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Controversial, historical: 5 things we learned from Max Verstappen’s stunning Formula 1 championship win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

A crazy Formula 1 season ended in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, and the world is still digesting everything that happened, both on the track and at race control at the Yas Marina circuit.

As the dust of the drama settles, we take a look at some of the things we learned from the grand finale in the UAE capital.

Controversy reigns, but hard to say Max didn’t deserve the title

In a long and grueling season that spanned 22 Grand Prix weekends between March and December, Max Verstappen won 10 races, finished second in eight more and withstood an impressive late-season sevenfold comeback. champion Lewis Hamilton to clinch a first world title. .

Hamilton has been on the podium eight times this season and arrived in Abu Dhabi after winning the previous three races in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Together, Verstappen and Hamilton provided one of the most gripping championship bouts in sports history, and entering the final tied-on-points final was a drama no screenwriter could have written.

As two-time world champion Fernando Alonso said on Sunday: “I think more than any other year, if you can split the trophy in half, this was the year to do it because both were exceptional.”

In the end, a safety car introduced late in the game and questionable decision making from race director Michael Masi helped Verstappen win the title. Mercedes remained furious when they saw both of their protests dismissed following all of the action.

“It’s going to take a miracle for us in these last 10 laps to turn the tide. He needs the luck of the racing gods, ”Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said during the race, almost showing divine intervention.

The miracle happened and 24-year-old Verstappen became the fourth youngest champion in F1 history.

At the start of the weekend, Alonso had given Verstappen a slight advantage over Hamilton, saying “Max is driving, in my opinion, a step ahead of us all”.

McLaren’s Lando Norris echoed Alonso’s sentiments, adding: “I think the Mercedes has been the best car for the majority, and Max has been more unlucky and made fewer mistakes as a driver. So I still have to congratulate him. He fought hard and he fought Lewis, who is much more experienced, won many world championships etc.

Many may disagree with Masi’s guidelines in the later stages of the race, but it’s impossible not to see Verstappen as a worthy champion.

Hamilton, who remains graceful in defeat

It’s hard to predict how Hamilton will recover. The Briton has said more than once how difficult this season has been and had the title snatched away on the very last lap of the last race of the year due to external factors – Nicholas Latifi’s crash , a safety car and Masi’s decisions – will certainly hurt.

Hamilton left the track Sunday night without speaking to the press and undoubtedly feels aggrieved by calls from the clerk of the course.

“It’s being handled, man,” he told team radio as Verstappen passed him in a final one-lap shootout.

Despite everything, Hamilton was graceful on the podium and praised his rival for a job well done.

“Lewis was a great athlete in general,” Verstappen told Sky Sports. “He came up to me, congratulated me and it must have been very hard on this last lap. It also shows the respect we have for each other.

Hamilton’s final words in his interview with Jenson Button raised some question marks about his future.

“If I’m being honest we’re still in the pandemic and I really wish (people) would stay safe and have a good Christmas with their families, and we’ll see next year,” he said as he signed. .

F1 must strike a balance between sport and fun

As an entertainment product, Formula 1 captivated audiences as the Max vs. Lewis battle intensified throughout the season.

Even their fellow drivers found themselves returning to their hotel rooms at the end of a Grand Prix weekend and winding up the race highlights to see what had transpired between the championship contenders. It all came to a head in Abu Dhabi and the drama lasted until the very last second.

“Just when you think the season couldn’t be more dramatic, it is. I don’t even know if it’s good because I think people’s TVs are going to explode. ‘It can handle so much drama, I don’t think a TV’s watts can handle it, ”McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night.

BBC News presenter Ros Atkins summed it up best.

“There is certainly a lot of solace for Formula 1 as it navigates this controversy; it was a high octane drama that demanded the world’s attention in a way that many sports could only dream of, ”he said.

Indeed, to have a whole sports public so invested in a single race is quite an achievement. But as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz mentioned in Abu Dhabi ahead of the action, F1 – and the drivers – have a duty to prove to its supporters that this is not just a spectacle, but also a spectacle. ‘a sport.

There appears to be an inconsistency in the decision-making of the stewards and many wonder if some of the calls are being made simply for the purpose of producing must-see TV shows.

When does it get too much, though? There’s a reason “Drive to Survive” is a show on Netflix and Formula 1 is a sport that is broadcast live on TV screens around the world. There is, and must be, a distinction.

If the rules are not applied consistently and are not generally understood and accepted by all stakeholders involved, the whole thing risks becoming a gimmick.

Judgment calls exist in all sports, but fans need to be confident that these decisions are made for the right reasons.

It’s great to see Formula 1 thrive in the fast paced world of eSports and small digital content we live in. But sport must find a balance between fun and competition.

Checo the ultimate teammate

“Checo is a legend,” Verstappen shouted over the team’s radio during the race. “Absolute animal,” replied the engineer from the Red Bull team.

Both were apt descriptions for Sergio “Checo” Perez, who assisted his teammate Verstappen both in qualifying (his towing was impeccable) and in the race (he delayed Hamilton to close Verstappen’s gap to his rival. ), then performed his press duties while wearing a T-shirt celebrating the Dutchman’s championship triumph.

In Formula 1, we are constantly reminded that teammates are each other’s biggest competitors, as they are the only two on the grid with the same car, and can be measured against each other.

This dynamic can often lead to bitter rivalries within a team and environments that become toxic. This is clearly not the case with Red Bull Racing.

When asked if Verstappen’s victory meant as much to him as he wore the shirt to honor him, Perez replied: “Honestly, it does because Max has been a great teammate since day one. for me and the team. The team was fantastic with me and I was able to support my teammate. I am extremely happy for everyone.

Perez added: “The legend is him now, he’s a world champion.”

Verstappen paid tribute to his teammate during an interview on the track and a press conference for the champion.

“I also want to say a big thank you to Checo, I want to say that he also made his heart beat today. It was great teamwork and he’s an incredible teammate, ”he said.

“I think without Checo I wouldn’t be sitting here right now,” Verstappen added later.

“Checo is just an amazing human being, not only to work with in F1, but just a super nice person, a real family man too. I’ve had a lot of good times with him, and you can see he really means it and he wants it and it’s very rare to have a teammate like that.

Sainz and Tsunoda end the year on a high note

Alonso laughed when asked to say a few words about Sainz’s incredible P3 finish on Sunday, which secured him fifth in the Championship in his debut season with Ferrari.

“Yeah, but no one will remember that,” Alonso joked, knowing that all attention was on Verstappen and Hamilton, and the controversial end of the race.

Sainz has much to be proud of, however, and will certainly remember the end of his 2021 campaign with his fourth podium of the season and the best championship result of his Formula 1 career.

“It really is a great way to end a very positive first year at Ferrari for me,” said Sainz.

“A very difficult year, but in the end it turned out to be very solid. A year I’m pretty proud of and, yes, to end it with a podium that no one will probably remember – I’ll add to the collection – because of what was going on ahead. I enjoyed it a lot and put together everything I learned during this first year to prepare for probably my strongest race at Ferrari. “

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda concluded his rookie year with a fourth place finish of the season in Abu Dhabi – another result that may have been overlooked in all the chaos.

When asked if he considers himself Rookie of the Year, the 21-year-old Japanese joked and replied: “Maybe so, after today.”



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