TV View: Sky hit on a winning formula of Grand Prix chaos and confusion

Just when you thought 2021 had peaked along came the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The nominees for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award haven't been announced yet but if Karun Chandhok isn't among them it'll be a travesty. For it was Karun who was charged with the task of explaining to Sky viewers what actually happened in that last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when all the viewers could say at its conclusion was "Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey".

Just when 2021 was petering out, and you reckoned it was unlikely to produce any more glorious sporting madness, along came this race, the last of the season, a winner-takes-all tussle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

For those flicking back and forth between The Decider in the Desert and The Athletics in Abbotstown, it was pure luck that RTÉ was showing ads just as Nicholas Latifi crashed otherwise we'd have stuck with the European Cross-Country Championships because Lewis looked home and hosed.

"Something is going to happen in the next 58 laps, we're just not sure quite what," Martin Brundle had told us pre-race, which was, admittedly, a safe enough forecast, although the "something" turned out to be a very, very big thing.

Commentator David Croft likened that last lap to Michael Thomas scoring the injury-time winner for Arsenal in the title decider against Liverpool in 1989, an analogy that would have flown straight over Verstappen's head because it happened eight years before he was born.

But it was that kind of a day, an OMG one as young people like Verstappen might put it. All that was needed for it to feel any madder was for a Spice Girl to turn up and chat with Simon Lazenby about how brilliant Red Bull's strategy had been all season.

Next Geri Halliwell turned up to chat with Simon Lazenby about how brilliant Red Bull's strategy had been all season. Her husband purred, him being Red Bull head honcho Christian Horner.

Big moment

Then the big moment. The post-race interview with Hamilton. Would he let rip and insist he'd been cheated out of the title on being asked about race director Michael Masi and unlap-gate?

Well, he might have expect Jenson Button didn't mention anything about Michael Masi and unlap-gate, which would be akin to not asking Edmund Hillary about Everest just as he descended it, instead focusing on the price of tea in China.

Hamilton wished everyone a happy Christmas, hoped they stayed safe during the pandemic, and was highly gracious, Button not giving him any chance to be otherwise.

And then, not long after he'd let rip on the tweet machine – "THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!! ….. I cannot believe what we've just seen" – George Russell spoke to Sky's Natalie Pinkham and was only asked about how sad he was to be leaving his friends in Williams now that he's heading off to become Hamilton's new Mercedes team-mate.

By now you’d be half wondering if Sky F1 are F1-controversy-averse.

Possibly the oddest aspect of the telly day was that Simon and the Sky F1 crew bid us adieu around two hours before the verdict was delivered by the FIA people on Mercedes’ appeal against the result, telling us they’d see us in 2022 and saluting Verstappen as the new champion as they waved us goodbye. At which point you’d be like, hello?

Verdict

So, while it was left to Sky Sports News to break word of the verdict, Sky's Formula One-dedicated channel was showing a repeat of Ted Kravitz wandering up and down the path outside the stewards' meeting 90 minutes before, trying to fill the time by chatting to anyone he bumped in to, even a random chef.

SSN's Craig Slater had, then, the task of looking after the live business, him hazarding a guess that both of Mercedes' appeals had been turned down on spotting a smiley Horner hugging the bejaysus out of Verstappen.

The day had, though, Slater said, been “a black eye for Formula One”.

This, of course, wasn’t true. If every Formula One day was like Sunday you’d watch nothing else.