Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021 – Timeline of what happened in the closing laps of controversial final race
Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to win his first F1 Drivers’ Championship last night in a controversial race that saw the dutchman sweep the victory in the final moments.
Verstappen overtook Hamilton in the final lap of the race, with debate around whether he should have been allowed arising due to the safety car measures put in place following fellow driver Nicholas Latifi’s crash.
With all the headlines flying around – let’s clear up the events of that exhilarating but dramatic race on Sunday afternoon that led to Mercedes’ protests and appeals.
Six laps to go
Hamilton was seemingly bound for victory with six laps to go as Max Verstappen found himself 11 seconds behind the reigning champion.
The race all changed though as Nicholas Latifi soon crashed his Williams car into the barrier of turn 14, apparently caused by ‘dirt on his tyres’.
This forced a safety car onto the track to slow the cars down in order for the stewards to clear the track of the now-demolished vehicle as well as Latifi himself.
During the time that all cars were temporarily slowed, Verstappen (currently second) took the chance to change his tyres for new fresher ones so that he had an increase of speed and grip for the remainder of the race.
Hamilton, on the other hand, chose not to stop for new tires as it would result in him returning to the race in second place – he wouldn’t be allowed to overtake Verstappen (who would slide into first) due to the safety car. Mercedes were also unsure if the race would resume so kept Hamilton on to see out the race, considering he was comfortably in front.
The FIA then ordered all unlapped cars to remain in their places – which left three cars between Verstappen and Hamilton and progression not currently allowed.
However, a huge u-turn was made by the director of the FIA which meant this proposition was overruled and there was now a bunching up of cards on the track, with Verstappen now overtaking the cars in front of him and coming neck and neck with Hamilton.
The race then resumed as normal with just one lap remaining, and Verstappen erupted past Hamilton with his fresher tires.
Hamilton did all he could to get back in the race, but the Dutchman was able to hold off the Mercedes driver to win the F1 Drivers’ Championship.
Following the controversy, former world champion Nico Rosberg gave some insight as to why Mercedes might look to appeal. Regarding the FIA’s decisions, he said:
“First they said they’re not allowed to un-lap themselves, then they changed their message once they saw that the track was safe to do so.
But the thing is, in the written document all cars will be required to un-lap themselves and yet they only let those five cars that were between Lewis and Verstappen un-lap themselves, the others not.
That’s why Mercedes are thinking, is that ok?”
Despite the outcome, Lewis Hamilton was graceful in his ever-so-near defeat
Firstly, big congratulations to Max and to his team,” he said.
“But I’m so proud of my own team and we gave it absolutely everything. I’ve felt great in the car the last couple of months. We’ll see what happens next year.”
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