After 22 rounds, the most equal and exciting Formula One World Championship in recent memory has been decided in a heart-stopping last lap. A very fitting grand finale.
Max Verstappen (Red Bull) has won the Abu Dhabi F1 GP 2021, becoming 2021 World Champion. The Dutch racer has put an end to Lewis Hamilton’s reign, who was second today at the Circuit of Yas Marina.
The Briton of Mercedes
was unable to contain the Dutchman at the rollling restart which followed the safety car
period triggered by Nicholas Latifi’s crash
Verstappen, in an extremely risky but courageous move, went to pits to mount soft compounds during the safety car period, whereas the Briton opted to stay put with his worn old tyres.
After the two legends came a sensational Carlos Sainz
. The icing on the cake after a fabulous season with Ferrari
. Thanks to that fourth podium of the year, the Spaniard has climbed from seventh to fifth place
in the standings, ahead of his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc
& Lando Norris
Checo Perez (Red Bull) has played an essential role in Verstappen’s historic victory. Throughout the race, the Mexican has managed to contain the Briton and stop him from escaping ahead.
It was thanks to that manoeuvre that Verstappen was able to make up the ground he had lost to Hamilton. Without that extra margin, he would have been unable to get near enough to the dethroned seven-time champion to attempt a pass.
Once again it has been a difficult day for Valtteri Bottas. A sad farewell for the Finn, who was stuck down the track, unable to overtake, and who says goodbye to the team of the star with a disappointing sixth place.
Hamilton gets ahead of Verstappen at the start
As soon as the lights came off, Hamilton, taking advantage of Verstappen’s slow start, was able to get ahead and grab the lead of the Abu Dhabi F1 GP 2021.
Fired on by his own mistake, the #33 was chasing the Briton hard two curves later and he tried to overtake ‘Mad Max’. Hamilton, however, defended his position by going off track.
Surprisingly, race directors did not order him to return the position, as has been routinely done during the season. After that encounter, the Briton managed to escape by 1,7 seconds.
As he flew away from Verstappen on his harder and slower tyres, everything seemed to be going his way. With Hamilton now four seconds ahead, Verstappen performed his first pit stop on lap 14 to mount hard compounds. Immediately his rival for the glory followed suit.
Pérez blocks Hamilton and Max closes in on him
Six laps after that, on the 20th, came one of the key moments of the Abu Dhabi GP 2021. Hamilton got right behind Perez who had fiercely defended his position, stopping the Briton for two whole laps. Thanks to him Verstappen could shorten the gap with Hamilton from 8 to 1,7 seconds.
The race had now been turned on its head. Max, who was by then pretty much resigned to be runner up, was back in the fight for the title. He could now have another shot at going head-to-head with Hamilton, on his hard compounds. From that moment on Hamilton commenced to escape again, reaching 3,8 seconds on the 28th lap.
Max just couldn’t keep up. With just 10 laps to go they were already 11 seconds apart. Hamilton was touching his eighth crown with his fingertips at the Abu Dhabi F1 GP 2021.
A safety car with just 5 laps left, madness!
This magical and memorable season, however, still had one more card up its sleeve. On lap 53 -6 to go-, Nicholas Latifi crashed violently against the barriers after a showdown with Mick Schumacher. With just five laps left for the chequered flag drama struck in the shape of a safety car.
Race stewards jumped on the track to clear the Williams’ wreckage. In a split-second Red Bull had to make a decision and so they tossed the coin and ordered Max to pits to mount soft tyres.
The race started again for one epic final lap following when safety car periodo has gone. In the rolling restart, the Dutchman, on fresh compounds, overtook Hamilton for the glory.
Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t have written a better plot. A 24-year-old youngster had put an end to the hegemony of a British legend. Mercedes’ dictatorship, which had started with the birth of the hybrid era in 2014, had ended. Who said that Formula One was boring?
Images of the Abu Dhabi F1 GP 2021: Red Bull Racing.