Lewis Hamilton dominated the race from start to finish, and in the end controversial decisions by the FIA involving the Safety Car practically gifted Max Verstappen the win and the 2021 Drivers’ Championship.
Mercedes has lodged two protests concerning the FIA’s handling of the final laps of the race and Max Verstappen’s possible Safety Car infringement, however they were dismissed by the stewards.
Max Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of a hugely dramatic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to seal his maiden Formula 1 world title.
Hamilton looked on course to claim a record-breaking eighth world title having led the majority of the race after overtaking Verstappen at the start, but a late Safety Car swing the race in Verstappen’s favour.
Hamilton was over 10 seconds clear of Verstappen with less than 10 laps remaining when Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams.
That brought out a Safety Car and Red Bull responded by pitting Verstappen for fresh soft tyres, with Hamilton unable to respond in time to change his heavily used hard tyres.
There was controversy at the end when FIA race director Michael Masi reversed a decision to allow lapped cars to overtake, leaving Verstappen right behind Hamilton on fresher tyres for a one-lap dash to the finish.
Verstappen dived down the inside at Turn 5 to snatch the lead, before the two championship protagonists ran wheel-to-wheel on the run to Turn 9, with Hamilton forced to concede after launching an ambitious move around the outside.
From there, Verstappen was unchallenged as he crossed the line to seal a historic first world title to deny Hamilton a record-breaking eighth crown in a finish worthy of a Hollywood movie.
Mercedes was left aggrieved by the FIA’s late decision that ultimately swung the championship Verstappen’s way at the end of an extraordinary, 22-round season.
Verstappen has ended a streak of five successive world titles for Hamilton to become the first-ever Dutch world champion and the 34th in F1 history.
Despite starting on harder tyres than his rival, Hamilton launched past Verstappen to snatch the lead into Turn 1 with a dream getaway.
Controversy followed as Verstappen lunged past Hamilton into Turn 6, forcing the Mercedes driver off-track and across the run-off. Having skipped the chicane, Hamilton kept the lead before slowing down in the final sector.
The stewards’ deemed that no investigation was necessary for the incident due to Hamilton giving up all of his lasting advantage before the end of the first lap.
Hamilton looked to be in control of proceedings after the first stint but Sergio Perez made his life difficult by putting in a sensational defence to hold him up for more than a lap, allowing Verstappen to cut a 6-second deficit down to two.
Just as Hamilton began to build the gap to Verstappen back up, a Virtual Safety Car was thrown when Antonio Giovinazzi parked up with a mechanical issue.
With Mercedes opting for track position, Red Bull took what was effectively a free pit stop by boxing both Verstappen and Perez.
That set up an absorbing 20-lap conclusion, with a charging Verstappen hunting down Hamilton on much fresher tyres.
Despite the tyre disadvantage, Hamilton seemed to be in complete control until the late Safety Car spun the race on its head.
In all the chaos at the end and a late retirement for Perez, Carlos Sainz was able to sneak onto the podium in third.
Yuki Tsunoda scored his best result in F1 by finishing fifth ahead of AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly, while Valtteri Bottas took sixth to seal an eighth consecutive constructors’ world championship for Mercedes.
Lando Norris finished seventh for McLaren, ahead of the Alpine duo of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, while Charles Leclerc completed the top-10 to grab the final point on offer for Ferrari.
2021 Verstappen wins F1 2021 Verstappen wins F1