Abu Dhabi GP 2021. It will go down into the annals of F1 history. Two title protagonists locked equal on points and looking for the ultimate glory.
Lewis Hamilton looking for an unprecedented eighth F1 world championship title while Max Verstappen looking to deliver on his potential and secure a maiden world championship crown.
This race was eventful from the first lap. Lewis Hamilton with a superb start leading into turn one and then Max Verstappen looking to take the lead on turn six. Cue the first dramatic moment of the race!
The move was aggressive and Hamilton needed to evade Verstappen once more. The race director looking not to get involved. It was fair game for Lewis Hamilton to exit the track, no advantage gained. Red Bull furious early.
The soft tires option not working for Verstappen as Hamilton started to go further ahead. Hamilton drove beautifully in this first segment of the race. He created the time gap to control the race (he thought). Max clearly not happy with his back tires and pitted on lap twelve.
Hamilton pitted a lap later with Sergio Perez keeping the two protagonists for company. The drama kicked off in the last section of the race. Mick Schumacher retirement prompting the yellow flag. Red Bull reacted and got Verstappen into the pits and put on new hard tires. Hamilton left out, a decision that was questioned by the driver to his crew immediately.
Latifi’s crash though was the key incident. The yellow flag issued and then the rules on the safety car. Verstappen again into the pits with new tires. Hamilton continuing on his now worn tire set. Masi as the F1 race director made the call for the race to be restarted with the back markers to overtake resulting in Verstappen perfectly poised to sit behind Hamilton on the restart. Cue Mercedes-Benz anger!
The restart was an inevitable pass from Verstappen with the fresher tires. A world championship decided in fifty seconds! Verstappen will feel that it is just desserts for the earlier turn six incident. Wolff will look to launch a legal challenge but his team screwed up massively on the strategy today.
They went macho trusting their car and driver would do the rest while Red Bull took astute pit stop decisions to provide their protégé with the car capable of winning at the death. A superb finale but I sense a finale which we have not heard the end of.
Michael Masi as F1 race director going forward is a question mark given the sheer inconsistency in rulings this year. Max wins. It should remain so. It needs to be won on the track! Hamilton was gracious post race but must be furious at his team for their strategy choice.
It backfired when they needed it most and allowed Max and Red Bull to secure the drivers championship with or without the race director involvement. Superb finale!