F1 – Abu Dhabi GP – Race
Salam, MiniFans! The 2021 season has finally come to an end and we couldn’t ask for a more fitting finale for it. Verstappen and Hamilton start the race from the front row and whoever finishes in front of the other will be the one clinching the title and being crowned champion. It’s lights out and away we go for the last time this year, so shall we start?
Yesterday we were witnesses to the first of the surprises, as Verstappen snatched pole away from Hamilton thanks to Red Bull pulling off a brilliant strategy and having Pérez give him a tow. Their right hands, however, didn’t look like they’d be much help due to starting from fourth and sixth respectively. The only big piece of news before the race was the withdrawal of Mazepin, as he had tested positive for Covid, but no one focused on it too much.
Starting on softs, Verstappen was expected to keep his first place, but Hamilton got the advantage on the first corner. This didn’t last long and Verstappen managed to get in front of him on turn 6, which would become the first controversy of the race, as Hamilton complained about being pushed off the track but he cut the following corner by a fair amount while Verstappen stayed on track and there was no investigation deemed necessary. After contacting Masi themselves, Red Bull was told Hamilton had been instructed to give the advantage back and had done so before the end of the lap, which the Austrian team was not happy about because it kept Hamilton in front. On a completely different level, Pérez had managed to climb up to third, following his teammate, but Bottas had dropped to eight, leaving Hamilton on his own with two angry lions behind him.
Verstappen was the first one to pit in the race, changing his worn down soft tyres for brand new hards, and Hamilton copied the strategy in the following lap. Pérez, now in the lead, was instructed with a new strategy plan, indirectly telling him to keep Hamilton behind as much as possible, specially taking into account that Verstappen was slightly struggling behind Sainz until he finally managed to overtake him. The pit lane got busier, with more cars getting rid of old tyres, but all eyes went back to the front as Hamilton reached Pérez and he defended like a maniac to the point where the distance between Hamilton and Verstappen got reduced by six whole seconds. Verstappen, having seen part of the battle, praised his teammate over radio, who was also very quick to get out of the way once the Mercedes had overtaken him in order not to get in the way of Verstappen.
Towards the middle of the race, the first retirements of the race came to be. Once was Raikkonen, who had spun and hit the wall just enough with the front end of the car to mess up some of it, and the other was Russell, whose car broke down on him but managed to make it to the pits. To go back to a normal state of racing, Hamilton’s usual message about tyres not lasting and immediately pulling off a fastest lap happened just as those who had started on hards had yet to change them. Meanwhile, Verstappen was slowly losing time to his rival, but Giovinazzi soon had to pull over and prompted a virtual safety car. Mercedes decided not to pit, but Red Bull stopped both cars to freshen their tyres up. A safety car was never in the cards, as the Alfa Romeo had been parked close to an exit, but Toto Wolff came on the FIA radio asking Masi not to get a safety car out in a lack of professionalism. The VSC was soon over and the hunt started.
Twenty laps to the end meant that Verstappen needed eight tenths per lap to catch up and, knowing he needed to hit the gas, started to chip away at the gap and pull fastest laps, while Hamilton wondered over radio why he hadn’t been stopped and that he wouldn’t be able to keep up the same pace for the rest of the laps that were left. Verstappen kept on pushing, and so did the British driver, but the difference in laps raced by each tyre would need to be taken into account at the end of the race. A slow puncture for Norris made Mercedes send calming messages to his driver, as well as a warning about kerb usage, but Verstappen being stuck behind lapped cars made it seem as if it was a done deal.
With only five laps to go, a safety car came out after Latifi crashed into a wall. The track needed clearing and the lapped cars needed to unlap themselves, but race direction decided lapped cars would not be allowed to overtake right after Red Bull retired Pérez’s car. However, they finally allowed them to pass the safety car and the race was restarted for just one final lap. After a snail pace for the last couple corners after the safety car left, Verstappen’s soft tyres allowed him to pull two incredible overtakes on Hamilton to clinch the world title under Abu Dhabi’s firework display.
We haven’t lived a championship this exciting and that went down to the wire in a long time but, alas, it’s over. The Mercedes supremacy has finally been broken, at the very end of the set of rules that have designed the championship since 2014 and right before the new ones arrive. Red Bull is finally back to being on top, this time with the diamond they have been cultivating since he was seventeen. Max Verstappen is the brand new Formula 1 World Champion, ending Hamilton’s streak of wins.