The engines may have cooled, and the track floodlights may be off, but the fury resonating from the 2021 Formula One season’s conclusion is still burning.
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton ’s war of engines came to a dramatic and controversial end at the Yas Marina circuit, after the Red Bull ace was allowed a free run to catch the Mercedes star, after a disruption caused by a safety car on the final lap
The Dutchman overtook the Brit to win his first ever F1 World Title, and put an end to Hamilton’s bid to surpass Michael Schumacher ’s eight F1 World Championships this season.
Mercedes have since lodged a notice of an intent to appeal, after stewards dismissed their protests to the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)
However, the action on the final lap was a major crescendo to a F1 season filled to the brim with controversy – Mirror Sport consider six controversial calls that caused uproar during Hamilton and Verstappen’s battle for the title.
Bahrain Grand Prix
HAVE YOUR SAY! Should Max Verstappen had been allowed an opportunity to catch Lewis Hamilton after the safety car? Comment below
The root of Verstappen’s various frustrations during this season were entrenched within a controversial Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hamilton and the Dutchman were almost wheel to wheel throughout the entire race, before the Red Bull ace stormed ahead of Hamilton on lap 53.
But to his horror, he was adjudged to have exceeded track limits and was forced to allow Hamilton to retake his position ahead of him.
Verstappen’s team demanded him to cease his position as leader of the pack, and the Dutchman reluctantly allowed Hamilton to pass.
The Brit left Verstappen in his wake, and went on to comfortably win the Bahrain Grand Prix.
"Why didn't you just let me go, man?" Verstappen was heard on his team radio. "I could have easily pulled those five seconds [for a penalty]. I am prepared to lose a win like that than be second like this.
British Grand Prix
Hamilton was under an awful lot of pressure when he came into his home Grand Prix at Silverstone. Red Bull came into the contest of the back of five consecutive victories, and Hamilton desperately needed a win to try and calm their momentum.
But a horrific collision between the pair in the first lap ended Verstappen’s race before it had barely started. Hamilton was deemed to be at fault for the collision, and was handed a ten second penalty, while Verstappen was rushed to hospital.
However, Hamilton was not affected by the ten-second penalty, as he went on to win the British Grand Prix, to the fury of Verstappen and his team.
“Watching the celebrations after the race while still in hospital is disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behaviour but we move on,” Verstappen said after the incident.
Italian Grand Prix
With the vicious rivalry between Verstappen and Hamilton continuing to escalate, the F1 world was growing concerned about the prospect of both stars crashing into each other and not finishing a race.
And their very worst fears came true, as both Hamilton and Verstappen collided in what was a terrifying crash. On the 27 th lap, Hamilton exited the pits and tried to defend the inside line from the marauding Verstappen at turn 1.
However, the duo suffered an almost disastrous coming together which resulted in Verstappen’s car flying through the air and bouncing of Hamilton’s halo.
While it was a minor miracle Hamilton was not injured, Verstappen got out of his car and stormed away from the carnage in fury, without even checking on his rival’s condition. In the aftermath, both drivers blamed each other for the incident.
Brazil Grand Prix
Hamilton was fastest in qualifying in Sao Paulo but was demoted to the back of the field, after his car’s rear wing railed to pass a technical inspection.
However, he sensationally went from 20th place to first in what has often been regarded as one of his most satisfying races of his illustrious career. But Hamilton’s brilliance was not the only talking point at the Autodome Jose Carlos Pace, as Verstappen found himself knee deep in controversy.
With the Brit ominously overtaking cars for fun and constantly gaining ground on him, Verstappen suddenly braked late and both cars travelled wide of the track. And in what was a highly derided call, racing officials decided Verstappen did not have a case to answer.
Hamilton did however, successfully overtake his rival, before going on to reduce Verstappen’s lead at the top to fourteen points.
Saudi Arabia Grand Prix
Verstappen had the opportunity to put an end to the contest at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. While Hamilton was in pole position, Verstappen would have sealed his first World Championship if he had finished first, recorded the fastest lap, and Hamilton finished sixth or lower.
However, he got off to the worst possible start as he was given a five-second penalty for tangling with Hamilton on the first turn. He had to cede his position to the Brit, not once but twice, in what was an extremely frustrating day for the Red Bull ace.
And when he was ordered to allow Hamilton to pass and retake first position, Verstappen appeared to break very sharply, culminating in Hamilton smashing into the back of his car.
“I didn’t quite understand why he suddenly hit the brakes quite heavily and then I ran into the back of him,” Hamilton said after the incident. “And then he moved on, so I didn’t understand exactly what was going on. Then I got a message afterwards saying he was going to let us past, so it was a bit confusing.”
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (two calls)
Their winner takes all showdown at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix began as it went to end – in extreme controversy.
The two rivals immediately came together on the first lap as Verstappen lunged to overtake a very surprised Hamilton on the inside.
Hamilton took evasive action by running wide to try and keep ahead of the onrushing Dutchman.
To Red Bull’s fury, Hamilton was allowed to stay in front and was not awarded a penalty.
However, this moment of controversy was a mere aperitif compared with what was to come in the final lap.
Hamilton had amassed a ten second lead over the Red Bull driver with five laps to go, and appeared to be cruising to his eighth world title.
But, a safety car, emerging after Williams’ driver Nicolas Latifi crashed, caused a huge delay to proceedings as the race was about to enter its final lap.
But another twist in the tale was on the horizon, as Racing director Michael Masi allowed the lapped cars to overtake Hamilton, leaving a clear run for Verstappen to catch the Brit.
And in what was an astonishing conclusion to an equally remarkable campaign, Verstappen overtook Hamilton and held on to secure the victory and his first ever world title.
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