Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the F1 Abu Dhabi GP and secured the 2021 world championship after crazy end to the race against Lewis Hamilton.
It was not the greatest of starts from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen from pole in F1 Abu Dhabi GP as he lost the crucial lead to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Their fight didn’t end there as there was another coming together at Turn 6-7 sequence.
The Dutchman chose the inside line on the left-hander and made the lung on Hamilton which surprised him as he went off track and rejoined ahead. The FIA stewards stated that there was no investigation necessary for the ‘lasting advantage’
In the chat between Red Bull and the FIA, it was conveyed that Hamilton slowed enough to give away the advantage. Naturally Verstappen was not happy and after a bad start, he started to lose out to the pace of the Mercedes with nearly 5s gained.
Behind them, Sergio Perez had a good start to be third from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who cleared McLaren’s Lando Norris at the start with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc sixth from AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda – all benefiting from Valtteri Bottas’ bad start.
The Mercedes driver was eighth from Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo in the Top 10 ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly – both on the hard compound and going longer on their first stint.
With the big gap, Red Bull reacted to pit Verstappen on Lap 14 with Mercedes stopping Hamilton on the next lap. There was a self moment from Leclerc when the Dutchman came out of the pits which cost the Monegasque’s a place to Tsunoda.
Red Bull left Perez out in the lead of the F1 Abu Dhabi GP for him to use the tactics Hamilton used against Nico Rosberg in 2016. The idea was for the Mexican to hold off Hamilton as much as possible to allow Verstappen to catch him.
And Perez played it beautifully against Hamilton as they went wheel-to-wheel for multiple corners. Everytime the Mexican lost the place the Brit, he got it back to keep him behind, allowing Verstappen to close in on them from six seconds to two.
It was clean duel between the two even though Hamilton complained of dangerous driving. He eventually made it through him and extended his lead over Verstappen. Perez pitted to drop behind Bottas who did not stop while others did but were long off from Top 2.
Alonso and Gasly were fifth and sixth without stopping as Sainz was seventh from Norris, Leclerc and Tsunoda in the Top 10. As Hamilton extended the lead over Verstappen, it was an anti-climax end to the F1 career of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.
A brake issue led him into the barrier and despite the team trying to get him out, it was game over for the Finn. At the same time, George Russell ended his Williams F1 career with a DNF after he lost drive in his car when facing upshift issues.
At the front, both Red Bull and Mercedes started to think of a second pit stop. Bottas, meanwhile, finally pitted on Lap 30 to come out behind Leclerc. He pressured the Monegasque and eventually got through him for eighth.
The race turned around a bit when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed to clear Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi’s car. The Italian’s race ended in a DNF too. Mercedes did not pit Hamilton knowing that Red Bull will do the opposite to them.
Verstappen eventually pitted along with Perez as Hamilton was worried about not pitting. This gave him jitters about going through the end on the same tyres as the Dutchman started to close in on the Brit with full pace.
Perez steadied in third from Sainz, Norris and Bottas after their stops. Behind, Tsunoda and Gasly slotted in seventh and eighth after a hefty fight between the Japanese driver and the Spaniard. It also led to an off moment for the Alpine driver.
Alonso was ninth from Ocon in the Top 10 as both Ricciardo and Leclerc dropped out of the points. At the front, it started to fade out from Verstappen as he couldn’t cut the gap to Hamilton in the pace he would have liked to at the front.
But there was late worry after Norris suffered a front left slow puncture and was forced to pit again. It dropped him to 10th but he passed both Ocon and Alonso quickly to be eighth soon. Bottas was promoted to fifth with Tsunoda in sixth from Gasly.
There was late drama still as a fight between Haas’ Mick Schumacher and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi led the Canadian into a crash at Turn 14 when he lost his rear. The safety car was deployed as Verstappen pitted along with several other cars.
At the same time, Perez was called in to retire as Verstappen had several cars to clear to get to Hamilton with the FIA not allowing the lapped cars to unlap itself – it was just few of the cars who were in between which allowed the Dutchman to be behind the Brit.
They were side-by-side under the hotel as Hamilton and Mercedes were shocked by the late call when the safety car was ending. It left them one lap to battle and the two went tow-to-tow to pass Hamilton and eventually win the F1 Abu Dhabi GP.
By doing so, Verstappen secured the 2021 F1 championship and be crowned a world champion for the first time in his career. Hamilton had to be content with second not only in the race but also a vice-champion in the season.
Sainz was third on the road from Tsunoda and Gasly, as Bottas dropped to sixth from Norris, Alonso, Ocon and Leclerc in the Top 10. Outside the points, it was Vettel, Ricciardo, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Schumacher and Perez as classified finishers.
The Mexican was classified even though he did not finish as everyone from Ricciardo onward were at least a lap down to the leader. DNF: Latifi, Giovinazzi, Russell, Raikkonen.
— #MsportXtra (@MsportXtra) December 12, 2021
UPDATE: Mercedes has lodged an official protest against the results of F1 Abu Dhabi GP as Verstappen and Red Bull have been summoned at 19:25 local time.
“Protest by Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team against Car 33, alleged breach of Article 48.8 of the 2021 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations,” stated the first document, with the other one stating: “Protest by Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team against the classification established at the end of the Competition, alleged breach of Article 48.12 of the 2021 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.”
UPDATE 2: The decision on the first Article 48.8 was announced first where the stewards dismissed. They stated that Verstappen did briefly got ahead of Hamilton but he got behind then after as seen in the videos during the grand prix as well.
“The Stewards consider that the protest is admissible,” said the steward. “Having considered the various statements made by the parties. The Stewards determine that although Car 33 did at one stage, for a very short period of time, move slightly in front of Car 44, at a time when both cars where accelerating and braking, it moved back behind Car 44 and it was not in front when the Safety Car period ended (i.e. at the line).
“Accordingly, the Protest is dismissed and the Protest Deposit is not refunded. Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Chapter 4 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits.”
More to come