Dramatic last lap hands Verstappen first world title

A safety car in the final laps in Abu Dhabi gives Max Verstappen victory

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda takes the chequered flag during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202112120256 // Usage for editorial use only //

Max Verstappen is the Formula 1 world champion for the first time in his career after a last lap overtake on title rival Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen was slow off the line, allowing Hamilton to take the lead at the first corner, despite the Red Bull driver starting on the faster soft tyre.

The Dutchman lunged to regain the advantage, briefly making contact with the Mercedes and forcing Hamilton wide, but the Briton came out ahead, with the stewards deciding he didn’t gain an advantage off track.

Hamilton started to pull away at the front of the field, with Verstappen coming into the pitlane first, before Hamilton followed on the next lap. The Mercedes driver came back out ahead of Carlo Sainz, while his title rival rejoined behind the Ferrari.

Red Bull left Sergio Perez out for longer, asking the Mexican to defend as hard as possible against Hamilton to back the Mercedes up into Verstappen’s bath. Perez battled hard, cutting the gap between the title contenders to just 1.5s.

Kimi Raikkonen’s final race of his career came to a premature end when he suffered a braking issue midway through the grand prix, with the 2007 champion having to retire his car after colliding with a barrier and limping back to the pitlane.

George Russell’s last outing with Williams was also cut short when he lost power, before it became a double retirement for Alfa Romeo when Antonio Giovinazzi lost power.

The Italian was unable to pull over in a safe place, resulting in a virtual safety car. Mercedes opted to leave Hamilton out, but Red Bull brought Verstappen in for a second stop, giving him fresher tyres for the final 20 laps of the race.

The gap wasn’t coming down quickly enough for Verstappen, but there was late drama when Nicholas Latifi hit the wall following a battle with Mick Schumacher, bringing out the safety car.

Initially it looked like Verstappen wouldn’t be able to restart right behind Hamilton though as there wasn’t time for lapped cars to overtake the safety car, but the race director decided to let those in between the two drivers go around, ensuring Verstappen was right on the rear wing of the Mercedes as the lights went green.

Verstappen made a late but clean overtake to get ahead of Hamilton, with the seven-time champion looking to get back in front as the duo went wheel to wheel down the straight, but Verstappen braked later to ensure he remained in front.

A late retirement from Perez handed Sainz a podium, while Yuki Tsunoda secured his best result of the season as he overtook Valtteri Bottas on the final lap, with teammate Pierre Gasly also passing the Finn in the final stages.

The late decision to allow lapped cars through angered the Mercedes pit wall, with team principal Toto Wolff visibly frustrated by the decision, but Hamilton shook hands with Verstappen as the duo exited their cars in parc ferme.

Provisional classification:

1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

4. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)

5. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)

6. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

7. Lando Norris (McLaren)

8. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)

9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

10. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

11. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)

12. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)

13. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

14. Mick Schumacher (Haas)


Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

Nicholas Latifi (Williams)

Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)

George Russell (Williams)

Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)


Nikita Mazepin (Haas)

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