Here’s What Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes F1 Could Have Done Differently Strategically to Stop F1 Title Collapse in Abu Dhabi

Published 12/12/2021, 11:52 AM EST
Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 12, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton looks dejected after finishing second in the race and the world championship Pool via REUTERS/Kamran Jebreili


Lewis Hamilton was enjoying an incredibly dominant race, leading all the way until the dying laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. And it almost looked certain that the Briton could well make it a record-breaking eight championship titles with the race win.

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Then arrived the untimely Latifi incident, hardly 5 laps away from the chequered flag. The safety car popped out, and for the first time that evening, leading the race looked like a major disadvantage as Hamilton had everything to lose from that point by pitting.

Max Verstappen had pretty much nothing to lose, which eventually led Red Bull to bring in the Dutchman for a fresh set of soft tires.

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Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates -Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates winning the race and the world championship with the Netherlands flag on the podium as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton looks on after finishing second REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Even then, Hamilton had the upper hand, as the stewards put out a statement that no back-markers would be allowed to un-lap themselves under the safety car, as there were only 2 laps left in hand; there were over 5 lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen.

Then, only a lap later, the stewards ordered only selective lapped cars (between Verstappen and Hamilton) to un-lap themselves, leaving the two top-runners close to each other. Well, we all know how this story ended!

Could Lewis Hamilton have done anything differently?

Looking back at the race, there were indeed a few mistakes Mercedes did, which eventually left Hamilton helpless against Verstappen. However, we must consider the fact that the decisions Mercedes made under the safety car looked quite reasonable, as Hamilton was then the leader of the race.

Hence, it is quite obvious that Red Bull would have reacted exactly the opposite of Mercedes had the latter pitted Hamilton under either the virtual safety car or the actual safety car. Meaning, had Hamilton pitted under the VSC, he would have ended up behind Verstappen.

Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates finishing second in the race with the trophy Pool via REUTERS/Kamran Jebreili

There is the aggression of Verstappen that Mercedes had to be wary of, which makes keeping Hamilton in the lead look much safer compared to pitting and leaving him behind the Dutchman.

Watch Story: Lewis Hamilton’s Biggest F1 Crashes

Is Hamilton ultimately to blame?

We don’t really think Mercedes could have done anything different strategically to win the world championship title. All the scenarios came down to Hamilton’s battle for the lead against Sergio Perez. It was the Mexican that played a crucial role in handing Verstappen the title.

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Following the first round of pit-stops, Hamilton was over 10s ahead of Verstappen and still pulling away only to fall in the path of Perez. Those two crucial laps where Hamilton lost over 6 seconds changed the outcome of the race.

Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during the race REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

From there on, Hamilton had Verstappen within 5s away, which meant that Mercedes lost the upper hand or the freedom to opt for a different strategy.

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Overall, the race is over, and the result is final! But, the battle for the championship is far from over amidst Mercedes’ protest against the stewards’ decision during the safety car period. So, are we in for a late twist? Well, let’s keep a watch on how the FIA looks to proceed with this controversy.

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Rohit Kumar

1666 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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