Lewis Hamilton took 2nd with Carlos Sainz close behind taking third, leaving Max Verstappen to take first place at today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and taking this year’s championship. Mercedes, however, solidified its position as constructor’s champion for 2021.
On Saturday, Max Verstappen was clearly faster than that of Lewis Hamilton after choosing the soft tyre compound taking pole position with the Brit behind him on the grid, and Lando Norris cut in at a surprising P3. The choice to use a soft tyre was indeed a risky one, but a choice that may well have won Verstappen the championship. With Max and Lewis starting the race on equal points, it was an exciting weekend of racing, but one that has now left a sour taste in the mouths of many.
Verstappen began the race badly, yielding to Hamilton who quickly took first place. Sergio Perez then gained third as he overtook Norris who ran wide. Turn 6 and 7 saw contact between Hamilton and Verstappen, with the latter lunging towards the Brit to take the lead, only to be saved by Hamilton who ran wide to defend his position. This was not investigated by the stewards.
At this point, Norris Took back third place and Sebastian Vettel overtook fellow Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll.
Lap 13 saw Verstappen pit for a hard tyre compound pushing him back to sixth place. Hamilton also pitted, rejoining behind Perez, but while he put up a great fight, Hamilton eventually took his place, but this meant Perez could provide DRS for Verstappen, pushing him into second. Verstappen struggled to maintain pace against Hamilton.
Unfortunately, lap 27 brought bad news for Kimi Raikkonen, who retired from the race from brake failure. With his being his last ver Formula 1 race, the crowd launched into applause, celebrating the Finnish driver’s brilliant career. George Russel also retired after a technical issue with his car.
Valtteri Bottas was pushed down to P9 after a pit stop behind the Ferrari of Leclerc, and while struggled to overtake for a few laps, eventually made a brilliant move on 35 taking P8. The next lap may well have changed the whole race, however, as Antonio Giovinazzi and his Alfa Romeo failed, forcing stewards to activate a virtual safety car. At this point, Verstappen pitted for a fresh set of hard tyres, but Hamilton stayed out on tyres that had already endured 25 hard laps.
Fernando Alonso also saw drama on lap 40 as he ran off the track after trying to overtake Tsunoda. He rejoined the track on a chicane.
Lap 42 gave us Hamilton and the Red Bulls in podium positions, followed by Carlos Sainz in P4, Norris P5, and Bottas in P6. Soon after this, a Williams with Nicholas Latifi behind the wheel hit a wall, bringing out the safety car with just 5 laps left to go, and with Perez retiring from the race, he handed Mercedes the Constructor’s trophy.
The final lap was a controversial one, with Verstappen pitting once more for fresh tyres while the safety car was out, and Hamilton, to his surprise, not. This allowed Verstappen to easily overtake Hamilton who was struggling on his old tyres, taking the win in Abu Dhabi and winning him the 2021 season.
After the race, Hamilton stayed positive and humble as he talked about the end of the race:
“Firstly big congratulations to Max and his team. I think we did an amazing job this year, my team, everyone back at the factory, all the men and women, we have worked so hard all year.
“It’s been the most difficult of seasons. I’m so proud of them, so grateful to be on the journey with them. We gave it absolutely everything, we never gave up and that’s the most important thing.
“Of course I’ve been feeling great in the car this past couple of months, particularly at the end.
“But if I’m honest, we’re still in the pandemic and I just wish everyone to stay safe and have a good Christmas with their families, and we’ll see about next year.”
Verstappen was lost for words, telling the public:
“It’s insane. I don’t know what to say. I’m so pleased for the team and for all these guys.
“I love working with them so much. Finally today I had a bit of luck. My team know I love them and I want to do this with them for the next 10 or 15 years.”
Following Max’s win, Mercedes has protested against Red Bull, citing a breach of two articles in the Sporting Regulations. One which reads that you can’t overtake a safety car during a yellow flag in the closing stages of a race, and one complaining about the safety car procedure, in which a number of lapped cars between Verstappen and Hamilton were allowed to pass.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolf has declined to comment as of yet.
So gang, who’s side are you supporting on this one? Let us know.