Max Verstappen Wins His Maiden F1 Title in Controversial Circumstances Against Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi

Published 12/12/2021, 9:35 AM EST
Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 12, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after the start of the race REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah


Only five years after making his F1 debut, Max Verstappen has managed to clinch his first-ever world championship title by defeating one of the greatest of all time, Lewis Hamilton. For the Mercedes driver, the wait continues, as he searches for a record eighth world championship title.

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How the F1 race unfolded

The lights went out and Hamilton had the better start of the two. Hardly a lap later, the duo almost came together around the hairpin, but the Briton ran off the track, took the shorter route, and rejoined the track, gaining a significant advantage.

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Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 12, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after the start of the race REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

While many anticipated the stewards to launch an investigation, to everyone’s surprise, the stewards affirmed ‘No investigation necessary’. Was that fair? Well, although it looked like Verstappen might have pushed Hamilton off the track, the latter took a bit too much advantage of the run-off area.

By lap 13, Hamilton found himself over 4.5s ahead of Verstappen, as the Dutchman’s title hopes diminished with each passing lap.

Verstappen pits as Mercedes react

On lap 14, Red Bull called Verstappen into the pits for a set of hard tires, hoping to gain some advantage over Hamilton. However, Mercedes took no risk and reacted by bringing Hamilton into the pits over the very next lap.

Red Bull were left with just one more option, leaving Perez out on the track to defend against Hamilton. And boy did Perez do the job; tough driving by the Mexican reduced the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen from 10s to a mere 1.5s in a couple of laps.

Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 12, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during the race REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Unfortunately, the Mercedes was a bit too fast for Verstappen to beat, as the gap continued to grow bigger with each passing lap.

Meanwhile, Raikkonen’s career officially ended on lap 28, as the Finn’s Alfa Romeo suffered brake failures. On the very same lap, Russell’s stint with Williams ended as loss of power forced the Briton to limp back into the pits and retire from the race.

Red Bull take advantage of VSC

On lap 37, Giovinazzi brought out the Virtual Safety Car by parking his Alfa Romeo. While Hamilton stayed out on the track, both the Red Bull drivers pitted, earning themselves a cheap pit stop.

Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 12, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during the race REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Hence, by the time the VSC ended, Verstappen was in P2, just over 17s away from Hamilton and with a set of tires that were over 22 laps younger.

Battle for the championship

The stage was set for a dramatic end to the race, with Verstappen hunting down Hamilton, but, with just over 15 laps in hand and the Briton pacing a bit too competitively, Verstappen’s hopes of stealing the title steadily diminished.

By lap 48, the gap was 12s, which definitely wasn’t good for Verstappen, as he, from that point, needed over a second a lap to even close his gap down to the set-to-be eight-time world champion.

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Safety car leads to more drama

With just 5 laps in hand, Latifi crashed into the wall after tangling with Schumacher. Hence, the safety car was out, and crucially, Verstappen pitted for a set of soft tires and Hamilton had to stay out on his dying hard tires.

Then came the twist! The stewards allowed the back-markers between Hamilton and Verstappen to pass by before the lights went green, leaving the duo to battle for the win. And, this time around, the battle was one-sided, with Verstappen on the soft tires

All it took was 5 corners for Verstappen to beat Hamilton and take the championship title.

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Updated F1 drivers’ standings

  1. Max Verstappen – 395.5
  2. Lewis Hamilton – 387.5
  3. Valtteri Bottas – 226
  4. Sergio Perez – 190
  5. Carlos Sainz – 164.5
  6. Lando Norris – 160
  7. Charles Leclerc – 159
  8. Daniel Ricciardo – 115
  9. Pierre Gasly – 110
  10. Fernando Alonso – 81
  11. Esteban Ocon – 74
  12. Sebastian Vettel – 43
  13. Lance Stroll – 34
  14. Yuki Tsunoda – 32
  15. George Russell – 16
  16. Kimi Raikkonen – 10
  17. Nicholas Latifi – 7
  18. Antonio Giovinazzi – 3
  19. Mick Schumacher – 0
  20. Nikita Mazepin – 0

Updated F1 constructors’ standings

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  1. Mercedes AMG (Mercedes) – 613
  2. Red Bull Racing (Honda) – 585.5
  3. Scuderia Ferrari (Ferrari) – 323.5
  4. McLaren (Mercedes) – 275
  5. Alpine (Renault) – 155
  6. Scuderia AlphaTauri (Honda) – 142
  7. Aston Martin Racing (Mercedes) – 77
  8. Williams (Mercedes) – 23
  9. Alfa Romeo Racing (Ferrari) – 13
  10. Haas (Ferrari) – 0
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Rohit Kumar

1676 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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