Verstappen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to win the title
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won his first Formula One world title in dramatic circumstances at the end of the season in Abu Dhabi.
His rival Lewis Hamilton had appeared in control of the race and on his way to the title himself, despite controversy on the first lap, to a late safety car.
The race restarted with a lap to the finish with Verstappen with new tires and Hamilton with old ones and the Dutchman went on to win the race.
It was, in many ways, a fitting end to one of the biggest and most controversial seasons in the history of Formula 1, and the arguments about good and evil will spread for a while.
At the end of the race, while Verstappen shouted for joy and Red Bull celebrated, the British Hamilton sat in his Mercedes for a few minutes, not believing how events had turned against him in the final minutes.
However, Mercedes has launched two protests: one because Verstappen was overtaking Hamilton in safe car conditions just before the restart, and one because they believe officials did not properly follow the rules on safety car procedures.
Both Red Bull and Mercedes will see commissioners to discuss their parts of the discussion, and a decision will be expected later.
How a historic title decision unfolded
The race seemed to give way to Hamilton after he was controversially allowed to maintain the lead he had won with a better start than Verstappen, although he went off the track to maintain his position when the Dutchman tried. pass it at the end of the first back straight.
Red Bull and Verstappen were exasperated and did not believe it, but Hamilton was empires from then on, through a pit stop and a virtual security car, until Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams with five laps to go. in the end.
Mercedes thought they could not afford to face Hamilton because to do so would have been to give up the lead if Verstappen had not done the same, and perhaps not because their tires were relatively cool after a second stop. .
But when Hamilton didn’t stop for new tires, Verstappen did and that was the decisive call.
There was more controversy, as race director Michael Masi initially said the lap cars between Hamilton and Verstappen could not get rid of themselves, as is common practice.
Red Bull complained and Masi changed his mind, putting Verstappen just behind Hamilton for the only remaining lap of the race.
Verstappen passed Hamilton at the Fifth Corner and held on to his attempts to get back on the two straight lines that followed and completed the lap before bursting with joy.
However, no matter what view one has of the various incidents of the race, few would dislike Verstappen for the title after a season in which he and Hamilton have been face to face in one of the most notable F1 seasons. that there has never been.
Hamilton, meanwhile, will have to console himself with Mercedes ‘victory in the constructors’ championship, for the eighth consecutive year without precedent.
First-round drama as well
At the same time, it was a fitting way to end a season that has been characterized by on-track clashes and off-track discussions between Hamilton, Verstappen and their teams.
The race went on like this season, with Hamilton and Verstappen in their own race and league, and for a long time the fate of the year seemed to be heading towards Hamilton.
There was drama from the first lap, after Verstappen made a bad start from pole position, Hamilton an electric from second on the grid, and Mercedes was ahead before the first corner.
Verstappen followed him through the first turns, moved him down the long first straight straight, and threw himself inward on the six-and-seven-turn chicanery.
Verstappen fell inside Hamilton but went deep into the corner, his speed brought him to the outside edge long before the second right corner.
Hamilton avoided him, as he has done so many times this season, and crossed the ladder, retaining the lead.
He slowed down the rest of the lap a bit to regain the lead he thought he had achieved, and discussions began on the pit wall.
Verstappen told the radio, “He has to come back.”
Red Bull radioed race director Michael Masi to insist that Verstappen “was ahead and is on track.”
Masi replied: “He was sent off. The whole advantage was recovered before the end of the first round.”
Officials decided no investigation was necessary and when Verstappen was informed of the decision, he said, “That’s amazing. What are they doing?”
No doubt the recriminations will continue for a while, especially when Verstappen arrived over the weekend complaining that he was being treated differently from the other drivers by the stewards after the controversial Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend past, and Red Bull has been increasing tension between teams. with a series of controversial claims in the media.
Hamilton had the race, until luck intervened
On the track, however, the fundamental truth for much of the race was that once Hamilton was overtaken, he and Mercedes simply had too much pace for Red Bull and Verstappen, as they have done in the last four races.
Red Bull threw everything he could at Hamilton.
After Hamilton and Verstappen pitted for new tires, they let Perez out and ordered him to detain Hamilton.
Hamilton passed Perez until the sixth lap on lap 20, but was then overtaken on the next straight.
Perez was then ordered to “support” him by the marina section of the track, and Verstappen closed what had been a 8.7-second deficit at 1.7 when Hamilton finally overtook Perez a come back later.
But Hamilton drove away again, until a virtual security car deployed to remove Antonio Giovinazzi’s stranded Alfa Romeo gave Red Bull a chance.
They faced Verstappen for new tires, hoping to return to Hamilton for the last 20 laps.
But Hamilton was so strong that Verstappen could only take the lead, and the race seemed to be over until the final drama snatched her – and what would have been her eighth world title – from Hamilton’s hands.