Max Verstappen won his first Formula One World Championship on Sunday in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, defeating Lewis Hamilton in a contentious season finale.
This season was hailed as one of the best in the sport’s history, and the championship race came down to one of the most “insane” closing laps ever seen.
Hamilton was on the verge of winning his record-breaking ninth world championship when Williams Racing driver Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers with four laps to go, bringing out the safety car.
The race was resumed on the penultimate lap, with Verstappen permitted to start practically side-by-side with Hamilton, despite the Briton having built up a comfortable lead.
On new tires, the Dutchman had the speed to overtake his competitor and win one of the most spectacular Formula One races ever.
“It’s completely absurd. I’m at a loss for words. I’m ecstatic for the squad and all of these gentlemen. I adore collaborating with them “After the race, an emotional and slightly astonished Verstappen, 24, stated.
“Finally, it was a lucky day for me. My crew is aware that I adore them, and I intend to continue working with them for the next ten or fifteen years!”
Verstappen’s triumph means Hamilton will not be able to break the record he holds with racing hero Michael Schumacher.
Mercedes acknowledged it had filed two objections about the race’s conclusion, but both were eventually rejected by authorities on Sunday.
The team subsequently filed a notice of intent to dispute the decision to restart the race on the last lap.
The two titanic rivals arrived at the Yas Marina Circuit equal on points, setting up the ideal conclusion to a championship race that came down to the wire.
After a fantastic qualifying lap on Saturday, the Dutchman established an early lead by qualifying in pole position, a drive that will be remembered for a long time.
But it was Hamilton who got off to a stronger start than Verstappen, passing him before the first curve and dominating the Grand Prix with Mercedes speed for the duration of the race.
There was controversy, as there has been all season, with Red Bull insisting that Hamilton should have surrendered Verstappen first place when the Mercedes driver ran off the track after colliding with his adversary.
Stewards, on the other hand, elected not to look into the event and let Hamilton go first.
After Hamilton exited from the pit lane in second, Red Bull resorted to Plan B, with Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Pérez skilfully holding him up.
The Brit eventually got past the Red Bull, but only after he had Verstappen on his tail.
However, Hamilton appeared to have done enough, as he built up a double-digit second lead and appeared to be on his way to victory until the chaos of the last lap.
Verstappen ended the season with 395.5 points, while Hamilton came in second with 387.5 points.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, was obviously enraged after the race’s officials allowed such a dramatic conclusion, but Hamilton remained gracious in defeat.
“First and foremost, my heartiest congrats to Max and his crew. This year, I believe we performed an outstanding job. After the race, he remarked, “The team, everyone back at the factory, all the men and women we have worked so hard all year in a difficult season.”
“I’m really proud of them, and I’m honored to be a part of their path.” This latter portion of the season, we gave it everything we had and never gave up, and that was the most important thing.
“Of course, I’ve felt wonderful in the vehicle throughout the last few months, especially towards the finish.” I hope everyone remains safe throughout the epidemic and has a wonderful Christmas this year; we’ll see what happens next year.”
Meanwhile, Mercedes won the constructors’ title for the ninth time in a row, although that will be of little consolation to those concerned.