Race winner and 2021 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing is congratulated by runner up in the race and championship Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
It’s been an F1 season to remember.
The two locked horns early on and were wheel to wheel going into the final race in Abu Dhabi, level on points ahead of an eagerly anticipated end to the 2021 campaign.
With Hamilton, of Mercedes, at the front, Red Bull’s Verstappen needed a miracle from the Formula 1 Gods in a winner-takes-all finale to an exhilarating year of F1 racing.
Here’s how it unfolded…
Who won the F1?
Max Verstappen clinched the F1 drivers’ championship in dramatic style in a controversial finale to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the 2021 season.
Verstappen and rival Lewis Hamilton were level on 369.5 points each, with the Dutch driver ahead thanks to his nine 2021 GP wins to the British driver’s eight.
With Hamilton 11 seconds ahead in Abu Dhabi, with six laps to go, it all looked done and dusted but then the race was blown wide open when Nicholas Latifi went into the barriers.
What happened in the final moments?
When Williams driver Nicholas Latifi went into the barriers the rest of the field was ordered to slow down so the stewards could clear the track from any debris.
As drivers were slowing down, Max Verstappen went into the pits to change his tyres for better grip and speed when the race resumed. Lewis Hamilton didn’t choose to stop.
Hamilton’s decision was based on the fact he’d drop to second behind Verstappen if he followed into the pits and the uncertainty around if the race would resume with so little time left.
Race director Michael Masi then ordered all lapped cars to move out the way to allow Verstappen into second place behind Hamilton for a dramatic final lap - winner-takes-all.
Verstappen made the most of his fresh tyres and darted past Hamilton at the earliest opportunity, holding off the seven time champion to secure the race win and his first drivers’ championship.
Have Mercedes appealed?
Mercedes lodged two appeals, with many in the garage unhappy with Max Verstappen going wheel to wheel with Lewis Hamilton before the race resumed.
It even looked as though Verstappen had momentarily gone ahead of Hamilton with the safety car still out, when drivers should remain in the order they were in prior to the stoppage.
The other appeal was down to the fact only lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen were allowed through and not those between Verstappen and third placed driver Carlos Sainz.
Article 48.12 of the sporting regulations states: "If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message ‘lapped cars may now overtake’ has been sent to all competitors via the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car."
The same regulation adds that "once the last lapped car has passed the leader, the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap".
In Abu Dhabi the race was started at the end of the same lap.
Stewards pointed to another rule which gave the race director control over the deployment and withdrawal of the safety car, adding: "Although article 48.12 may not have been applied fully, in relation to the safety car returning to the pits at the end of the following lap, article 48.13 overrides that and once the message ‘safety car in this lap’ has been displayed, it is mandatory to withdraw the safety car at the end of that lap."
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