his tires, while Hamilton opted to stay out on his old set. Once the pit stop was complete, five lapped cars sat between Verstappen and Hamilton.
Usually, when the Safety Car period is ending, cars that have been lapped may overtake and unlap themselves to speed up the race’s restart and return the race to how it was before the Safety Car entered the track. Once this is complete, the Safety Car leaves, and racing continues.
However, on lap 57 of 58, Michael Masi, the race director, allowed only the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap, leading to Verstappen closing the gap before racing began. And once it did, Verstappen pulled ahead on the final lap and snagged the title. Despite fans rightfully pointing out that if the race director enforced the usual tradition of lapped cars unlapping themselves, the race would have ended with the Safety Car still out, and Hamilton would have won.
Fans argue that Michael Masi and the race organizers engineered the last lap showdown so that Netflix’s documentary series Formula 1: Drive to Survive would have more drama to exploit, believing it would lead to more eyes on the documentary series.
Many took to Twitter to voice this theory, with one popular tweet saying that Formula 1 heads thought the “thrilling finale” they manufactured on the fly for the next season of #drivetosurvive would secure more converts.” Before adding the season has been “gripping enough and the contrived ending will have turned a lot of people off the sport.”
Other users are saying they’re done with F1, noting that they’re done with the “fake/scripted drama,” and are arguing that Masi’s decision is in “clear violation of the F1 Sporting Regulations.”
As with any controversy, the memes are flowing in fast, with many saying that Netflix’s CEO will be happy with the ending due to the amount of money Drive To Survive will make off the back of the controversy.
Even Daily Show host Trevor Noah weighed in on the situation, noting that it is “better to be a controversial sport than a boring one.”