Red Bull 'played rough' to oust Lewis Hamilton, says Damon Hill

Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team ‘played rough’ with ‘new rules’ used on F1 race director Michael Masi to oust Lewis Hamilton, says Damon Hill, after a word from Christian Horner changed the official’s mind on lapped cars rule

  • Damon Hill believes Red Bull ‘played rough’ with F1 race director Michael Masi
  • A chaotic last lap at the Abu Dhabi GP saw Max Verstappen win the drivers’ title 
  • Under a safety car, the teams were told lapped cars could not unlap themselves
  • But after a word from Red Bull chief Christian Horner, Masi changed his mind
  • It allowed Verstappen to controversially overtake Lewis Hamilton and win 

Former F1 champion Damon Hill has accused Red Bull of ‘playing rough’ with Michael Masi after Christian Horner ‘persuaded’ the race director to gain an advantage, allowing Max Verstappen to controversially pip Lewis Hamilton to the drivers’ title at the death.

A hugely controversial final race in Abu Dhabi on Sunday saw the Dutchman overtake his title rival and the Mercedes driver in the last few seconds after a safety car was brought out with just a few laps to go.

With Hamilton seemingly easing his way to the title, Nicholas Latifi’s crash bunched the field, before the late FIA decision to take lapped cars out of the equation enabled Verstappen to make his move on the Mercedes man on the final lap. 

Christian Horner and Max Verstappen (left picture, left and right) celebrated  on the podium after the Dutchman won his first ever world championship; but Damon Hill (right) believes Red Bull ‘played rough’ with ‘new rules’ to win the drivers’ title

Hill claims Horner ‘persuaded’ F1 race director Michael Masi (pictured) to change the rules

Masi had originally said that the lapped cars would not be allowed to unlap themselves but after a word from Red Bull chief Horner, Masi changed his mind, allowing the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves, wiping out the Brit’s 13-second advantage.

Hamilton was unable to defend, given he was on much older tyres, while Verstappen was on fresh, new soft tyres after he pitted during the safety car, leading to the Dutchman pulling off a dramatic overtake and winning his first ever world title. 

‘I think these are new rules,’ Hill told Sky Sports.

Verstappen’s fresher tyres allowed him to dive down beyond Hamilton and then win the title

Hamilton led for most of the race in Abu Dhabi, but was then overtaken on the very last lap

‘I think it’s a new style of race directing, I think that Mercedes have struggled with the decisions that have been made.

‘Red Bull played rough, but they’ve persuaded the race director that cars should be allowed to race, and it should be a robust kind of formula, and they’ve prevailed.’

While Hill wasn’t necessarily on board with Red Bull or Horner’s tactics, the former champion insists ‘the right man won’ given how Verstappen won more races over the F1 calendar. 

‘You can’t have them both win, unfortunately,’ he added.

Hill insists ‘the right man won’ given how Verstappen won more races over the F1 calendar

‘I think Max has fought valiantly; I think the right man won – if there can be such a thing.

‘I feel for Lewis, he’s fought with everything he’s had, and with Mercedes as well. But they’re up against a very formidable Red Bull team and driver.’

Mercedes lodged two complaints with the FIA after the race, but both were rejected to confirm Verstappen’s place at the top of the sport.

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