Max Verstappen secured his maiden World Championship with victory in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton finishing second as the race ended in a nail-biting one-lap sprint after a late Safety Car. The result, which saw Valtteri Bottas finish sixth and Sergio Perez retire, means Mercedes have clinched a record eighth consecutive constructors’ championship.
Medium-tyred Hamilton jumped soft-shod Verstappen at the start, while the Dutchman came back in Turn 6, nudging him wide and over the run-off, but the Mercedes driver continued in the lead. Stewards decided not to investigate. The pit window opened when Verstappen came in on Lap 13, Hamilton a lap later, leaving Sergio Perez in the lead with the mission to hold off Hamilton.
Perez did exactly that, on Laps 20 to 21 – being dubbed a “legend” by his team mate as he let him past to continue the chase, before pitting on Lap 22. The podium looked certain until he retired on Lap 56 under a Safety Car, which was brought out for a Nicholas Latifi crash.
That Safety Car, during which Verstappen pitted for soft tyres, left the race with just one lap of green flag racing remaining, producing another memorable moment in this epic season. Verstappen did make the pass on Hamilton into Lap 5, the decisive move, and while Hamilton attempted to come back towards Turn 9, there was nothing doing. History was made, as it was always going to be, and the trophy went to the Dutchman for the first time.
Carlos Sainz took the final podium place ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in P4 – while AlphaTauri team mate Pierre Gasly rounded out the top five.
Valtteri Bottas struggled to P6, running as low as eighth, and losing a potential podium spot from fourth to sixth under the final Safety Car.
FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2021
|1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||1:30:17.345||26|
|2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||+2.256s||18|
|3 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari||+5.173s||15|
|4 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri||+5.692s||12|
|5 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri||+6.531s||10|
Alpine took points with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon eighth and ninth respectively, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc rounding out the top 10.
Alfa Romeo suffered a double retirement as Kimi Raikkonen bowed out on Lap 26, team mate Antonio Giovinazzi 10 laps later. Latifi was Williams’ second retiree after George Russell bowed out from his tenure with the team with a loss of drive on Lap 27.
Mercedes and Red Bull therefore shared the spoils in this incredible season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, fit for a season that will no doubt go down as one of the greatest ever.