The 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may have been the best finale we have ever seen, maybe this was even the best season F1 we have ever seen. The title decider went down to the final lap and this is how it all unfolded.Embed from Getty Images
In terms of strategy, Mercedes had the upper hand as both their drivers would start on the medium tyres whereas most of the top 10 were on soft tyres. Most people thought that Verstappen, who was on pole, would get a much better start as he was starting the race on softs letting him have a much better grip off the line, however that wasn’t the case.
Hamilton got a much better start than Verstappen being a tenth of a second faster than him off the line. Perez managed to put himself into P3 as Norris ran wide and fell back into P5, Bottas didn’t exactly have a great start either as he lost a couple of positions to become P8.
Verstappen went down the inside on Hamilton at the end of the back straight on the first lap which caused Hamilton to back out but he ended up rejoining the track having a larger advantage over the RedBull of Verstappen, Hamilton surprisingly wasn’t ordered to give the place back to Verstappen but was instead asked to slow down to reduce the gap between them to eliminate any advantage he gained by running off track.
Verstappen started complaining about tyres during the 8th lap with the gap between the top 2 increasing to over 5 seconds by the 12th lap. He then changed onto hard tyres on lap 14 and come out behind Norris, who he passed on the back straight in the same lap.
Hamilton too changed onto the hard tyres on lap 15 coming out 5 seconds ahead of Verstappen, Hamilton was quick to get past Sainz who was in P2 and was steadily catching up to Perez who was leading the race. Perez was then ordered to slow down a bit to let Hamilton catch up in the hopes that he could help his teammate, Verstappen, by holding Hamilton up.
Hamilton got past Perez on the back straight but soon conceded the place as Perez went down the inside and got DRS for the following straight. He ended up slowing down Hamilton by more than 5 seconds, allowing Verstappen to get within a second of Hamilton the next lap. This didn’t end up benefitting the Dutchman much as he lacked pace over the next few laps allowing Hamilton to build up a significant gap.
Räikkönen didn’t exactly have a good final race, a braking issue saw him go into the barriers and come out with wing damage causing him to retire. He wasn’t the only one who retired, Russel too had to stop after having power unit and gearbox problems in what will be his last race for Williams. Giovinazzi had to retire as well, this brought out the virtual safety car which allowed Verstappen to change to a new set of hard tyres without losing a lot of time.
Verstappen was told to push and was told that for him to get past Hamilton he would have to close in on him by 8 tenths a lap, which he was able to do at first but his pace steadily dropped allowing Hamilton to stay in the lead by a comfortable margin.
Horner, the RedBull team principal, was earlier heard saying that they would need a miracle to win this race-and a miracle did indeed happen. Latifi went into the wall while battling with Schumacher on lap 51 which brought out the safety car, Verstappen would then box for a new set of soft tyres with Hamilton being unable to do so as he had already crossed the pit entry putting him at a massive disadvantage.
On the 56th lap, Michael Masi, the race director, said that lapped cars will not be allowed to overtake the safety, this meant that Verstappen now had to get past 5 lapped cars and Hamilton all within a lap to win the title. And on the 57th lap was when the second miracle happened.
The 5 lapped cars in front of Verstappen was ordered to overtake the safety car and the safety car was ordered to come in that lap, meaning there would be one racing lap. This meant that Verstappen was right behind Hamilton on a brand new set of softs for the final lap, he then made the title-winning move on Hamilton on the brand new turn 5 hairpin in which he overtook Hamilton to take first place.
Even though Hamilton tried to fight back it was obvious that Verstappen had won the title once they had entered the third sector.
Verstappen WinsEmbed from Getty Images
Verstappen is now Red Bulls second world champion.
Hamilton and Verstappen had come into the final race of the season equal on points and the RedBull driver, although controversially, ended up coming out on top. Many say that the FIA favoured Verstappen during this race and wanted a new winner which is why they allowed the 5 lapped cars in front of him to overtake the safety car. Mercedes did end up winning the constructors’ title.
Even George Russel took to Twitter to address his opinion regarding the decision which allowed the lapped cars to overtake the safety car.
Although many could argue Verstappen didn’t deserve to win this race, the same could be said for the fact that he did deserve to win the championship.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marked the end of the 2021 Formula 1 season. It is highly doubtful we will ever see a season like this any time in the near future, but with various changes to the technical regulations, it is hard to say what will happen next year.
What do you think will happen? Who do you think will win?