Max Verstappen World Champion After Controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Hamilton lost & others Confused!

Race winner and World Champion Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing celebrates with Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. 12.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race Day. – © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

By Myanna Wedes

A race for the history books. A race to discuss for generations. A race of controversy. A race of anger. A race of family victory. A race of confusion. A World Champion crowned by a regulations mishap! Human error? Pressure cooker environment?

The race was exceptional and most certainly started off early with controversy after Max Verstappen edged Lewis Hamilton off the circuit and to avoid a collision, it was deemed that Hamilton had given back the gap he obtained by leaving the circuit and no investigation was necessary. It was clear Red Bull were not happy and on the radios back and forth with Michael Masi and race control. The racing was guaranteed to have some sort of input from the team personnel although we did not think this would go right down until the last lap.

Hamilton drove a perfect race, he was quick, calculated and had the World Championship in the bag until the drama unfolded on live television. There are very mixed emotions for everyone involved in the Championship as well as fans watching on from their television screens and devices. Hamilton made no errors when you analyse his driving. Amongst the drive, he was pushed by Sergio Perez who decided to stay out and use his car in order to help teammate Max Verstappen. His defensive driving was labelled by some as dangerous and others as courageous.

If you think about it, this was a clever move by Red Bull to upset Mercedes-AMG Petronas and Hamilton. It was uncalled for, unnecessary though within the rules. In comparison, Bottas never showed up to help his fellow teammate Hamilton. He was all over the place and did not put his car in places it needed to be in order to shake up the field. We have to give credit where it is due for the team tactics although Perez’s car mysteriously retiring is questionable.

Hamilton from our perspective drove at 110% under immense pressure and with the world watching on lap after lap. He was questioning his team, the team discussing strategy and working tirelessly to bag the title. Some will say that Hamilton should have pitted for new tyres whilst others say track position is king.

How the drama all unfolded:

Lap 38: 17-second lead to Hamilton.

Verstappen: New tyres and needing to make up eight-tenths per lap.

VSC ended: Verstappen made up half a second.

Backmakers: 12-second lead and 10 laps to go. A train of drivers to pass from Alonso to Leclerc costing Hamilton time.

Lap 51: Verstappen just over 11 seconds behind Hamilton.

Lap 53: Nicholas Latifi crashes.

Lap 53: Safety Car.

Verstappen pits and puts on some soft tyres.

Lap 56: Safety Car still deployed. Perez retires (there are multiple theories out there about this).

Michael Masi decides lapped cars cannot unlap themselves.

Michael Masi then decides only a select number of cars can unlap themselves setting up the final lap with a very bad taste in people’s mouths.

Most say the race should have finished under a safety car.

This did not happen.

Race-restarts: Hamilton leads until Turn 5. Verstappen passes him. Hamilton tries to regain the lead.

Finish Line: Max wins the race.

Everyone Else: Confused. Shocked.

Other Drivers: Confused. Shocked.

Fans: Confused. Shocked.

It is clear that the regulations were created, interpreted and a decision made that will have us talking for a very long time! At that moment, Michael Masi changed the course of history. There was pressure from team principals and in particular, Christian Horner in the final moments of the race whilst others criticise Wolff for being on the radio to Masi. Whatever you think about the team principals, we have to go back to the rules and regulations.

A person: Michael Masi applied what he thought was the right thing “to go motor racing” and it certainly backfired because the way the season finished was incredibly disappointing and not ideal. Nothing will change in terms of the winner, although we may see some changes to FIA personnel and rules/regulations in 2022 to help avoid incidents like this one.

For now, Hamilton remains tight-lipped and with no reason to be on social media and Verstappen continues to celebrate his first-ever World Champion.

What does 2022 have in store for us…..

We do hope Hamilton continues to race because he is a very deserving World Champion and no doubt the lion within him is showing some, if not the best racing on offer throughout his career. Hamilton is an all-around icon of the sport and continues to do so much for people of all classes, races, socioeconomic backgrounds and more.

As the season finishes, we bid farewell to Kimi Raikkonen who is retiring, Antonio Giovinazzi who is departing to another level of Motorsport, the promotion of George Russell, the relocation of Valtteri Bottas to take over from Raikkonen and Giovinazzi.

Some insight from the newly crowned World Champion:

Max Verstappen:

“It’s just insane. I mean, my goal when I was little was of course to become a Formula 1 driver and you hope for wins, to be on the podium, when they play the national anthem you one day hope they play yours and then when you stand here and they tell you [that] you are world champion it is something incredible and special.

“All the things come back through your mind throughout all the years you spent together, traveling for that goal… and everything comes together in the last lap. Insane, these people, my whole team, my family, my friends, the people… who want to push me to where I am today. They’re all here – most of them are here. It’s just insane, I lost my voice, but yes. I don’t know, it just sounds amazing, honestly.

“It’s incredible to see all this orange here but all over the world, they’ve supported me throughout my whole career… and I hope I can do this for a very long time of course with the support of my great fans.

“Lewis is an amazing driver, an amazing competitor, he really made it really hard for us and everybody loves to see that. Of course the two teams run against each other and we have tough times but I think that’s part of the sport, it’s emotion, everyone wants to win. It could have gone either way today but for sure next year we’ll try again, come back, and hopefully do it all over again.”

Carlos Sainz:

“We knew it was going to be a tough race for the tyres but we used our experience of the entire year to extend the life of my Softs in the first stint and then to look after my Hards until the end of the race. To sign off my first season with the Scuderia with a podium, a third place in the Constructors’ Championship and a fifth in the Drivers’ is a great way to head into the winter break. I want to thank all the tifosi and the entire team, including Charles, the management and every single member of the factory and race team for the welcome I’ve had this year. I felt at home at Ferrari from the very first day and that, along with their incredible effort all year long, has been key to improving race by race and finishing this first season strongly. Finally I want to congratulate both Max and Lewis for their great season. I’m happy for Max, so a special congratulation for the Championship title. I’m already looking forward to next season! Forza Ferrari!”

The comments for Mercedes-AMG are nil due to how the event unfolded in the final laps. It is fair enough that Lewis Hamilton wants to remain silent as does Toto and the team. They have just been dealt a card that was harsh.

We are aware that the team appealed the decision of the Stewards and were going to push for a trial in the courts. However, this has since been withdrawn as a result of the FIA claiming they will produce a full investigation into what went wrong during those final moments of the World Championship.

We hope to see a more fair and equal sport in 2022 where decisions like what took place at the final race do not happen again.

133Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA581:30:17.34526
244Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES58+2.256s18
355Carlos SainzFERRARI58+5.173s15
422Yuki TsunodaALPHATAURI HONDA58+5.692s12
510Pierre GaslyALPHATAURI HONDA58+6.531s10
677Valtteri BottasMERCEDES58+7.463s8
74Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES58+59.200s6
814Fernando AlonsoALPINE RENAULT58+61.708s4
931Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT58+64.026s2
1016Charles LeclercFERRARI58+66.057s1
115Sebastian VettelASTON MARTIN MERCEDES58+67.527s0
123Daniel RicciardoMCLAREN MERCEDES57+1 lap0
1318Lance StrollASTON MARTIN MERCEDES57+1 lap0
1447Mick SchumacherHAAS FERRARI57+1 lap0

FIA Statement:

“The world watched every race with great anticipation, knowing that in the end, there could only be one winner. In this respect, many praised Max Verstappen for his victory, and Lewis Hamilton for his remarkable performance and sportsmanship after the closing event of the season.

The 2021 FIA Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, has prompted a large number of reactions from the F1 community and from motor sport in general, as well as in the public. 

The FIA’s primary responsibility at any event is to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the integrity of the sport.

The circumstances surrounding the use of the Safety Car following the incident of driver Nicholas Latifi, and the related communications between the FIA Race Direction team and the Formula 1 teams, have notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans, an argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship and the due celebration of the first Drivers’ World Championship title won by Max Verstappen and the eighth consecutive Constructors’ World Championship title won by Mercedes.

Following the presentation of a report regarding the sequence of events that took place following the incident on Lap 53 of the Grand Prix and in a constant drive for improvement, the FIA President proposed to the World Motor Sport Council that a detailed analysis and clarification exercise for the future with all relevant parties will now take place.

This matter will be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers to draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media, and fans about the current regulations to preserve the competitive nature of our sport while ensuring the safety of the drivers and officials. It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis, but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships.

Following that presentation and an extensive discussion, the World Council has decided to unanimously support the President’s proposal.

The FIA will therefore do its utmost to have this in motion within the Formula 1 governance and will propose to the Formula 1 Commission to give a clear mandate for study and proposal to the Sporting Advisory Committee, with the support of Formula 1 drivers, so that any identified meaningful feedback and conclusions be made before the beginning of the 2022 season.”

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B makes a pit stop. 12.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race Day. –, © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images
Sebastian Vettel (GER), Aston Martin F1 Team 15.12.2021. Formula 1 Testing, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Wednesday. –, © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images