Verstappen wins F1 title in insane controversy; Mercedes protesting

Author
Newstalk ZB, news.com.au,
Publish Date
Mon, 13 Dec 2021, 7:46AM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Verstappen wins F1 title in insane controversy; Mercedes protesting

Author
Newstalk ZB, news.com.au,
Publish Date
Mon, 13 Dec 2021, 7:46AM

Red Bull's Max Verstappen has won the F1 world championship in the most insane circumstances, being handed a miracle finish to claim his maiden title.

Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes lodged two protests after the thrilling final lap in which Verstappen overtook Hamilton following a controversial safety car ruling, but both protests were dismissed by F1 officials in the dramatic hours after the race.

Verstappen was on pole but beaten off the start by championship rival Lewis Hamilton as the Mercedes driver dominated the race.

But with five laps remaining, Williams' Nicholas Latifi crashed and changed the whole championship finish.

Verstappen was about 10 seconds in arrears when the crash happened but was allowed to pit and get fresh soft tyres while Hamilton had old hard tyres.

It looked as though Verstappen would have five lapped drivers in between him and Hamilton. That was until a call came through that the lapped drivers could overtake the safety car and Verstappen was next to Hamilton for the final lap once debris and marshals were cleared from the track.

Max Verstappen gets up on the inside of Lewis Hamilton to take the lead during the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Photo / Getty

While Hamilton fought hard, Verstappen just had the fresher tyres and claimed the miracle finish as he romped home to claim his first world championship.

Mercedes has protested the result over the controversial finish and Sky Sports' Martin Brundle said "I wonder if there is a post-script to this yet".

Verstappen was in disbelief over the victory and sounded as though he was in tears crossing the line.

"Max Verstappen, you are the world champion, the world champion!" Red Bull boss Christian Horner screamed over radio. "You absolutely deserve it."

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands kneels next to his car after he became the F1 world champion after winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Photo / AP

Verstappen said: "I love you so much."

"We needed a bit of luck and we got it," Horner added. "We love you. We ****ing love you."

Just before he got out of the car, Verstappen said: "This is unbelievable guys, can we do this for another 10 to 15 years together?"

Red Bull were rapt, hugging and celebrating, while Mercedes were devastated and team boss Toto Wolff was furious.

Race winner and 2021 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen is congratulated by runner up and former F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. Photo / Getty

"This is not right," Wolff said as the Masi made the decision to allow the lapped five between Hamilton and Verstappen to drive past the safety car.

2016 World Champion for Mercedes Nico Rosberg said "in the document it says 'all cars will be required to unlap themselves' and yet they only let those five cars that were between Lewis and Verstappen unlap themselves. That's where Mercedes are asking if it's OK or not. But I guess in the end Michael Masi can decide what he wants, he's the race director."

But Verstappen claimed the win in an insane finish and will be crowned the world champion for the first time.

"It's unbelievable. Throughout the whole race I kept fighting and to have an opportunity on the last lap, it's incredible. I'm having cramp. It's insane," he said.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates after he became the world champion, while Lewis Hamilton looks on. Photo / AP

"I don't know what to say. My team and Honda, they deserve it. I love them so much and I really really enjoy working with them. This year has been incredible. Finally a bit of luck for me.

"I also need to say a big thank you to Checo. He was driving his heart out today, it was great team work and he's an amazing teammate.

"My team know I love them and I hope we can do this for 10-15 years together. There's no reason to change ever, I want to stay with them for the rest of my life. I hope they let me.

"Christian and Helmut trusted me to be in the team in 2016, our goal was to be world champion and now we've done that."

All hell broke loose after the result as the protests were lodged and everyone tried to comprehend what had just happened.

It was a wild race from the opening laps as the F1 world believed Hamilton was given a golden ticket in the race on the first lap after a Verstappen lunge pushed Hamilton wide and he rejoined the track with a massive advantage.

Race director Michael Masi explained: "He's forced him out there, that's why we told him to give back all the advantage. All the advantage was given back prior to the first lap ending".

It left fans scratching their heads as Hamilton seemed to get a huge advantage and built on it in the early part of the race.

Max Verstappen tussles with Lewis Hamilton during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit. Photo / Getty

It looked as though Hamilton was about to run away with the win, leading by eight seconds after both men had pitted for hard tyres.

However, Red Bull's Sergio Perez pulled off the ultimate team play to cut the gap for Verstappen back to two seconds by holding Hamilton off with some brilliant moves on the 20th lap.

Hamilton looked to fly past Perez but the Mexican fought back and even took the lead again after the Brit gone past in a brilliant passed of driving.

When finally Perez had no more to give, he yielded for Verstappen who said over team radio: "Checo is a legend".

It kept it closed but Hamilton still had the advantage and built the lead.

Kelly Piquet of Brazil makes her way to the podium after her partner Max Verstappen wins the F1 Grand Prix. Photo / Getty

It looked as though Hamilton was about to run away with the win, leading by eight seconds after both men had pitted for hard tyres.

However, Red Bull's Sergio Perez pulled off the ultimate team play to cut the gap for Verstappen back to two seconds by holding Hamilton off with some brilliant moves on the 20th lap.

Hamilton looked to fly past Perez but the Mexican fought back and even took the lead again after the Brit gone past in a brilliant passed of driving.

When finally Perez had no more to give, he yielded for Verstappen who said over team radio: "Checo is a legend".

It kept it closed but Hamilton still had the advantage and built the lead.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain reacts after finishing second in the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Photo / AP

A clearly devastated Hamilton, who's shot at moving past Michael Schumacher in a record eighth world title disappeared on the final lap.

However, he was humble in defeat and paid tribute to Verstappen.

"Firstly congratulations to Max and to his team," he said. "I think we did an amazing job this year. My team, everyone back at the factory, have worked so hard this whole year, it's been the most difficult of seasons. I'm so proud of them and I'm so grateful to be a part of the journey with them.

"This last part of the season we gave it absolutely everything and never gave up."

Late crash flips championship on its head

Williams' Nicholas Latifi has crashed five laps from the end of the race and changed the whole championship finish.

Verstappen pitted and put on fresh soft tyres, while Hamilton is on old hard tyres.

If there is a restart, he will be right behind Hamilton.

The championship is a final lap sprint.

The stewards made it a crazy controversy as they changed their minds and allowed the lapped cars in front of them to skip ahead and only have one racing lap.

"This is not right," Toto Wolff said.

But Verstappen claimed the win in an insane finish and will be crowned the world champion for the first time.

Mercedes were furious at the call and will no doubt appeal.

- by Andrew McMurtry, news.com.au