Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021

Max Verstappen - 2021 F1 World Drivers Champion

After a season of thrills and spills over the course of 21 races, it comes down to the 22nd and final race in Abu Dhabi, with title contenders, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen level on 369.5 points, meaning the 2021 driver’s title comes down to whoever finishes ahead when the chequered flag falls on Sunday.

The 2021 season has been one that reminds me of great seasons of old, the rivalries like Ayrton Senna Vs Alain Prost, and Michael Schumacher Vs Damon Hill, and I have thoroughly enjoyed this season. Last season I was all ready to give up on F1 with seven years of Mercedes dominance and four years of Red Bull dominance before that, but this season has rejuvenated my love for F1, and I really could not think of a better situation of “winner takes all” to end the season, it’s almost like the FIA scripted it that way!

Ahead of the F1 finale, race director Michael Masi has said that points could be deducted if any driver plays dirty. Which, I believe is definitely aimed at Verstappen, who has everything to gain from taking out Hamilton, with a 9 to 8 race win advantage going into Abu Dhabi, claiming the title on race wins.

The 2021 season has been a season that will be remembered for penalties as much as the action on the track. I would say, as an F1 fan who wants to see wheel-to-wheel action, that it was hard racing, which sometimes ended in contact, ending one or both driver’s races. Penalties and off-track politics have tainted the season, I’m a firm believer in a “let them race” philosophy, not off-track political nonsense.


Red Bull pulled a strategic masterstroke in their first run in qualifying, Verstappen fully utilizing the tow from Sergio Perez down the back straight with a perfect entry into turn 9 to set a time that Hamilton could not beat. Hamilton or Mercedes elected to not take advantage of the tow, on both Q3 runs, Hamilton led teammate Valtteri Bottas on track, which in hindsight, probably cost Hamilton pole position.

I think Red Bull will be the happier, with Verstappen on pole and Perez in fourth place, immediately behind Hamilton, while Bottas will start behind Perez in sixth place. Lando Norris qualified his McLaren in third place just 0.016 seconds ahead of Perez, and crucially two places ahead of Carlos Sainz’ Ferrari.

Now, that said, Red Bull took a gamble, Verstappen doing a second, faster run in Q2 on the red marked soft tires after he locked up and flat-spotted his yellow marked medium tires in his first Q2 run. This means that it’s crucial that Verstappen can stay ahead of, and build a gap to Hamilton, who starts on the more durable medium tires, whereas Verstappen starts on the quicker, but faster degrading soft tires.


What a race, what a season, Max Verstappen is the 2021 world drivers champion, denying Lewis Hamilton a record-breaking 8th title, pending the result of the Mercedes post-race appeals.

Back to the start of the race, Max Verstappen, despite being on soft tires on pole position, lost out to Lewis Hamilton off the line, but came back at Hamilton into turn 6, diving up the inside, pushing Hamilton wide, the Briton made zero effort to rejoin before turn seven, staying on the throttle and rejoining on the straight on the run down to turn 9, while Verstappen stayed on track. The race stewards did not punish Hamilton for gaining a lasting advantage by going off track, they claimed that Hamilton had ceded the time he gained back by the end of the first lap, which I say is bullshit. Verstappen was not 1.1 seconds adrift going into turn six, and was ahead of Hamilton at the apex of turn six, leaving me baffled.

Losing time to Hamilton, Red Bull pitted Verstappen for hard tires on lap 12, Mercedes reacted and pitted Hamilton on lap 13, for the same hard tires. Meanwhile Red Bull left out Sergio Perez to slow down Hamilton, and what an amazing job he did, defending like a lion to get Verstappen within 1.5 seconds of the back of Hamilton. But ultimately it was all for nothing, the Mercedes was just too quick for Red Bull on the same compound and age of tires, Verstappen was losing 0.2 to 0.3 seconds a lap to Hamilton.

Both Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff complained about Perez’s dangerous driving, which I believe stinks of Mercedes privilege, not being challenged for seven years prior to 2021. Race director Michael Masi told Wolff it was hard racing, which it was, and what us racing fans like to see.

On lap 35, Antonio Giovinazzi, in his last race, stopped on track, which caused a virtual safety car, and Red Bull took the opportunity to bring in Verstappen for a second set of hard tires, while Mercedes kept Hamilton out on track. Despite having fresher tires, Hamilton was able to limit the amount of time Verstappen could gain each lap, looking good for an eighth world title, pending any last-minute drama.

And boy, did that last-minute drama come, six laps from the end of the race when Nicholas Latifi put his Williams in the wall, which resulted in a full safety car being deployed. Red Bull rolled the dice one last time, pitting Verstappen for soft tires, putting the Dutchman seventh car on the road, with five lapped cars between him and Hamilton. Initially, the FIA announced that lapped cars cannot pass the safety car, handing Hamilton the driver’s title. But, on the penultimate lap, the FIA reversed that decision, allowing lapped cars to unlap themselves. which put Max immediately behind Lewis as the safety car peeled off into the pits, and Toto Wolff lost his mind, screaming at race director Michael Masi over the radio.

At this point, all the eggs were in Verstappen’s basket, new soft tires, versus 40 lap old hard tires on Hamilton’s car, and Max did not wait long, making the move for the lead at turn 5, and made it stick, Lewis came back at the Dutchman in the run down to turn 9, but could not pass being on the outside of the long left-hander, giving Max his first drivers title, after a hard-fought battle with Hamilton all season.

All credit to Lewis Hamilton, immediately congratulating Max on his maiden world title, and for his words in the post-race interviews. Despite all the team radio words spoken, Lewis was gracious in defeat.

Mercedes’ post-race protest was thrown out by the FIA, of course, Mercedes will appeal. I just hope that after such an amazing season, this is not decided in the courtroom, making a mockery of the sport.

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