Max Verstappen overtook title rival Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to win his first F1 Driver’s World Championship.
By Josh Zealand
Hamilton had been leading by around 12 seconds from Verstappen until the Williams of Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers on lap 53 and brought out a safety car.
With just five laps remaining, Red Bull decided to pit Verstappen for a fresh set of soft tyres under safety car conditions, whereas Mercedes did not pit Hamilton. The Silver Arrows feared that Hamilton would lose track position to Verstappen, who would theoretically then win the race and championship if the race finished under the safety car.
A hugely controversial decision was made by the FIA which allowed the lapped cars separating Hamilton and Verstappen in the safety car queue to overtake. However just moments earlier, everyone had been told that lapped cars would not be allowed to unlap themselves.
This meant that Verstappen was now right behind Hamilton and on much fresher rubber with just one lap of racing left to go. The safety car came into the pits that same lap and so they went racing again.
Verstappen dived down the inside of Hamilton into turn five and managed to hold off the seven-time World Champion until the finish line, becoming F1’s first Dutch World Champion and in the most dramatic of circumstances too.
Mercedes twice appealed the FIA decision to allow just five cars to overtake the safety car, but it was upheld by the stewards and so Verstappen’s first championship was confirmed.
It had been a historic battle all season long between the racing legend and the young gun, and Max had even lead the Championship earlier in the season by 33 points before the two collided at Silverstone.
Max needed a miracle going into the final stages of the race at Abu Dhabi, and boy did he get one.