It was a controversial crown that Max Verstappen took for his first world title. With a final lap that has everyone talking, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the perfect end to a tumultuous season. Verstappen beat seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton after a series of official calls that have people scratching their heads. CELEB takes a look at the race that everyone’s buzzing about. 

Max Verstappen Wins

Max Verstappen

It’s been a wild year and Verstappen summed it up after his win when he kept repeating, “insane.” The BBC writes, “It seemed an appropriate way to describe not only a remarkable see-sawing race, in which Lewis Hamilton seemed on course to win an eighth world title only to have it wrenched from his grasp in highly contentious circumstances right at the end, but the whole 2021 championship itself.

‘It just summed up the whole season,’ Verstappen said, ‘which is completely unpredictable and crazy.'”

Verstappen clinched his maiden Formula One world championship on the traditionally dull Abu Dhabi circuit after a last lap that people can’t stop arguing over. Heading into the final laps, Verstappen had fresh tyres and seven-time winner and favorite Lewis Hamilton seemed untouchable. It would have taken a miracle for anyone to catch him.

Independent reports via Yahoo!, “That miracle would arrive in the shape of a crash for the Williams of Nicholas Latifi with Hamilton just five laps from home.

This time a safety car was required and Verstappen would once again take the chance to dive into the pits for a set of soft tyres, lining him up for a shot at Hamilton – on a set of worn, hard compound tyres, if and when the race restarted.

Not for the first time in the grand prix, Hamilton was left questioning the decision from his own pit wall to stay out.

Confusion reigned and the respective team principals roared over the radio as the laps ticked down.

The decision of race director Michael Masi not to let lapped cars pass Hamilton and the safety car was met with anger from Horner, with the ruling changed moments later allowing Verstappen to close up.

This led to incredulity from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, whose anguished screams over the radio accompanied television pictures of Verstappen passing Hamilton on the last lap to claim the title in barely-believable circumstance.”

Controversy and Protest

Lewis Hamilton

It seemed even Verstappen couldn’t believe he won, and he seemed incredulous but thrilled. In the last lap, Hamilton was heard to say, “This has been manipulated, man.” However, in post-race interviews, Hamilton was gracious if stunned.

Mercedes has lodged two protests against the race declaration, both of which were rejected by race stewards. They may intend to appeal. BBC reports, “The team have not commented publicly about the events at Yas Marina but have a sense of injustice at what happened.

This is directed at the handling of the race, and not at Verstappen or Red Bull.

Hamilton did not refer to the safety car situation in his few television interviews after that, and he was not made available to the written media, even though it is a requirement for the top three finishers to appear in an official news conference.

He said Mercedes had ‘given it everything this last part of the season and never gave up’.”

The Mercedes team remains quiet as they decide what their next step forward is, but they aren’t the only ones who believe the incident with the safety car violated the FIA’s own rules. However, because it is exceedingly uncommon for the FIA court of appeals to overturn the race stewards’ decision, they may not waste the legal resources. 

It’s an unfortunate end of the race for Hamilton, but in some ways it’s a misfortune for Verstappen too. He’s good – good enough to win without the controversy. And winning this way will always carry a bit of a tarnish on his very first world title. Next year’s season will certainly be a chance at a rematch, and a chance to Verstappen to prove that the title was one he deserved – something his career already supports. And Hamilton will have another chance to prove he’s still the best. 

The Yas Marina Circuit

Yas Marina

The fact that the most exciting race of the year happened at a traditionally boring racetrack is testament to the Yas Marina renovations that spiced things up a bit this year. 

In November, CELEB took a look at the revamp of the Yas Marina circuit:

  • North Hairpin: This section saw the most significant updates, with the former Turn 5 and 6 chicane removed and Turn 7’s hairpin widened to a 20-metre-wide corner which will allow drivers to approach at 300KPH. Removing the slow corners from the chicane gives the drivers a chance to pick up and maintain more speed heading out into the long straight.
  • South Marina: Renamed the Marsa Corner, this section has been given a new super elevated hairpin turn, allowing cornering speeds of up to 240KPH. This is a big change from the former slow corners of the South Marina section. 
  • Hotel Section: This section looks fairly similar to before the renovation, but the corners on Turns 17 through 20 have been opened up on the inside. This change is an effort to reduce the Constantine Effect – whereby cars cluster through turns and separate through the sequence. The former turn format caused higher wear due to raised temperatures from sliding, and this new format allows drivers to stay close without burning up their tires. 

The team responsible for the new circuit shared thoughts on what those changes were intended to accomplish: “Revamped with the comfort of drivers and excitement of fans in mind, the new Yas Marina Circuit is the dawn of a new era in racing – and the future of Abu Dhabi. In a statement, Saif Al Noaimi, Deputy CEO, Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, said: ‘It’s an incredible moment in history for Yas Marina Circuit. These are the first upgrades to the track since the circuit was constructed in 2009, since then Formula One cars, along with others in our fleets, have evolved in their design and performance and as such, we are committed to progressing with them to offer the ultimate racing experience across the events held at the Circuit.

The changes will amplify the competitive nature of all motorsports events held at the venue but, with it right around the corner, we are of course especially excited to see how the action unfolds on the new circuit layout during next month’s season finale FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX.’”

If they were looking to make things a little more interesting, we’d say: mission accomplished! Congratulations to Max Verstappen and the Red Bull team.