F1 Abu Dhabi GP: How the mother of all races was won

Unbridled joy: Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates with members of his team after winning the world championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. — AFP
Unbridled joy: Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates with members of his team after winning the world championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. — AFP

Abu Dhabi - Here we look at how the dramatic title-decider between Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton unfolded at the Yas Marina Circuit



By Reuters

Published: Mon 13 Dec 2021, 12:57 AM

Start: Hamilton gets a better launch and leads into the first corner.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton leads at the start of the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. — AP
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton leads at the start of the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. — AP

Lap 1: Verstappen, pulled along in Hamilton’s slipstream makes a lunge for the lead into the Turn 6-7 chicane. Hamilton takes to the run off and keeps the lead. Verstappen on the team radio: “He has to give that back!” Hamilton on the team radio: “He pushed me off track.” Mercedes respond: “We’re happy with the gap you’ve established.” Stewards determine no investigation necessary into the incident. Verstappen on the team radio: “That is incredible, what are they doing here?” Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley complains to FIA race director Michael Masi: “Michael we still don’t understand it. That was a hard, aggressive pass by Max but Max stayed fully on the track and was ahead at the apex.” Masi replies: “Jonathan, the Stewards have reviewed it and determined that all of the lasting advantage was (given back) and that Max forced that position there. They’ve reviewed it but they’re not investigating it.”

Lap 10: Hamilton establishes 2.7-second advantage on Verstappen. Verstappen, who started on the more fragile soft tyre to Hamilton’s more durable medium, is beginning to lose grip.

Lap 12: “Rear tyres are really struggling,” reports Verstappen.

Lap 14: Verstappen pits, swaps his soft tyres for the hard compound (2.1s), rejoins fifth 28 seconds behind Hamilton

Lap 15: Mercedes bring Hamilton in for the hard tyre. Hamilton rejoins second behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, and is five seconds ahead of Verstappen who is fourth.

Lap 16: Red Bull tell Perez they are switching him to Plan B on strategy, presumably keeping him out longer to slow Hamilton down.

Lap 16: Verstappen, trying to find his way past the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, runs off track and loses time.

Lap 18: Verstappen passes Sainz to move back into the top three. Perez leads with Verstappen 8.2 seconds behind Hamilton in third.

Lap 19: Red Bull tell Perez: “We’ll be looking to hold up Lewis”. Hamilton is roughly two seconds a lap faster.

Lap 20: Hamilton, on the fresher tyres, passes Perez but the Mexican uses the slipstream and DRS to drive back past. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff to race director Masi: “Michael, it’s a bit dangerous, can you warn them?,” Masi responds saying it’s fair racing. L21: Hamilton passes Perez but the Mexican’s strategic driving has brought Verstappen back on to Hamilton’s tail. The gap between the rivals is 1.9 seconds.

Lap 21: “Checo is a legend,” Verstappen says on the radio using Perez’s nickname.

Lap 23: Hamilton sets fastest lap and the Briton has opened a 2.8-second gap on Verstappen.

Lap 27: Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen, a fan favourite driving in his last race, retires with a brake failure.

Lap 29: Hamilton sets fastest lap to extend advantage over Verstappen to 4.2 seconds.

Lap 30: Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas pits, opening up a gap for Verstappen to pit into and keep second place.

Lap 32: Hamilton sets another fastest lap. Gap to Verstappen 5.2 seconds.

Lap 36: Giovinazzi stops by side of the track. Virtual Safety Car (VSC) deployed so the stranded Alfa Romeo can be cleared. Hamilton’s gap to Verstappen is 6.7 seconds. Hamilton is told he will not be pitting under the VSC.

Lap 36: Verstappen takes advantage of the VSC to pit for a second time for a new set of hard tyres.

Lap 37: Toto Wolff to race director Masi: “Michael, please no safety car, interferes in the race.” A safety car would bunch the pack up, putting Verstappen, on fresh tyres, right on Hamilton’s tail.

Lap 37: Virtual Safety Car ends. Hamilton leads by 17.9 seconds.

Lap 38: Verstappen sets fastest lap, Verstappen is 0.8 seconds faster.

Lap 39: Verstappen sets another fastest lap, gap to Hamilton down to 15.5 seconds. “I won’t be able to keep this pace up the whole way,” Hamilton tells Mercedes.

Lap 50: Gap between Hamilton and Verstappen down to 11 seconds, as Hamilton makes his way through backmarker traffic.

Lap 53: Williams driver Nicholas Latifi crashes at Turn 14. The Safety Car is deployed. There are five laps to go. Verstappen pits for the third time, puts on soft tyres. “That’s unbelievable man,” says Hamilton, who will now be on worn hard tyres with Verstappen right on his tail on newer, more grippy softs. “This field has to bunch and they have to send the lapped cars through so it may not restart,” Mercedes say.

Lap 56: Sergio Perez, who also pitted behind the Safety Car, is asked to retire his car.

Lap 56: Lapped cars will not be allowed to overtake, says race control. That means racing can get underway sooner but with slower cars between Verstappen and Hamilton. “Yeah, of course, typical decision. I’m not surprised,” Verstappen responds when told of race control’s decision. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner on the radio to Michael Masi: “Why aren’t we getting these lapped cars out of the way?”

Lap 57: SC is called in, lapped cars are released, Verstappen is right behind Hamilton as the race is about to resume. “Michael this isn’t right,” Toto Wolff says on the radio to Masi.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen wins the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. — AP
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen wins the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. — AP

Final lap: Verstappen lunges down at Turn 5 and takes the lead. Wolff in exasperation to Masi: “No Michael! No, no! This is not right.” Hamilton goes wheel to wheel with Verstappen into Turn 9. But Verstappen keeps the position. Finish: Verstappen wins the race and the world championship. Mercedes clinch a record eighth constructors’ title. Christian Horner on the radio to Verstappen: “Max Verstappen you are the world champion. Max we are so proud of you. You have driven like a champion all year, you deserve that, we needed a bit of luck you got it, you made it happen and we love you, we absolutely love you.” Verstappen: “Oh my God guys! I love you so much.” Hamilton’s race engineer to Hamilton: “I’m just speechless, Lewis, absolutely speechless.” — Reuters


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