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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021: Max Verstappen wins last lap thriller, crowned F1 2021 world champion

What a climax! It was slated to be one of the biggest Formula One season finales ever, and it certainly was.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021: Max Verstappen wins last lap thriller, crowned F1 2021 world champion
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Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates, First Published Dec 12, 2021, 8:12 PM IST
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What a climax! It was slated to be one of the biggest Formula One season finales ever, and it certainly was. Before the lights went green at the remodelled Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were tied at 369.6 points each. At the end of the 58 laps, Max Verstappen emerged as the first Dutch F1 world champion. The lap, which would be talked about for a long time, saw Hamilton being denied a record eighth F1 world championship. Mercedes, meanwhile, picked up the constructors' champion.

The drama began on turn 4 of the very first lap when Verstappen edged past Hamilton having outbreaked him into the corner. Hamilton went off the track and took a shortcut to rejoin the race in the lead. Red Bull protested but was turned down by race director Michael Masi. Red Bull Racing team director Christian Horner termed the stewards' decision as shocking and inconsistent. Even as the war of words continued off the tracks, on the tarmac, Hamilton pulled away from Verstappen.

Also Read: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021: Revisiting the last lap drama at the Yas Marina circuit

On Lap 14, Verstappen hit the pits and switched tyres, However, he could not rejoin ahead of number three Ferrari's Carlos Sainz. A lap later, Hamilton drove into the pits and rejoined behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez. Then Red Bull switched to plan B. And that was to have Perez hold back Hamilton behind him till Verstappen catches up. Perez executed the plan perfectly till lap 21. 

And then it was a sight that Formula One fans have been witness to time and again. With every passing lap, it became evident that pit-lane strategy would determine the outcome of the title-deciding last race of the reason. Talking of the last race, Kimi Raikonnen retired from his last Formula One outing after losing the drive in his Alfa Romeo. 

On lap 36, Alfa Rome's other driver Antonio Giovinazzi bowed out of the race. His exit brought out a virtual safety car, which saw the pit lanes open up and in came Verstappen. At lap 38, the gap between Verstappen and Hamilton was over 17 seconds. But lap after lap, the second kept tumbling between them. Verstappen, on fresher tires, set the pace and put on one fastest lap after another. 

Willians' Nicholas Latifi changed the race fortunes with just five laps to go. Verstappen jumped into the pits for a tire change. One hoped for action to resume, and it did for a lap.  However, just as the safety car came in, race stewards allowed Verstappen to overtake the lapped cars and rejoin Hamilton on the second spot. Verstappen, on a fresher set of tires, overtook Hamilton and then managed to keep his wits together and his car on the track, as he went on to become the world champion.

Also Read: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021: F1 legend Kimi Raikkonen relives illustrious career

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