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Max Verstappen crowned world champion after winning Abu Dhabi GP: 'Unbelievable'

Published on 12 December 2021 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen has been crowned 2021 F1-world champion after the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. With this the Red Bull Racing-driver is the first ever Dutch champion in the history of the sport and was able to break the Mercedes dominance for the past seven years. Max started the season’s final from pole, but title rival Lewis Hamilton got better off the line and overtook him immediately after the lights went out. The tempo of the Briton was during the race extremely high and it seemed for a long time that the title would slip out of Max’ hands. With still five laps to go, a scenario unfolded that nobody had prior taken into account: Nicholas Latifi crashing out upon which Race Control decides to deploy the safety car. Red Bull reacts immediately by putting Max on a set of the softs, while Hamilton keeps on driving on a set of the harder compound tyres. On the very last lap the field was let loose again and Max was able to spectacularly overtake the Mercedes-driver and is the first to take the chequered flag and also the title. Lewis Hamilton finishes second fastest, Carlos Sainz rounds out the podium on behalf of Ferrari.

‘It’s unbelievable’, a visibly emotional Verstappen says after the race. ‘I kept fighting throughout the whole race and then that opportunity in the last lap is incredible. It’s insane I don’t know what to say. Sitting in the car it was a load off of my shoulders. It’s been a long season and the pressure was always on. I think the realization will come later on today.’

According to Christian Horner a miracle was needed to help the Red Bull Racing-driver claim title with still ten laps remaining. Max realized that himself: ‘Up until the final lap everything was going wrong and nothing was working out for us.’ But the miracle came: ‘Finally a bit of luck for me. You know that you only have one shot and you need to go for it. We grabbed it and that is unbelievable. I also want to say a big thank you to Checo, he was driving his heart out today. It was great teamwork and he is an amazing team mate. Also because of him I became a world champion today.’

Max is commending his team that helped him achieve the title this year: ‘To my team I think they know I love them and I hope we can do this for the next ten/fifteen years together. There is no reason to change ever. I want to stay with them for the rest of my life, I hope they let me. Christian and also Helmut, trusting me to be in the team since 2016. Our goal was to win this championship and now we have done just that.’

Under the watchful eyes of the fans and millions around the world in front of their TV’s, the lights go out for the last time this season. Max gets poorly off the line and sees Lewis Hamilton immediately pass him by. The Red Bull Racing-driver keeps the gap to his title rival to a minimum and launches an attack at the end of the long straight. Verstappen barely makes the corner but forces his title rival off track. Hamilton retains the lead even after handing back the advantage he gained, as he had been requested to do by Race Control.

At the end of the first lap, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Sergio Pérez, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc form the top six. The race leader keeps increasing his lead on Verstappen by pulling out fastest laps one after the other. This high tempo of the Briton results in a gap of well over six seconds the moment that Verstappen – at the end of lap thirteen – heads back in for a new set of the harder compound tyres. The Dutch ace rejoins in fifth, but makes little work of Lando Norris for P4. Lewis Hamilton follows suit one lap later and straps on the same compound.

Max gets stuck behind of Carlos Sainz who hasn’t stopped yet. On lap eighteen the Dutchman succeeds in overtaking the Ferrari-driver. Sergio Pérez has also not pitted yet and his driving his heart out at the front of the field to hold back a charging Lewis Hamilton. The Mexican succeeds in keeping his Red Bull big enough to hamper the Briton behind of him for a decent amount of time. As a result of this, Max is able to slot back in behind his title rival and brings the gap back to a second-and-a-half. Despite this he is still not able to follow the Mercedes around.

On lap 27, Kimi Räikkönen is the first one to retire from the race. A brake issue puts a spoke in the wheel of the unfortunate Finn, who will subsequently end his glorious F1-career on a low. Not much later George Russell has to also retire from the race but with a gear box issue. Halfway the race the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen is four seconds, but now again the deficit of the Red Bull Racing-driver keeps getting bigger every lap.

Even for Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi it’s a race to quickly forget as he has to park his car, with some technical issues, trackside on lap 36. Race Control decides to deploy the Virtual Safety Car and Red Bull immediately decide to call in both Max Verstappen as well as Sergio Pérez for a fresh set of the harder compound tyres, Mercedes opts for track position and Lewis Hamilton stays out. When the all clear is given, the Briton has built up a lead of seventeen seconds on Verstappen. Hamilton is however running on a set of the hard compound tyres that are already 23 laps old. Max faces an enormous challenge in closing the gap towards the closing stages of the race.

Max Verstappen’s race seems to have been run till five laps before the end. The Safety Car is deployed due to Nicholas Latifi crashing when exiting Turn fourteen. The damages is severe, but miraculously the car is retrieved on time. After the lapped cars have overtaken the Safety Car, the field is let loose again with just one more lap to go. Max grabs his opportunity at Turn five and does the unthinkable by overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the season. The Dutchman does not relinquish his lead and is the first to cross the line. After a fantastic season Max Verstappen is F1-world champion. Lewis Hamilton finishes second fastest and brings home enough points for Mercedes to crown themselves Constructors’ champion. Carlos Sainz rounds out the podium on behalf of Ferrari.

Results Grand Prix Abu-dhabi:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda581:30:17.34526
2Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes58+2.256s18
3Carlos SainzSAIFerrari58+5.173s15
4Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda58+5.692s12
5Pierre GaslyGASAlphaTauri Honda58+6.531s10
6Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes58+7.463s8
7Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes58+59.200s6
8Fernando AlonsoALOAlpine Renault58+61.708s4
9Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault58+64.026s2
10Charles LeclercLECFerrari58+66.057s1
11Sebastian VettelVETAston Martin Mercedes58+67.527s0
12Daniel RicciardoRICMcLaren Mercedes57+1 lap0
13Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes57+1 lap0
14Mick SchumacherMSCHaas Ferrari57+1 lap0
15Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda55DNF0
0Nicholas LatifiLATWilliams Mercedes50DNF0
0Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari33DNF0
0George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes26DNF0
0Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari25DNF0