Verstappen wins 2021 F1 world championship
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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has promised Nicholas Latifi a “lifetime supply of Red Bull” after his crash at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Max Verstappen won the Formula One drivers’ world championship for the first time in his career after a dramatic last-lap overtake on Lewis Hamilton at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The Dutchman and Hamilton went into the final race of the season level on 369.5 points after a long, exhausting duel for the title.
And their battle in the Abu Dhabi desert was merely a continuation, as Hamilton got the jump on pole sitter Verstappen off the start line.
The 36-year-old had driven a superb race but Latifi’s crash on Lap 52 put his position under question, as Red Bull pitted Verstappen for fresh tyres.
A controversial call from FIA race director Michael Masi to tell lapped cars not to unlap themselves, followed by a U-turn minutes later, put Hamilton under the gun.
And Verstappen made the pass on the final lap to clinch one of the most dramatic title wins in F1 history.
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Mercedes have lodged two protests with the FIA to the race result, but Red Bull team principal Horner celebrated with tears in his eyes with his wife, Geri, and Red Bull special advisor Dr Helmut Marko.
Having admitted he would need a “miracle” during the race, Horner singled out Latifi’s contribution with a promise for the 25-year-old.
“I said Max was going to need something from the racing gods in the last 10 laps so thank you Nicholas Latifi for that Safety Car,” he said.
And later, Horner joked that he will show his gratitude to the Canadian — who drives for Mercedes-powered Williams — in the classic fashion for the energy drink manufacturer.
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“He’ll be getting a lifetime supply of Red Bull for sure,” Horner told Channel 4.
It brings the curtain down on an enthralling 22-race season in which Mercedes won the constructors’ title for a record eighth season in a row.
But Red Bull appear to have finally ended the German manufacturer’s dominance in winning the drivers’ title for the first time since Sebastian Vettel’s triumph in 2013.
And Horner believes that his team deserve the reward after a gruelling season of battles with their rivals.
“It’s been an insane competition, and for Max to win the world championship it’s not just about here, it’s the whole year,” he said.
“Lewis has been a phenomenal opponent all year, he’s a great world champion and that’s what makes it more valid to win this.
“We were screaming at him [Michael Masi] ‘let them race’. That’s what we’ve been talking about all year and this championship came down to the last lap.
“A great strategy call to make that pit stop, to take that set of softs and then it was down to Max and make it happen.
“It’s unheard of to leave the cars unlapped. You could see they wanted to get the race going again and they don’t need to catch up the back of the paddock. They made absolutely the right call – difficult circumstances and they called it right.
“I’m just so proud of Max, so proud of the team for what we’ve been through and what we’ve achieved against some fierce and great opponents.
“I was screaming from Turn Five all the way down the back straight. You just knew Max was not going to give it up. To see him cross the line and become world champion for us after all these years is an amazing feeling.
“This is right up with our first world championship. The quality of the opponents we’ve had this year, they’ve pushed us so hard and we’ve fought so hard, and then a stroke of good fortune for us and we made it work.”
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