Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: As it Happened | Race Analysis | Results | Review | F1 standings 2021
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix held at the Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2021, marked the end of the most extraordinary F1 season.
It was the most important race of the 2021 F1 season as the two championship rivals, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, entered the title decider level on points, which has only happened once before in F1 history, back in 1974.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a 19 driver race as Haas’ Nikita Mazepin was ruled out after testing positive for Covid-19.
The frontrunners started the race on different tyre compounds- Max Verstappen on softs and Lewis Hamilton on mediums.
Although the Red Bull star started on pole, the 7-time world champion who starting second, was quick to catch up as he got past the former at the very start.
Max tried to overtake Lewis but the British driver went off the track and kept his lead, which surprisingly attracted no penalty. Hamilton, with his back-to-back fastest laps, kept pulling away from Verstappen, enabling him to maintain a comfortable lead in 51 out of 58 laps.
At this point, the championship seemed to have gone out of Verstappen’s hands, until a crash gave him one final chance.
A Staggering CliMAX to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Red Bull swiftly decided to bring Max in for hards on lap 13, with Mercedes pitting Lewis a lap later.
Checo got in the way of Hamilton after his pitstop and defended him like an absolute legend, on older soft tyres, significantly reducing his advantage over Max. “Checo is a legend”, said the Dutchman on the team radio, paying credit to his teammate.
The Mexican driver ended the race with a DNF due to engine issues, missing a well-deserved podium. He didn’t score a point but he did make a point, that he is truly deserving of that Red Bull seat.
When Lewis did get past Checo, Max was close enough that Mercedes could not afford to pit Lewis during the subsequent Virtual Safety Car and Safety Car sessions without dropping him behind his championship rival.
The gap between them went from 8.4s to 1.2s in the space of a single lap. Red Bull took advantage of this and put Max on a two-stop strategy.
The seven-time world champion was un dithered even under immense pressure as he chased Max on brand new tyres after he pitted during the VSC upon Antonio Giovinazzi’s retirement. He set incredible lap times, gave his absolute best, not making a single mistake.
However, a second safety car that was deployed on lap 54 when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams crashed into the barriers, changed the entire course of the title decider.
Red Bull pitted Max for softs and he had nothing to lose as he came out in P2 but he had 5 backmarkers on the way between him and Lewis which would cost him time to overtake.
In the end, with one and a half laps to go, Michael Masi instructed for only the 5 backmarkers in between Lewis and Max to unlap themselves under the SC, and soon enough, with the field slowed down to SC pace, Max was breathing under Lewis’ neck.
Max, with his much gripper, brand new set of softs on the last lap, had a massive advantage against Lewis on 44 lap old hards. He outsmarted his rival by putting up a stellar fight on the last lap.
Hamilton’s evasive action couldn't contain Max as he made the move stick and overtook his rival to win the race and the title, denying Lewis his eighth world championship, a record which would have put him ahead of Michael Schumacher.
The reigning world champion also broke the record of most podiums in a single season, 18, without touching the 3rd step once. He also clinched the record of most pole positions in a season for Honda equalling Ayrton Senna’s (10).
It was a maiden victory for Max Verstappen, popularly hailed as Super Max by fans, the first Dutch world champion and the fourth driver ever to do it under the age of 25. He will now race with the number 1 for the 2022 season.
In the middle of all this, Carlos Sainz drove a legendary drive to come P3 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, escalating him to 5th in the driver standings in his debut season with Ferrari ahead of his teammate Charles Leclerc (P7), becoming the best of the rest.
The smooth operator also carried the longest streak (15) of points finishes in this season. The Ferrari pair together had the most double-points finishes this year (17).
Lando Norris of McLaren beat Leclerc by just one point to land P6 in the standings. He scored 160 points which is higher than any McLaren driver since Hamilton in 2012.
Yuki Tsunoda, the F1 rookie, exhibited his fast pace to come P4 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, by far his best finish, outqualifying his AlphaTauri teammate, Pierre Gasly (P5), who went on to be P9 in the standings behind McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo (P8).
Williams and Alfa Romeo, both ended 2021 with a double retirement.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX
Mercedes won their eight consecutive constructors’ titles with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finishing P2 and P6 respectively in the race.
The veteran Kimi Raikkonen, who had to retire his car after a crash, was voted Driver of The Day in his last F1 race, as a tribute to his 19 years in Formula One.
Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin won the Overtaking Award of 2021.
THE FIA FIASCO
The FIA Race Control did not allow all the lapped cars to overtake the safety car, just the ones between Lewis and Max. The controversial ending has not been taken well by the Mercedes team and fans, who believe that Hamilton has been robbed off the title.
Mercedes lodged two protests, one regarding the restart procedure and another which argued that Verstappen had momentarily passed Hamilton under the Safety Car.
The protests were dismissed, confirming Max as the world champion. However, the Silver Arrows stated an intention to appeal, which means they can take their case through the Court of Arbitration for Sport if they launch an official appeal within 96 hours.
2021 CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS
|2||RED BULL RACING HONDA||585.5|
|7||ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES||77|
|9||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||13|
2021 DRIVER STANDINGS