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26 Jan 2022

What were the key moments as Max Verstappen claimed F1 world title in controversial circumstances

What were the key moments as Max Verstappen claimed F1 world title in controversial circumstances

What were the key moments as Max Verstappen claimed F1 world title in controversial circumstances

Max Verstappen won the Formula One world championship with a scintillating last-lap overtake of title rival Lewis Hamilton at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday amid much controversy.

The pair had been locked level on points heading into the showdown at the Yas Marina Circuit before yet another memorable race saw the Dutchman take the chequered flag and his maiden world title – although not before Mercedes had lodged two appeals.

Here, we take a look at the five key moments from a race that will go down in history.

First lap fight

Abu Dhabi F1 GP Auto Racing
Lewis Hamilton made the ideal start to the race in Yas Marina 

Verstappen had drawn first blood in this title fight decider as the qualified on pole position following a fine lap during Saturday qualifying.

Hamilton, though, would get the better start and hit the front as Verstappen lunged at turn seven in an attempt to regain the lead.

No contact was made as Hamilton ran wide, missing the corner but also riling Red Bull as he escaped any sort of penalty for doing so.

Perez the ‘legend’

Saudi Arabia F1 GP Auto Racing
Sergio Perez played the team game

With Hamilton putting in the fastest laps and opening up an impressive lead, Verstappen pitted for fresh tyres and the leader followed suit to avoid the undercut.

That left the sister Red Bull of Sergio Perez leading the race and he was told he needed to hold up Hamilton behind.

The Mexican obliged, tussling with Hamilton and costing him more than six seconds as Verstappen closed in. “Checo is a legend,” Verstappen said over the radio after the Mercedes eventually got through.

Virtual reality

Abu Dhabi F1 GP Auto Racing
Lewis Hamilton looked in control 

Once clear of Perez, Hamilton again set about pumping in fastest laps as he looked like coasting to a record eighth world title.

That was until a virtual safety car was deployed to clear the stricken Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi, with Verstappen pitting for fresh tyres as Hamilton stayed out.

Verstappen may have had the fresher rubber but Hamilton was still untouchable, Red Bull boss Christian Horner admitting the team needed a “miracle” with the gap at 11 seconds with 10 laps remaining.

Safety first

Saudi Arabia F1 GP Auto Racing
Williams driver Nicholas Latifi threw Max Verstappen a lifeline 

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.

Last lap legacy

Toto Wolff file photo
Toto Wolff was left frustrated 

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.

Mercedes lodged two appeals – but they were rejected by race stewards – and around four-and-a-half hours after initially crossing the finish line at Yas Marina, Verstappen was able to really celebrate.

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