ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Essentially the most dramatic System One season in years ought to have ended with Max Verstappen’s championship-deciding move of Lewis Hamilton on the ultimate lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The conclusion as a substitute got here practically 5 hours after Verstappen turned the primary Dutch champion in F1 historical past, when the FIA denied a pair of protests lodged by Mercedes over the controversial end of Sunday’s race.
However the messy affair nonetheless isn’t over: Mercedes filed for reconsideration to the Worldwide Court docket of Enchantment, turning within the paperwork as Hamilton left Yas Marina Circuit with out commenting.
“Not a lot actually to say about that. I feel it additionally sums up just a little bit the season,” Verstappen mentioned hours earlier because the FIA heard Mercedes’ two protests.
Hamilton had a report eighth championship ripped away with 5 laps remaining when a crash by Nicholas Latifi triggered the security automotive and gave race director Michael Masi a choice. The season-ending race and championship could possibly be determined underneath yellow, or, the observe could possibly be cleaned for one closing lap of racing.
Hamilton had been on cruise management and dominated Sunday after surging previous pole-sitter Verstappen at the beginning. He led 51 of the 58 laps and was minutes away from breaking a tie with Michael Schumacher for an eighth title that may strengthen his case as greatest in F1 historical past.
The choice by Masi to go inexperienced with a lap to go allowed Verstappen to move Hamilton in flip 5 – Hamilton obtained take a look at the lead in flip 9 however couldn’t full the transfer – in a surprising conclusion to a title struggle that may go down as probably the greatest ever.
Verstappen and Hamilton arrived in Abu Dhabi tied within the standings after 21 races throughout 4 continents, the primary time since 1974 the contenders have been degree forward of the finale. The rivals went wheel-to-wheel all season, crashing thrice with Verstappen despatched to the hospital after a collision at Silverstone.
It made for a bitter feud between Mercedes and Crimson Bull that intensified this high-stakes and typically chaotic title struggle. It was compelling motion each week, on-and-off observe drama likened to the epic championship battles of James Hunt and Niki Lauda in 1976, and Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1990.
Hamilton, winner of three straight races coming into the finale to even the struggle, had this one in hand and knew it till the Latifi crash. No matter Hamilton mentioned over his radio when Latifi introduced out the security automotive was replayed solely as one lengthy bleep to cowl his expletives.
Masi controversially settled to renew racing with one closing lap – the one probability for Crimson Bull, which lobbied to return to inexperienced. Verstappen chased Hamilton via the primary 4 turns, made his move in 5 and finally achieved his childhood dream.
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Verstappen and Crimson Bull celebrated in a champagne soak, he obtained hugs from his fellow opponents – together with Hamilton and Hamilton’s father – and made his technique to the DJ stand to leap wildly up and right down to the music. The “Orange Military” of Dutch followers erupted in pleasure and fired off their conventional orange flares. The followers additionally chanted Latifi’s identify in appreciation as they exited the circuit.
“My purpose once I was little was to change into a System One driver and to go for wins, to be on the rostrum,” mentioned Verstappen. “Once they play the nationwide anthem, you need it to be yours, and whenever you stand right here they usually let you know that you’re the world champion, it’s one thing unbelievable and particular.”
And that was how this gripping season ended, with the extra dominant group atop the ultimate podium.
Verstappen’s 10 victories this 12 months equaled the variety of wins scored over his first six seasons in F1, and he led an F1-high 652 of the 1,211 laps whereas scoring 18 podium finishes.
However he’d been criticized for aggressive driving with Hamilton himself saying Verstappen was over the sting. Verstappen had complained all weekend he’s been handled unfairly by the race stewards, who he believed held him to the next normal than different drivers.
He repeated that he needed race management to play no function within the finale, however when Masi did, it went in Verstappen’s favor.
“I feel (the observe) was clear, so why would you run it out behind the security automotive?” Verstappen mentioned. “When every part is obvious, it’s a must to launch the observe, so I feel that’s a good level from the race director. In fact, now it really works for me. But it surely additionally works towards me, I do know that.”
Hamilton didn’t take part within the post-race information convention with Verstappen and third-place finisher Carlos Sainz. He did one interview earlier than the victory podium and congratulated Verstappen and Crimson Bull.
Hamilton, who turns 37 subsequent month, used a late season surge to knock all 19 factors off Verstappen’s lead within the standings. However his eight wins this season are the fewest for Hamilton since 2013, when he solely received as soon as and completed fourth within the standings.
He praised the trouble of Mercedes.
“It’s been essentially the most troublesome of seasons. I’m so happy with them, so grateful to be on the journey with them. We gave it completely every part, we by no means gave up and that’s crucial factor,” Hamilton mentioned. “I’ve been feeling nice within the automotive this previous couple of months, significantly on the finish. But when I’m sincere, we’re nonetheless within the pandemic and I simply want everybody to remain protected and have Christmas with their households, and we’ll see about subsequent 12 months.”
Crimson Bull received its first F1 title since 2013; Mercedes had received each championship since.
The Mercedes temper was bitter and Hamilton at first sat immobile in his automotive for a number of moments. The defeat ended his reign of 4 consecutive titles, and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was incredulous on the radio as he demanded to Masi “the final lap be reinstated.”
“Toto, it’s referred to as a motor race,” Masi tersely replied. “We went automotive racing.”
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Hamilton obtained an extended hug from his father, who then went to the Crimson Bull storage and hugged each Verstappen and Verstappen’s father. Jos Verstappen was himself a former F1 driver and raised his 24-year-old son to change into a world champion.
It took Verstappen seven seasons to make it to the highest – he was the youngest driver in sequence historical past when he debuted at age 17, and the youngest winner when he received the subsequent season at 18 – and he savored it with “Jos The Boss.” His father had not even made it to congratulate his son earlier than he’d pulled on a championship sweatshirt.
Jos Verstappen, a one-time teammate of Schumacher, was winless in 107 races over eight seasons.
“With my dad, touring via all of Europe, for that one purpose to be within the System One, to hope you could win a race and listen to your nationwide anthem, after which after all the final word purpose is the world championship, which may be very arduous to attain,” mentioned Verstappen.
Mission achieved and Crimson Bull celebrated by enjoying “We’re the Champions” in its storage.