MAX VERSTAPPEN made history yesterday as the Dutchman became the Formula 1 world champion for the first time under dubious circumstances in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP. The 24-year-old overtook Britain's Lewis Hamilton in dramatic scenes due to a late safety car intervention.
Hamilton was cruising to his eight drivers title, racing post Verstappen who sat in pole position at the start. A controversial move at Turn Seven saw Hamilton go off the track, but he was given no penalty for the move. He held a lead of 12 seconds with six laps to go, but couldn't hold on.
Nicholas Latifi in the Williams forced the Safety Car out and started the drama in a race that many felt was finished.
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 12, 2021
Verstappen had pitted to replace his tyres with soft ones, While Hamilton in the Mercedes decided he had enough juice in the tyres to finish the race. Verstappen rejoined the race with 5 lapped cars between himself and Hamilton in the queue behind the Safety Car.
Race control initially stated that lapped runners could not overtake, Red Bull boss Christian Horner, was not impressed, but the following message on the final lap gave Verstappen gave the green light for that to then happen - but only the five drivers running between the championship's top two at the time.
This created the Verstappen- Hamilton partnership at the front. It was restarted in the 58th and final lap.
Verstappen held off Hamilton and rebuffed his attack back down the next two straights. Verstappen completed the rest of the lap to create history as the first Dutchman to win the crown. He also became the second champion for Red Bull after Sebastian Vettel, the last non-Mercedes driver to take the crown in 2013.
This is just unbelievable. I started racing with my dad many years ago. We dreamed of becoming a World Champion and now we are.
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) December 12, 2021
"It's unbelievable," said a disbelieving Verstappen.
"Throughout the whole race I kept fighting and to have an opportunity on the last lap, it's incredible. I'm having a cramp. It's insane."
Hamilton's dad who was gracious in defeat said:
Firstly congratulations to Max and to his team. I think we did an amazing job this year," said Hamilton, F1's outgoing champion after four consecutive titles.
"My team, everyone back at the factory, have worked so hard this whole year, it's been the most difficult of seasons. I'm so proud of them and I'm so grateful to be a part of the journey with them.
Mercedes lodged two protests after the race concerning the result but both were dismissed by stewards on Sunday night.
However, the team have lodged their intention to appeal the verdict concerning Safety Car procedures and now have until Thursday to formalize any official challenge to take it on to the FIA's International Court of Appeal.
Abu Dhabi GP result: Top 10
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
4) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
5) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
6) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
7) Lando Norris, McLaren
8) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
9) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
10) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari