How Max Verstappen won the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

In a period full of drama and controversy, it nearly feels fitting the championship title was determined on the closing lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton entered the race level on points — a feat that has only happened as soon as ahead of in the sport’s 71-yr background, when Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni entered the 1974 finale stage. It was winner-requires-all.

And immediately after all the exhilaration and buildup, the race did not disappoint. There was controversy from the initial lap, with each title contenders acquiring their own share of the luck. But in the stop, 24-year-old Verstappen claimed the race and the championship title.

Right here is how it all unfolded.

Lap 1: Hamilton created a substantially better start than Verstappen to direct into Switch 1, but the controversy commenced at Turn 6.

With so much at stake, it was inescapable to see drama from lights out. Hamilton leaping ahead of his title rival was a big moment, but the major occasion of the lap came at Change 6.

Verstappen experienced shut in and tried to go up the within of Hamilton. His transfer was late, but his braking timed perfectly plenty of to make the corner and keep on the track. Hamilton, having said that, was forced broad and minimize the corner at the chicane just before retaking the lead.

“He has to give that again,” Verstappen mentioned around the radio, but the stewards do not be aware the incident until eventually two laps later on.

Lap 3: The controversy continued as the stewards confirmed no investigation was essential for the Lap 1 incident.

The stewards’ evaluate decided Verstappen obtained an benefit by forcing Hamilton off, which Hamilton basically neutralised by slicing the corner.

Purple Bull were furious, and puzzled. They explained it was merely challenging racing — Verstappen was in advance at the apex and designed the corner. All through this, Hamilton’s guide was bit by bit escalating.

Lap 13: Following having difficulties with his gentle tyres, Verstappen was pressured into early modify.

He experienced long gone out on the softs, but by Lap 9 was having difficulties with rear tyre degradation. He waited until eventually Lap 13 to alter to hards, coming out guiding Lando Norris in sixth.

Red Bull had to hope these compounds had more robust tempo if he was to catch up with Hamilton.

Lap 15: Mercedes introduced Hamilton into the pit, switching from medium tyres to hards.

Bringing Hamilton in was a rational choice for Mercedes to neutralise the race and cover off their rival. He rejoined driving Sergio Perez, but crucially, continue to 4.8s in advance of Verstappen.

Lap 18: With Carlos Sainz the only driver separating the title contenders, Hamilton established a new fastest lap.

Some cleanse racing from Hamilton permitted him to increase his gap with Verstappen to 8.0s, though his rival was struggling to pass the Ferrari.

Having said that, at Switch 6, Verstappen took his chance and overtook Sainz and sit behind his rival.

Lap 20: Hamilton had closed in on Perez, but the Pink Bull put up a battle for his teammate.

Figuring out that Verstappen needed to make up time, Perez place up a good defence against the 7-time world champion. Hamilton passed him out of Convert 5 and into Transform 6, in advance of Perez retook the guide out of Switch 7.

And when Hamilton lastly passed the Purple Bull in the following lap, Verstappen was just 1.2s driving.

“Checo is a legend,” Verstappen claimed about the team radio.

Lap 22 to 34: Irrespective of the fantastic function from his teammate, Verstappen struggled to keep up with Hamilton’s pace, the Dutchman’s championship showing up to slip absent a little bit right after each individual lap.

Kimi Raikkonen’s F1 profession came to a unfortunate shut when he stopped on Lap 26, but the ensuing yellow flag did not modify significantly as Hamilton continued to storm absent from his rival.

Lap 37: A Digital Safety Vehicle was deployed after Antonio Giovinazzi’s car stopped on the keep track of at the substantial-pace Flip 9.

The VSC, which involves the motorists to generate at a slower velocity to make it possible for marshals to have out security work, gave Verstappen an option to pit and improve to an additional established of tricky tyres.

On the other hand, Hamilton stayed place, with Mercedes later on conveying the opportunity to get rid of observe situation was much too substantial for him to pit. In other text, if he experienced pitted, Verstappen would have stayed out and taken the lead.

The final decision remaining Hamilton with tyres 22 laps more mature than Verstappen’s for the remaining 20 laps of the race.

Lap 38 to 52: Verstappen’s possibility of the championship title looked virtually specified to be lost, with Hamilton preserving his tempo, and the hole concerning them.

It just was not operating for the Dutchman. Hamilton experienced the rate gain, and his tyres ended up nonetheless keeping up.

Lap 53: But just as all appeared missing for Verstappen, Nicholas Latifi crashed out!

The Williams driver hits the wall under the resort just after running broad at Turn 15, with a basic safety car or truck needed to clear the injury.

This was the stroke of luck Red Bull required. The deployment of the basic safety motor vehicle would cut down the hole in between the title contenders to zero.

Lap 54: With the safety car or truck deployed, Hamilton was unable to pit, leaving him with no alternative but to see out the remaining four laps with his old tyres.

“Which is unbelievable, gentleman,” Hamilton explained in excess of his group radio.

Verstappen, even so, was equipped to be brought in, switching to contemporary, soft tyres to near out the Grand Prix.

At this issue, Mercedes could have regretted not taking the prospect to pit previously in the race.

Lap 56: This is the place it obtained controversial — all over again.

The original concept from race management mentioned lapped cars would not be allowed to overtake the basic safety, presumably to pace up the restart.

There had been five cars amongst Hamilton and Verstappen, and the Dutchman would have to pass all of them to get near to Hamilton. A different blow to Purple Bull — or so it appeared.

Lap 57: Crimson Bull ended up furious. The safety auto was continue to out, and the lapped cars and trucks were still concerning the title rivals.

Crimson Bull boss Horner requested race director Michael Masi: “Why are not we finding these cars and trucks out of the way? We only have to have a single racing lap.”

And below this stress, Massi appeared to crumble, letting the five vehicles to be permit via and bringing Verstappen suitable up behind his rival.

This created it a straight struggle right up until the conclusion. A just one-lap shootout. A fight involving the two drivers who have headlined this full period.

Lap 58: Verstappen produced his move into Turn 5, and crossed the line very first to protected the victory and the championship following an unbelievable race. Hamilton had a go at repassing the Crimson Bull round the outdoors of Flip 9, but on his older tyres, he could not make it stick.

On crossing the line Verstappen seemed in disbelief, screaming down his radio: “Oh my God, oh my God.”

Sainz claimed the final podium spot, in advance of Yuki Tsunoda.


This was a race whole of controversy on so many levels — a tale that appears to reflect the entirety of this F1 time.

As Verstappen and Pink Bull celebrated the amazing closing lap, Mercedes had been furious. Boss Toto Wolff was screaming at Masi in excess of the radio at what had transpired.

“Michael! Michael! You have to go back a lap,” Wolff claimed, indicating the benefits need to rely from only the lap in advance of the Security Car arrived in.

Masi replied: “Toto … Toto … this is a motor race.”

Mercedes subsequently submitted a protest around the end result, which was later on rejected by the FIA.

Verstappen, however, was overjoyed at his initially championship title.

“It can be unbelievable. It’s crazy,” he explained. “Ultimately a little bit of luck for me. I also want to say a huge thank you to Checo, he drove his heart out today.”

“To my group, I imagine they know they love them. I hope I can remain with them for 10 or 15 many years for the relaxation of my everyday living.”