Verstappen wins World Championship after a one lap sprint in Abu Dhabi

12-12-2021 14:30 | Updated: 12-12-2021 14:59
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Verstappen wins World Championship after a one lap sprint in Abu Dhabi

Max Verstappen has won the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship with a one lap sprint. The Dutchman took the lead on the last lap of the race following a safety car period. 

Hamilton took the lead before the two drivers even reached the first corner such was the speed of Hamilton's car off the line. The two drivers produced a controversial moment at turn seven but the stewards didn't decide to investigate. Verstappen lunged up the inside, and Hamilton ran wide. He held onto the lead. 

Verstappen benefitted from virtual safety by getting a cheap pit stop when Antonio Giovinazzi retired on lap 36. This gave Verstappen a gap of 17 seconds with 20 laps remaining in the Grand Prix. Up against Hamilton's older tyres, Verstappen couldn't hunt down his rival but had one more chance when the safety car came out. The season ended with a one-lap sprint and Verstappen took the lead on the last lap of the race to win the title. 

Mercedes won the Constructors Championship for the eighth consecutive season. 

Raikkonen's Formula 1 career ended up lap 28 with a brake issue. Russell's time at Williams also ended on the same lap with a power issue. Nikita Mazepin didn't start the race after producing a positive COVID-19 test. 

A mix of tyres

Because of a medium tyre flat spot in Q2, Verstappen was forced into starting the soft Pirelli compound which is made to be less robust. Hamilton with the medium tyre sat just one place behind Verstappen on the grid for the decider. Sergio Perez started on the second row but it was Lando Norris in third. Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas started from sixth. 

Verstappen didn't get off the line well and Hamilton got ahead into the first corner. The first question mark was sent to the stewards at turn seven when Verstappen tried to pull an overtake. Verstappen made a late lunge down the inside and the rivals touched slightly. The stewards decided no investigation was needed. Red Bull Racing got on the phone to Michael Masi but nothing changed. 

By lap five, Hamilton opened up a two-second lead and it became a question of tyre strategy. After a series of purple lap times, Hamilton opened the gap to 3.6 seconds as Verstappen reported his rear tyres were starting to struggle around lap 10. 

Pit stops

Verstappen pitted on lap 14 for hard tyres. He came back onto the track in fifth place but got ahead of Norris within one lap. Mercedes decided to match Verstappen with the hard tyres just one lap later. The Brit emerged in second, behind Red Bull driver Perez. In Verstappen's pursuit, he got stuck behind Carlos Sainz for a couple of laps. Once cleared, the 24-year-old Red Bull driver had a ten-second gap to Hamilton. 

Perez played the ultimate team game to bring Verstappen back into the race. Perez made it extremely difficult for Hamilton to regain the lead and the gap between the two Championship rivals cut down to one second on lap 22.

At the halfway point, Kimi Raikkonen's career came to an end with a brake issue. He touched the wall but had one more lap back to the pit lane. On the same lap, Russell lost all drive in his final race for Williams. 

With the threat of a second Verstappen pit stop, Hamilton put the hammer down and opened up a 4.3-second gap on lap 31. On lap 36, Antonio Giovinazzi stopped out on the circuit and a virtual safety car was deployed. Verstappen made use of this and pitted for a brand new set of hard tyres. When the virtual safety car was deployed, Verstappen had a gap of 17 seconds with 20 laps to go. 

With ten laps to go, the Dutchman cut the gap down to 13 seconds. Nicholas Latifi crashed with five laps remaining. Verstappen opted for the soft tyres for the restart. 

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