x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

A scandalous season like no other before it

The 2010 calendar was released yesterday and the Formula One chiefs will be hoping the next season does not turn out as tumultous as this one.

Lewis Hamilton was punished after he gave two accounts of an incident during the Australian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton was punished after he gave two accounts of an incident during the Australian Grand Prix.

The 2010 calendar was released yesterday and the Formula One chiefs will be hoping the next season does not turn out as tumultous as this one. With Lewis Hamilton disqualified for lying in Australia, Mark Webber penalised in Belgium and the teams threatening to form a breakaway race, the 2009 season will be remembered as the most dramatic in the sport's illustrious history. And that is without mentioning the life-threatening injury sustained by Felipe Massa and the aborted comeback of Michael Schumacher.

Clues that this season was to be so chaotic were there from the outset. Teams accusing others of building cars with illegal go-faster dimensions is nothing new, but the furore caused by the diffuser row in March and April took squabbling over the rules to new heights. Unsurprisingly, the colourful Flavio Briatore was at the centre of the action then, too, branding Brawn GP's Rubens Barrichello as "almost retired" and Jenson Button a "kerbstone" because their engineers found a loophole in construction regulations, giving their cars extra aerodynamic grip. Williams and Toyota were also accused of breaking the rules by Briatore whose hue and cry was echoed by other rival teams. The irony of the Italian's outburst will not be lost on the sport now.

The world body finally ruled the cars were legal but then Hamilton, the McLaren driver, found himself in hot water after giving two versions of an event which saw him overtake Toyota's Jarno Trulli at the Australian Grand Prix when the safety car was out. He was upgraded from fourth to third ahead of Trulli after the presentation. But the world champion, who gave a grovelling press conference to say he was sorry, was disqualified after stewards decided he had been less than honest about events. Team principal Ron Dennis resigned over the incident.

Then in May a controversy arose that threatened to completely change the face of F1. The announcement of a £40 million (Dh237m) budget cap for next season outraged a number of teams, including Ferrari, who led a procession of constructors threatening to form a breakaway championship. That was averted, when teams and the FIA found an uneasy compromise, but Briatore ensured there was to be more drama just around the corner.

In 2007 it seemed nothing could trump the protracted McLaren-Ferrari "Spygate" saga but Renault have managed it with "Crashgate". stregoning@thenational.ae