As a Mercedes F1 reserve driver, Stoffel Vandoorne experienced the 2021 Formula 1 season up close. The manufacturer was engaged in a fierce battle with Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. Mercedes eventually took the constructors’ title, but the drivers’ title went to the Netherlands after the controversial final in Abu Dhabi. Vandoorne shares the feeling of his superiors about the much-discussed handling of the safety car period, but also acknowledges that the title has already been lost at an earlier stage.
Vandoorne gives in conversation with the French-speaking Belgian channel RTBF his view on the events: “The way the championship was decided was not one hundred percent correct. There are very clear rules in the FIA regulations and they were not followed during the safety car procedure. Based on that scenario, I think the title was stolen. On the other hand, the title was not lost in the very last round of the last Grand Prix. Mercedes did not perform well enough at the beginning of the year.”
Despite the disappointment at Mercedes, the Belgian believes that Verstappen is the rightful champion: “When you look at Max’s season, he had three retirements where he lost a lot of points. In my opinion, he deserves the title. It was one of the best seasons in Formula 1. Every weekend it was Max versus Lewis.”
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Will Hamilton return to F1 in 2022?
The way in which the title fight was settled gave Mercedes an extremely bitter aftertaste. Lewis Hamilton has not been heard from since, leading to rumors that the Briton will not return to Formula 1 at all, a concern also expressed by team boss Toto Wolff. According to Vandoorne, it will not come to that: “He will have a lot of trouble accepting what happened in Abu Dhabi, but he is someone who always wants to do better. I think this situation motivates him to come back even stronger next year. Toto is extremely passionate about F1. He wants to win, he will do anything for it. At times when things are not going well, when something slips through the fingers, it hurts a lot.”