Max Verstappen’s disputed Abu Dhabi Grand Prix victory
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton qualified for the race on points, which has only occurred previously in the sport’s 71-year history, when Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni qualified for the 1974 finale on points. It was a winner-take-all situation.
And, after all of the anticipation, the race did not disappoint. From the first lap, there was controversy, with both championship candidates experiencing their fair share of bad luck. In the end, though, the 24-year-old Verstappen won the race and the championship.
Lap 1: Hamilton got off to a much better start than Verstappen, leading into Turn 1, but the drama started at Turn 6.
With so much on the line, there was certain to be drama from the moment the lights went down. The moment Hamilton overtook his championship opponent was crucial, but the greatest event of the lap occurred at Turn 6.
Verstappen had crept up on Hamilton and tried to climb the inside of the car. His move was a little late, but his braking was precise enough to get him through the curve and keep him on the track. Hamilton, on the other hand, was driven wide and had to clip the chicane to reclaim the lead.
“He’s got to give it back,” Verstappen shouted over the radio, but the stewards don’t notice the incident for another two circuits.
Lap 3: The debate raged on as the stewards confirmed that no inquiry into the Lap 1 incident was required.
Verstappen got an advantage by pushing Hamilton off, which Hamilton easily neutralised by cutting the turn, according to the stewards’ evaluation.
Red Bull was enraged and perplexed. They said it was just tough racing since Verstappen was in front at the apex and made the turn. Hamilton’s advantage was steadily growing throughout.
Lap 13: Verstappen was forced to make an early pit stop after battling with his soft tyres.
He started on the softs, but by lap nine, he was experiencing rear tyre deterioration. He delayed until Lap 13 to switch to hards, finishing sixth behind Lando Norris.
If Red Bull wanted to catch up to Hamilton, he needed these compounds to have a faster tempo.
Mercedes took Hamilton into the pits on lap 15, upgrading from medium to hard tyres.
Mercedes’ decision to bring Hamilton in to neutralise the race and cover their competitor was a reasonable one. He restarted the race behind Sergio Perez, but 4.8 seconds ahead of Verstappen.
Lap 18: With just Carlos Sainz separating the championship contenders, Hamilton recorded a new fastest lap.
Hamilton’s flawless racing enabled him to increase his lead over Verstappen to 8.0 seconds, while his challenger struggled to overtake the Ferrari.
Verstappen, on the other hand, grabbed his opportunity at Turn 6 and passed Sainz to take second place behind him.
Lap 20: Hamilton had moved up on Perez, but the Red Bull driver fought back.
Perez put up a strong fight against the seven-time world champion, knowing that Verstappen wanted to make up time. Perez retook the lead out of Turn 7 after Hamilton overtook him out of Turn 5 and into Turn 6.
Verstappen was just 1.2 seconds behind Hamilton when Hamilton ultimately overtook the Red Bull on the next lap.
Over the team radio, Verstappen added, “Checo is a legend.”
Despite his teammate’s efforts, Verstappen battled to keep up with Hamilton’s speed, with the Dutchman’s title seemingly slipping away somewhat with each lap.
When Kimi Raikkonen crashed on Lap 26, his F1 career came to a tragic end, but the following yellow flag had little effect on Hamilton’s ability to pull away from his adversary.
Lap 37: After Antonio Giovinazzi’s vehicle came to a halt on the circuit at the high-speed Turn 9, a Virtual Safety Car was deployed.
Verstappen was able to stop and change to a new pair of hard tyres thanks to the VSC, which forces drivers to travel at a slower pace to enable marshals to do safety tasks.
Hamilton, on the other hand, remained on the track, with Mercedes subsequently claiming that the risk of losing track position was too great for him to pit. Verstappen, in other words, would have remained out and taken the lead if he had pitted.
For the last 20 circuits of the race, Hamilton’s tyres were 22 laps older than Verstappen’s.
From laps 38 to 52, Verstappen’s chances of winning the championship seemed to be dwindling, with Hamilton retaining his lead and the distance between them widening.
For the Dutchman, it was just not working. Hamilton had the edge in terms of speed, and his tyres were still holding up well.
Lap 53: Just when everything appeared to be going wrong for Verstappen, Nicholas Latifi crashed out!
After driving wide at Turn 15, the Williams driver collides with the wall under the hotel, necessitating the use of a safety car to collect the debris.
This was just what Red Bull needed. When the safety car is deployed, the distance between the championship contenders is reduced to zero.
Lap 54: Hamilton was unable to pit due to the safety car, leaving him with little choice but to finish the last four circuits on his old tyres.
Hamilton stated over his team radio, “That’s incredible, dude.”
Verstappen, on the other hand, was able to be pulled in and finish the race on new, soft tyres.
Mercedes may have been kicking themselves for not pitting sooner in the race at this moment.
Lap 56: This is when things became contentious once again.
The first notification from race management said that lapped vehicles would not be permitted to pass the safety car, presumably to expedite the restart.
Between Hamilton and Verstappen, there were five cars, and the Dutchman would have to overtake them all to come near to Hamilton. Another setback for Red Bull, or so it seemed.
Red Bull was enraged during lap 57. The safety car remained in place, and the lapped cars remained between the championship contenders.
Horner, the CEO of Red Bull, posed the following question to race director Michael Masi: “Why aren’t these vehicles being moved out of the way? One racing lap is all that is required.”
And under the strain, Massi seemed to give way, enabling the five cars to pass and putting Verstappen right up behind him.
As a result, the bout was a straight contest till the conclusion. It’ll be a one-lap shootout. A showdown between the two drivers that have dominated the season so far.
After an incredible race, Verstappen made his move into Turn 5 and crossed the line first to clinch the victory and the title. Hamilton attempted to repass the Red Bull around the outside of Turn 9, but he was unable to make it stick due to his older tyres.
Verstappen seemed stunned as he crossed the line, yelling through his radio, “Oh my God, oh my God.”
Sainz finished third overall, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda.
This was a race rife with controversy on several levels, a narrative that appears to encapsulate the whole F1 season.
Mercedes was enraged as Verstappen and Red Bull celebrated their incredible last lap. Over the radio, Toto Wolff, the boss, was yelling at Masi about what had happened.
“Michael! Michael! You’ll have to backtrack a lap “According to Wolff, the results should only be based on the laps completed before to the arrival of the Safety Car.
“Toto… Toto… this is a car race,” Masi answered.
This is just unbelievable. I started racing with my dad many years ago. We dreamed of becoming a World Champion and now we are.