After a wild 2021 Formula One season there was still one last surprise in store with Max Verstappen overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to win his maiden Formula One World Championship.
It was simple, whoever finished ahead of the other between the two would become the World Champion. 2021 proved to be Verstappen and Red Bull’s year, dethroning Hamilton after four consecutive World Championships and seven years of Mercedes dominance. This was the first time since Sebastian Vettel in 2013 that Red Bull has had a World Champion.
The final standings in the Driver Standings had Verstappen eight points ahead of Hamilton on 395.5 points to 387.5.
Hamilton vs Verstappen
Hamilton got off to the dream start being the quicker of the two to react to the lights going out, getting ahead of Verstappen before the first turn to lead the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The opening lap was full of excitement with Hamilton and Verstappen almost colliding, lightly touching on turn seven. Verstappen took the inside line and lunged to push his way ahead of Hamilton however in the process pushed Hamilton wide off the track.
Hamilton off the track and out of the two white racing lines cut back onto the track and ahead of Verstappen to remain in first. Unlike last week when this happened with Verstappen, Hamilton was not ordered by the FIA to give back the position and therefore help the position.
Things only got better for Hamilton from there with him having the quicker pace, able to gradually increase the gap between him and his rival. Verstappen’s tyres were beginning to struggle and therefore with the gap only getting bigger, Red Bull decided to pit Verstappen on lap 14 with him coming out in fifth. Hamilton and Mercedes answered back by pitting the lap later and coming out in second behind Sergio Perez.
The action intensified on lap 20 with Hamilton and Perez battling for first place. However, Perez did an expectational job defending the Brit and was able to hold him off until the following lap when Hamilton was able to finally get ahead. The battle proved racing saving for Verstappen who was able to quickly catch up on the two and get back onto the tail of Hamilton with Perez letting him past.
Running out of answer Red Bull brought Verstappen into the pits again on lap 37 to put on fresh tyres giving him 20 laps and a 17-second gap to try and catch Hamilton in the hope of becoming the 2021 Champion.
Drama struck again when Nicholas Latifi crashed into the wall causing a safety car with five laps to go. Verstappen was able to pit and put on soft tyres while Hamilton was unable to as he would lose track position.
In controversial circumstances the FIA allowed the five lapped cars to unlap themselves after originally not being allowed to meaning that Verstappen was able to get right behind Hamilton.
The safety car ended leaving one lap of racing remaining and on this final lap Verstappen on the fresher soft tyres was able to get ahead of Hamilton and ultimately win the Grand Prix and become the 2021 Formula One World Champion.
It was not all negative for Mercedes with them winning their eighth straight Constructors Championship with 613.5 points to red Bulls 585.5.
Verstappen was full of joy post-race after an unforgettable 2021 season.
“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,” the Dutchmen said.
“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.”
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Ricciardo finishes final race out of the points.
It was an underwhelming way to finish the 2021 F1 season for Australia’s own Daniel Ricciardo finishing in 12th place after starting in 10th.
The race was uneventful for Ricciardo with nothing of real significant happening staying in the midfield from start to finish. Ricciardo never looked like making an impact on the race, falling to 17th after he pitted on lap 19. From there he slowly climbed back up the grid but was unable to finish in the points.
Ricciardo ends the season in eighth in the Driver Standings on 115 points, while his teammate, Lando Norris finished in sixth place.
End of an Era for Raikkonen
Today’s Grand Prix marked the final Formula One race of Kimi Raikkonen’s illustrious career. His 354th Grand Prix ended in heartbreak with the Finnish driver spinning out on lap 26 and slightly hitting the wall, which forced him to retire the following lap to end his F1 career on a bitter note.
Raikkonen ends his career with 21 wins and 103 podiums after spending 2001 to 2009 and 2012 to 2021 in Formula One, racing for Sauber, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus, and Alfa Romeo.
The 42-year-old will always be remembered as the 2007 Champion when he raced with Ferrari and as one of the biggest characters in Formula One with his nonchalant demeanour.
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