ABU DHABI, 13 Dec 2021:
Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton in the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix following a safety car restart yesterday to clinch his first world championship from the clutches of his Mercedes rival in a nail-biting final showdown.
The Red Bull driver had trailed the Brit from the off but was gifted with an opportunity when a crash by Williams driver Nicholas Latifi in lap 54 of 58 required a safety car. Verstappen pitted for a change of tyres while Hamilton stayed out on the Yas Marina circuit in hard tyres over 30 laps old.
The Mercedes driver was gunning for a record-breaking eighth world championship and only had to finish ahead of the Dutch driver to secure it.
It seemed to be within his grasp the entire race, but that all changed when the safety car ended, meaning the title boiled down to the final lap.
At the restart, Verstappen pushed beyond Hamilton, defended his position and then extended his distance before crossing the line to scenes of jubilation from the Red Bull team and heartbreak for Mercedes.
“Finally today I had a bit of luck,” he told F1 media after the race. “My team knows I love them and I want to do this with them for the next 10 or 15 years.”
As stewards have rejected the protest against the final lap chaos by Mercedes, this final standing remains.
A visibly disappointed Hamilton congratulated Verstappen, thanked his team and added: “We’ll see what happens next year.”
The season finale was befitting of a year in which Hamilton and Verstappen have become iconic rivals in the sport.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz completed the podium in the season’s last race.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen’s final F1 race ended in disappointment for the Finn after his Alfa Romeo had to be retired.
It was AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda who took P4, followed by his teammate Pierre Gasly, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.