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Formula 1

Ludicrous Hamilton duel a worse look for F1 than Magnussen

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

Haas Formula 1 driver Kevin Magnussen was understandably embarrassed - if unapologetic - over his tactics in his Miami Grand Prix sprint duel with Lewis Hamilton that left him with four separate time penalties.

They also resulted in a stewards' investigation over "alleged unsportsmanlike behaviour" by Magnussen, after which he received three penalty points (taking his total to eight). So further consequences were coming.

But while Magnussen is right to feel unease about his 'mission accomplished' drive in Miami, and his Haas team should feel it, too, the real embarrassment belongs to the championship and its officiating.

Magnussen was always going to have a tough time on his hands keeping Hamilton's Mercedes behind, and had he and Haas known Hamilton's race was doomed anyway by a severe penalty for 10.7km/h pitlane speeding none of this would've played out the way it did.

But after rebuffing a first Hamilton attack legally, Magnussen skipped across the chicane as he tried to maintain the gap, and he will have likely known at that moment that his race, as far as the potential to score points was concerned, was done.

Now, his race was Nico Hulkenberg's race, and his only meaningful target would be to ensure Hulkenberg brought home the two points for seventh.


That will have clearly been a bitter pill to swallow for Magnussen, given he revealed post-race that he felt Hulkenberg got out of DRS range specifically by straightlining that same chicane two laps before Magnussen did, and thus hung Magnussen out to dry.

"Nico could’ve given that [time] back to give me the DRS to protect me, because then we would have easily been P7-P8; instead I was really vulnerable to Lewis and started fighting with him like crazy," said Magnussen.

"And I just had to create the gap like I did in Jeddah [against RB's Yuki Tsunoda] and started using these stupid tactics.

"Which I don't like doing, but at the end of the day, I did my job as a team player and Nico scored his points because I got that gap for him so Lewis and Tsunoda couldn’t catch him.

"Not the way I like to go racing at all but it’s what I had to do."

Hamilton was impressed by Magnussen's explanation and overall took the events of their duel on the chin, saying he "wasn't really pissed or anything".

That kind of thing is probably easier to accept anyway when fighting for one point in a hopeless season. But while Hamilton was sanguine, he very much did his part in ratcheting up the absurdity in repeatedly pointing out in-race the rules that Magnussen was breaking - and then watching completely ineffectual penalties be handed out.


"He just gained an advantage, skipped the chicane," said Hamilton accurately in the incident that caused Magnussen's first penalty (but did not put him behind the Mercedes).

"He just drove into me," he said of Magnussen's Turn 11 counter-attack in which Magnussen went off the track and yes, basically "drove into" Hamilton in rejoining. Again, Magnussen was penalised. Again, it did not put him behind Hamilton.

Two more penalties followed, twice more not putting Magnussen behind Hamilton - one of them for a truly ridiculous and illegal divebomb that ended up relegating Hamilton behind Tsunoda. Only at that point was it decided that enough was enough, as Magnussen let the two drivers behind him by.

Except at that point there were just three laps to go and Hulkenberg was over six seconds in the clear. Which meant that, for Haas, most of the penalties it received in that race were unmistakably a net negative.

As Magnussen alluded to, the team already did something like this in Jeddah, and it caught some flak but it also caught a point. It is now up to seven, from a season it began seemingly fearing it would be scoring none in.

Those points do not come easy. F1's top five teams are in a class of their own, and RB might well be breaking away from the chasers. Three teams have no points a quarter of the way into the season - so every scoring opportunity must be maximised here.

No, Haas can't be blamed here. Neither can Magnussen, as clumsy as those moves looked. And, really, neither can the FIA stewards, because it is not in their remit to make up penalties befitting of the situation - but to judge whether or not there has been an infringement, and to then assess the penalty prescribed to the specific type of that infringement.

In this case, that prescription was left hideously, hilariously wanting. The fact nobody among the officials had the power to force Magnussen to cede position - something routinely done in other series - opened F1 up to a race like this.

There is probably grounds now for the stewards to make sanction Magnussen heavily under the cited Article 12.2.1.I of the International Sporting Code - because that prohibits "any attempt to influence the result of a competition in a way that is contrary to sporting ethics", something that Magnussen has arguably admitted.

This, though, would not do the job an in-race intervention would have done. It will not change the fact F1 put on a sprint where one car was fully incentivised to race another illegally.

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