Absolutely insane F1 finish leaves Hamilton and Mercedes Stunned; Verstappen wins Title

Lewis Hamilton was vying for a record 8th Driver's Championship but was thwarted by his much younger competitor, Max Verstappen. The race was chock-full of controversy as 19 cars started the final race of the year, as Nikita Mazepin of Haas had to withdrawal due to a positive covid test.

Mercedes, who was won at this track 4 out of the last 5 years, started on the grid at second but Hamilton dusted Max off the start and took track position into turn 1. Max dove underneath and regained position as Hamilton missed the turn apex. Verstappen stayed within the white lines, so rules state that Hamilton should fall in line and not deviate from the track. However, Hamilton took the huge cut through which gave him a 2 second lead after the first turn. The FIA and the race stewards refused to investigate, citing that Hamilton slowed down to allow Max to regain his original deficit, but Red Bull argued Max should be in first after that turn. Vertsappen and his pit boss, Christian Horner, were audibly upset with the FIA and continually hounded them on the radio for the next few laps.

Here is the incident.

HYZE 🇮🇪 on Twitter: "Na I'm done #MaxVerstappen33 made a good inside move on the corner. Lewis runs off the track as he needs the win and is accelerating once he's off the track. I don't understand how corrupt #F1 has become. Why is FIA making the rules different for one drive like. #AbuDhabiGP pic.twitter.com/8VNzX2NTdZ / Twitter"

Na I'm done #MaxVerstappen33 made a good inside move on the corner. Lewis runs off the track as he needs the win and is accelerating once he's off the track. I don't understand how corrupt #F1 has become. Why is FIA making the rules different for one drive like.

 

Fans watching at home were not pleased, as well.

Murph on Twitter: "If anyone doubted @F1 wants @MercedesAMGF1 and @LewisHamilton to win this World Championship, you've got it on the first lap. Never seen anyone cut a corner like that and not have to give it back #fixed #cheats @SkySportsF1 @C4F1 @CroftyF1 / Twitter"

If anyone doubted @F1 wants @MercedesAMGF1 and @LewisHamilton to win this World Championship, you've got it on the first lap. Never seen anyone cut a corner like that and not have to give it back #fixed #cheats @SkySportsF1 @C4F1 @CroftyF1

Fuchs on Twitter: "#F1 Stewarts be like #f1abudhabi #MaxVerstappen pic.twitter.com/8vfmr4Tvla / Twitter"

F1 Stewarts be like #f1abudhabi #MaxVerstappen pic.twitter.com/8vfmr4Tvla

 

Many argued, including the announcers, that Hamilton's early pace made the cut through a moot point, as Lewis was easily beating Max by over a half-second each lap. Max took an early pit stop in the 13th lap, well before they had planned, which stretched out Hamilton's lead that seemed insurmountable. That is when Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez became a legend for Red Bull. When Hamilton countered Verstappen's pit with a pit of his own and retained his huge lead, Perez had vaulted to 1st but his pace suggested Hamilton would soon catch him.

As Hamilton closed in on Perez on Lap 21, Perez put on a defensive driving clinic, severely slowing down Lewis' pace and helping Verstappen close to within several seconds of Hamilton, rather than the 20-second margin he faced after Hamilton's pit stop. Mercedes protested to the FIA, and pit boss Toto tried to coerce the FIA to take action, an act that the announcers took exception to. Honda and Red Bull, however, gleaned over the efforts of Perez, perhaps the teammate of the year in F1. Verstappen called Perez " a legend", and Horner called him "an animal" over the team radio.

Honda Racing F1 on Twitter: "A masterclass in defensive driving @SChecoPerez 👏 #PoweredByHonda pic.twitter.com/pgqX3dNa9M / Twitter"

A masterclass in defensive driving @SChecoPerez 👏 #PoweredByHonda pic.twitter.com/pgqX3dNa9M

Formula 1 on Twitter: "LAP 21/58Epic stuff at the front as race leader Sergio Perez battles hard to keep Lewis Hamilton frustrated Hamilton eventually gets past to take P1, but his lead over Verstappen is cut to two seconds "Checo is a legend" says Max over team radio #AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 pic.twitter.com/Thc5IPQV09 / Twitter"

LAP 21/58Epic stuff at the front as race leader Sergio Perez battles hard to keep Lewis Hamilton frustrated Hamilton eventually gets past to take P1, but his lead over Verstappen is cut to two seconds "Checo is a legend" says Max over team radio #AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 pic.twitter.com/Thc5IPQV09

 

On a sad note, Kimi Räikkönen, of Alfa Romeo, was driving in his last race after an epic 20-year career that included a World Championship and 103 podiums, had to exit the race on Lap 27 when his car experienced a braking issue, a huge safety concern. Räikkönen and his team appeared emotional in the garage, as his wife and two children joined him before he rode off into the sunset of the Abu Dhabi track.

As if that weren't enough sadness for Alfa Romeo, their other driver, Italian Antonio Giovinazzi, had to retire his car 10 laps later when he could not shift the car. George Russell of Williams, who is joining Mercedes next year, also retired in Lap 28 when his car lost power.

Back to Giovinazzi's incident. He had to park his car because it would not shift, so the FIA deployed the virtual safety car which slowed down the field and bunched everyone up again. This allowed Verstappen and Red Bull to strategically take an unscheduled, second pit stop for fresh tires. Again Toto and Mercedes tried to influence the FIA and again the announcers were astonished at Mercedes' seemingly entitled attitude towards the FIA, which may have led to what we saw at the end of the race, keep reading!! The good news for Mercedes, their record-breaking 8th straight Constructor's Championship was safe as long as Red Bull did not finish 1st and 2nd at the end of the race.

As the race progressed, Hamilton started pulling away, even though Max switched to fresh tires. Hamiton had indicated his racing hard tires (drivers can use Hard, Medium, or Soft, with soft the quickest to wear out but also the fastest racing tire) were getting hard to negotiate. His garage said there was no reason to compromise his lead by pitting, as a pit stop cost most garages 20 seconds at this track and they were worried that would get Max too close to Hamilton. As Sky Sports interviewed Horner from Red Bull's command center, Horner said "at this point, we need a miracle."

Then this happened:

Mario Vargas (No Llosa) on Twitter: "Latifi: Si giro mi "W" 180°, es una "M". Esto es por ti Maaaaaaax!!!!#F1 #MaxVerstappen33 #Latifi #NewWorldChampion #FIA #ChecoIsALegend #LewisHamilton pic.twitter.com/wHOLhYrOGh / Twitter"

Latifi: Si giro mi "W" 180°, es una "M". Esto es por ti Maaaaaaax!!!!#F1 #MaxVerstappen33 #Latifi #NewWorldChampion #FIA #ChecoIsALegend #LewisHamilton pic.twitter.com/wHOLhYrOGh

 

Nicholas Latifi, of Williams Racing, lost control and hit the wall, leaving debris and his car in the middle of a fast turn. The safety car emerged, Max took a pit for fresh, soft tires which concerned Hamilton. Lewis radioed to his team, "he has fresh tires, should I box?" Toto responded, "Lewis if we box we will lose track position, plus this race may be done." Yes, the time it takes to clean a wrecked car from the track was likely going to cause the caution cars on track to expire the race, as the lap count does not stop, even under caution. What a terrible ending, right?

That is when all hell broke loose. While under normal rules, if the FIA were to un-lap the lapped cars, they would enter the pits in order to let all other cars pass, then they would fall in line at the back. However, they were on Lap 57 of 58, so to un-lap cars would mean the safety car would have to be on track for the final lap, and we would not be racing at the end. Instead, the FIA first announced that lapped cars could not be overtaken, a rather strange proclamation. Red Bull was incensed at this point, why finish the race if they can't improve track position. In a move that will be talked about all offseason, the FIA changed their position, and defied the current regulations, removing lapped cars but also removing the safety car, leaving Max on Hamilton's bumper with fresh, soft tires and Lewis driving on 33 lap old hard tires for one final, crazy lap. Also within the rules, when a safety car leaves the track, no DRS overtaking is allowed for two laps, so if Max passes Hamilton, which is likely to happen with the soft tires, the FIA crippled Hamilton's chance of passing Max back without DRS. The FIA decided to uphold the no DRS rule, and as Max passed Hamilton on the 3rd turn, Mercedes boss Toto was beside himself on the radio with the FIA, saying "no no no, this is wrong. What are you guys doing?"

As Verstappen passed the finish line in first, the huge Dutch cheering section erupted as Mercedes continued to protest on the radio.

Here is Max crossing the line.

Formula 1 on Twitter: "A dream come true for @Max33Verstappen as he crosses the line in Abu Dhabi 👀And becomes F1 World Champion for the first time! 👑 🏆#AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 pic.twitter.com/DIF51TL6Sk / Twitter"

A dream come true for @Max33Verstappen as he crosses the line in Abu Dhabi 👀And becomes F1 World Champion for the first time! 👑 🏆#AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 pic.twitter.com/DIF51TL6Sk

 

Hamilton refused to drive to the winner's circle with his car, a tradition where the top 3 cars park on the grid in order of finish. Instead, he pulled into the garage and sat speechless for several minutes, trying to process what just happened. Meanwhile, Verstappen and Horner embraced while in tears, finally pulling off the title they have fought for the past few years against the racing giant Mercedes.

The controversy of this race will not go away anytime soon, as the FIA not only changed procedure, they also only allowed 5 cars to un-lap, the 5 cars between Hamilton and Verstappen. When Toto screamed at the FIA lead man on the radio, the governing body retorted, almost smugly, "Toto, this is a motor race, so we raced."

The ending did not sit well with some of the drivers.

George Russell on Twitter: "Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable. I cannot believe what we've just seen. / Twitter"

Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable. I cannot believe what we've just seen.

 

Needless to say, this may have unthroned the king for one season, but something tells me 2022 will be even more intense as cars will even out with new rules and regulations. Until then, we should all let it soak in that we are watching not only the greatest F1 driver ever but another emerging star in Max Verstappen.

Formula 1 on Twitter: "A monumental effort by a history-making driverThank you, Lewis, for helping to make this season extra special#AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 pic.twitter.com/VYyP4CtInd / Twitter"

A monumental effort by a history-making driverThank you, Lewis, for helping to make this season extra special#AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 pic.twitter.com/VYyP4CtInd

 

~Michael Patrick Day, Irish Proud & 12oz Sports Writer

Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/F1

 

 

 

 

 

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Lewis Hamilton was vying for a record 8th Driver's Championship but was thwarted by his much younger competitor, Max Verstappen. The race was chock-full of controversy as 19 cars started the final race of the year, as Nikita Mazepin of Haas had to withdrawal due to a positive covid test. […]