If you’re a Max Verstappen fan, it probably won’t have escaped your attention that his exemplary win on Sunday appeared to have escaped the attention of everyone else.
The Red Bull publicity department will also have noted markedly few mentions of their man in Monday’s media reports; one British national newspaper revealing, almost as an afterthought in the final paragraphs of their Lewis Hamilton eulogy, the identity of the race winner. Verstappen followers shouldn’t take it personally; this has always been the way of the writing world, probably since Giuseppe Farina became the very first champion back in 1950.
As related previously, Dan Gurney was completely overlooked on the day John Surtees won the title in the closing minutes of the 1964 Mexican Grand Prix. In a way, that was understandable because Dan had not figured in the race until half way round the last lap. But there have been other examples of drivers similar to Verstappen not receiving due credit thanks to the emotional peak elsewhere on the race track and in the paddock at the end of a long championship.
Nowhere was that more evident than Japan 1976 at the conclusion of a season so dramatic it would be the subject of a movie nearly 40 years later. As the focus of the entire sporting world seemed to be on James Hunt’s McLaren, Mario Andretti’s black and gold Lotus speared through mist and rain at Fuji to take his one and only win of the season (and first since 1971). But it was significant insofar as this was the prelude to a serious resurgence by Lotus, leading to Andretti’s dominance in 1978.
In October 1997, Jacques Villeneuve winning the title despite Michael Schumacher’s best efforts to pitch the Williams off the road provided the headlines from Jerez. In the light of such a spectacular denouement, Mika Hakkinen’s first F1 win went virtually unnoticed and yet the extremely clumsy application of team orders by McLaren to deny David Coulthard a well-deserved victory would have caused national outrage were it to have happened at any other time.
We can go on: Juan Pablo Montoya’s virtuoso performance at Interlagos with a succession of qualifying laps to nick victory from McLaren team-mate Kimi Räikkönen on the day Fernando Alonso became the youngest world champion in 2005; Mark Webber’s victorious drive at the same track when Jenson Button had his day of days in 2009.
But the one that sticks out for a few reporters is Las Vegas in 1982 when Keke Rosberg ended a topsy-turvy season (there were 11 different winners that year!) as he clinched the title by finishing fifth for Williams. One minute and 11 seconds earlier, Michele Alboreto had scored his first Grand Prix victory; a landmark win with interesting connotations.
It was the first for Tyrrell in four years (a bit like Williams winning in Abu Dhabi next month); a worthy achievement in itself, if not an altogether surprising one – for some people. This was the second Grand Prix on a bizarre circuit laid out between concrete blocks in a hotel car park. It continued to be a novel experience, the local bookmakers not having a clue about fixing odds for a F1 race.
Ken Tyrrell was not a gambling man but he couldn’t fail to notice that the betting shops were focussed on the championship contenders to such an extent that Alboreto was showing at 20/1. Having a hunch about the Italian’s ability to maximise the nimbleness of the Tyrrell-Ford on this track, Ken put a $100 on his man — and urged his mechanics and friends in the media to have a flutter.
As the dark green car crossed the line, Tyrrell couldn’t have cared less about what we wrote even though, on this occasion, the hacks with betting slips in their pockets were actually paying just as much attention to the progress of the winner as the outcome of the World Championship.