F1, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, 2021: A dramatic and controversial end to the 2021 season. Max Verstappen on the last lap snatches the Driver’s Championship title from Lewis Hamilton.
A safety car drama with just four laps remaining when Nicholas Latifi lost control over his Williams’. At that particular point, Lewis Hamilton was ahead by 6s from Max Verstappen. However, a tricky decision from FIA to restart the race for just one lap without organizing the cars shocked everyone. To which, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes could not answer.
Max Verstappen after the safety car went into the pit and took the soft tyre in case the match restarts and they were pitch-perfect as, Micheal Masi, FIA race director gave the green light. It took Redbull just a few seconds to overcome the long ran Hard tyre equipped Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
It was a superb race from Carlos Sainz, Yuki Tsunoda, and Pierre Gasly who finished 3rd, 4th, and 5th respectively. Valtteri Bottas struggled to P6, running as low as eighth, and losing a potential podium spot from fourth to sixth under the final Safety Car.
F1 fares farewell to Kimi and Honda.
A sad moment for Kimi Raikkonen as Alfa Romeo had to retire his car in his last F1 race. It was the last race for Honda as they have also announced their farewell from F1 after this season, Rumors had it, VolsWagon can enter the scene with Audi or Porsche (It is a rumor).
Lewis Hamilton had it.
The start of the race was unimaginable for the seven-time champion, Lewis Hamilton. He was a rocket at the green light and ahead of his rival, Max Verstappen, on the first turn.
However, Verstappen would bow out and lunged forward to regain his lost position on Turn 6. The lunge however was a little too desperate pushing Hamilton into the run-off area. The Briton went over the blue strips and retained the lead; the stewards decided not to investigate.
Mercedes’ second driver, Valtteri Bottas failed to replicate Hamilton’s start and was dropped to eighth place behind Yuki Tsunoda. Lando Norris would also drop position, as Sainz and Leclerc harassed him.
Max Verstappen took a pit stop on Lap 13 for his worn softs and replaced it with Hards. He would rejoin in the fifth spot and straight away gained two places as he caught Leclerc and Norris off guard. Leclerc pitted from softs to hards at the end of his 15th lap to emerge 15th.
Lewis Hamilton pitted a lap later to hards and rejoined second after Perez who was still to pit. Redbull had the chance to stop Hamilton as long as they can behind Perez. Sergio Perez was a beast defending superbly, slowing Hamilton down considerably giving Verstappen a chance to catch up. Who was now behind Hamilton overtaking Carlos Sainz.
That hold by Perez deducted five seconds from the lead of Hamilton over Verstappen. letting his teammate cleanly past before pitting from P3 for hards at the end of the tour. “Checo is a legend” came Verstappen’s response on the radio, the Dutchman now two seconds behind Hamilton.
The Briton though was in no mood to give up or slow down. He just continued his quest heads down and increased his gap steadily. The pace from that Mercedes was raw. Just as the season had started, Verstappen bearing down on Hamilton in Bahrain using newer tyres, how it would end? Well, it would be naïve to think this season didn’t have another surprise in store.
The safety car because Giovinnazi’s car parked in an unusual spot gave the Dutchman a cheap pitstop to get equipped with new tyres. Leading by 17 seconds, Hamilton needed to do what he was doing right now. However, the gap was coming down considerably.
With 10 laps left as backmarkers began to come into play – a train of midfielders from Alonso to Leclerc costing Hamilton valuable time. It was now Verstappen’s turn to gain on that midfield and he was still 11 seconds behind on Lap 51. The lead was looking just enough to bring the glory for the eight-time.
That was until Nicholas Latifi crashed on Lap 53 exiting Turn 14, bringing out a Safety Car. Verstappen again took the chance to pit – this time for soft tyres. It was a surprise but a good move as Redbull has nothing to lose.
On Lap 56, Safety Car still circulating, Perez was brought into the pits to retire, denying him a deserved podium and promoting Sainz.
Verstappen had boxed for fresh softs under the Safety Car, and as the laps ticked down and the lapped cars were allowed to clear out of the way of the fight for the lead, it would come down to a one-lap shoot-out between Hamilton and Verstappen.
It was a maiden title for the Dutchman. First-ever Dutch driver to win an F1 Championship. an epic send-off for this era of F1 and a Hollywood finish to this most dramatic of seasons.
Alpine took points with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon eighth and ninth respectively, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc rounding out the top 10.
Alfa Romeo suffered a double retirement as Kimi Raikkonen bowed out on Lap 26, teammate Antonio Giovinazzi 10 laps later. Latifi was Williams’ second retiree after George Russell bowed out from his tenure with the team with a loss of drive on Lap 27.
Mercedes and Red Bull, therefore, shared the spoils in this incredible season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, fit for a season that will no doubt go down as one of the greatest ever.
Max Verstappen on the title.
“It’s just insane. I mean, my goal when I was little was of course to become a Formula 1 driver and you hope for wins, to be on the podium, when they play the national anthem you one day hope they play yours and then when you stand here and they tell you [that] you are world champion it is something incredible and special.
“All the things come back through your mind throughout all the years you spent together, traveling for that goal… and everything comes together in the last lap. Insane, these people, my whole team, my family, my friends, the people… who want to push me to where I am today. They’re all here – most of them are here. It’s just insane, I lost my voice, but yes. I don’t know, it just sounds amazing, honestly.
“It’s incredible to see all this orange here but all over the world, they’ve supported me throughout my whole career… and I hope I can do this for a very long time of course with the support of my great fans.
“Lewis is an amazing driver, an amazing competitor, he really made it really hard for us and everybody loves to see that. Of course the two teams run against each other and we have tough times but I think that’s part of the sport, it’s emotion, everyone wants to win. It could have gone either way today but for sure next year we’ll try again, come back, and hopefully do it all over again.” – Max Verstappen, 2021 Formula 1 drivers’ world champion, Red Bull.