Abu Dhabi GP: Howdy-do, my fellow F1 fans? I feel this is the most important question to ask right now. Well, this and the fact that we don’t quite yet know who will come out victorious.
We’ve all known for quite a while now that Abu Dhabi doesn’t usually provide us with an entertaining Sunday. Well, except for 2010 and 2021, of course.
Both Lewis & Max reached Yas Marina level on points, so all they had to was finish ahead of each other to be crowned the Champion of the World. And so they did, but, controversies, tactical decisions, the works, also joined them.
During the middle part of the race, it was a bore-fest, I will be very honest, because I did doze off for a bit, but then, it all went down. If you missed the race, shame on you. If you missed the final stages of the Grand Prix, even bigger shame on you. And if you watched the entire thing, you’re the best. However, if you happened to have fallen in the former two categories, I will still help you out.
Abu Dhabi GP, as it happened for Verstappen
Let’s start with our most-recent FIA Formula 1 World Champion. Max lined up on Pole, alongside his arch-nemesis Lewis Hamilton. But while Hamilton started on the Mediums, Max started his race on the Softs, after having flat-spotted his Mediums in Quali on Saturday, meaning he was already on the backfoot, strategy-wise.
That said, it was expected out of him to beat Hamilton off the line thanks to his tyre advantage, but it all came crashing down once again this season as the Dutch was late to get off the line. He was around a tenth slower than Hamilton to launch, and there it was, he had to settle for P2.
However, when both the drivers reached T6, at the end of the massive back-straight, Max was in a prime spot to benefit from the tow of Lewis, and he did just that. Verstappen quickly made a divebomb down the inside and had the corner, the racing line, hit all the right apexes, and crucially, was well within the limits of the track.
Now, you would think that if he did all the right things, he must’ve come in front of Hamilton? You’re wrong. Lewis cheekily (IMO) decided to avoid the impact and took to the run-off area. What happened next was that not only did he keep a lasting advantage, but he also increased that advantage by the end of Lap 1. I am stating what I saw.
Anyhoo, with that incident done and dusted, it quickly became evident that Max had no pace against Lewis, which came as a shock to me because he was miles quicker than Hamilton on Friday. Well, that should only confirm that we should not look too much into the FP results and timings.
As a result, Red Bull decided to box Verstappen for fresh Hards, and he soon was unleashed to catch Lewis as fast as possible, but again, no pace. It wasn’t even that the difference was huge, but since the race-pace was evenly matched, Max couldn’t do anything. Hamilton just took advantage of that fresh PU.
Sergio Perez, the perfect wingman in F1
Soon after realizing that it won’t work like this, Red Bull decided to throw Checo in and my God, what a fine driver! He simply stole the show with his perfectly-judged overtaking skills. Now, with most of us widely awake, again, thanks to Checo’s masterclass, Lewis’ gap to Verstappen was cut short by miles.
“Checo is a legend,” Verstappen quickly said over his team radio. From there on, it was all about getting as close to Lewis as possible. But, the odds weren’t completely in his favor you see.
Following retirement from the Italian Jesus, the VSC was deployed, and as has been the case for almost every time the SC is deployed virtually, Lewis gained a massive time on his rival. Max was now some 17 seconds behind, but crucially, he had the better tyres. The VSC ended on Lap 38 I think it was, and Max Verstappen had to chase down Hamilton by some 8-9 tenths/lap to be able to challenge him for the victory.
The Dutchman was getting near to Hamilton, near to his first World Championship, near to Honda’s hopes and dreams, but it wasn’t meant to be. Not yet…
Abu Dhabi GP, as it happened for Lewis
Well, I don’t feel like talking about Lewis Hamilton. Not because I hate him, that’s certainly not the case, but because he didn’t deserve the title. I will try to keep it short.
Lewis started in P2, got the better launch, led the field going into T1, had a moment into T6, kept a lasting advantage, gained an advantage, was quicker for the entire race, questioned his team’s strategy, had to battle hard with Sergio, call him a dangerous driver when his teammate almost did the same thing to Verstappen in Saudi, and the saga continues.
He enjoyed the lead, the prospect of becoming the sport’s first-ever 8-time World Champion, but one crash changed everything…
Lap 53-58, as it happened for both the drivers
On Lap 53, the miracle that Red Bull and Verstappen needed, came in the form of a certain Nicholas Latifi crashing right around the hotel section, bringing out a Safety Car! And it was at that moment that Lewis realized it was all going down…
With the timing now right, Verstappen pitted again, and this time, it was for the Soft compound tyres. Since he had a big gap between himself and Checo, he came out in P2, but he was behind the lapped cars, and this is where it got controversial. True story.
It looked like the race was going to finish behind the SC, and if that had been the case, it would’ve meant Lewis is the Champion. Toto made a call to Michael Masi, the Race Director, and asked him to keep things the way they are. Masi, on the other hand, was not fooling around.
A decision was made that the lapped cars won’t be allowed to unlap themselves (a silly decision). Soon after, it got overturned by a new decision to allow cars to unlap themselves. All hell broke loose soon after.
This is where it gets interesting. Suddenly, nobody knew what was going on. It was as if everything had happened within a few seconds. Lap 56, the road gets cleared. Lap 57, the race resumes.
On the last lap, Max Verstappen, being who he is, didn’t think twice before sending it on the inside of T5, the hairpin. With his Soft tyres, Lewis stood no chance, but up until T9, Hamilton used every bit of battery available to him.
In the end, he backed out of it. Max Verstappen, after everything he had been through in the race, waiting for a miracle, crossed the line in first place to be crowned the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Champion.
What about the remaining 17 drivers?
17, because Nikita Mazepin didn’t take part in the race. Not because the team fired him, but because he tested positive for you-know-what. Nevertheless, a quick rundown of the remaining 17 drivers, where they finished, who stood out…
Carlos Sainz Jr finished P3, a brilliant and an unnoticed P3 at that. He’s shown that he means business, all in just his debut year for the Scuderia. His teammate Charles Leclerc was down in P10.
The best performance apart from Red Bull and Verstappen came from the sister team, AlphaTauri. Both Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly kept in clean to finish in an exceptional P4-P5 for the team.
P6 went to Bottas, his last race for the Silver Arrows, Lando took P7, Nando and Ocon were P8 & P9, respectively, and like mentioned earlier, Eclair was P10.
Looking at the rest of the finishers, we have Sebastian in P11, Daniel P12, Lance P13, and Mick Schumacher in P14. Sadly, Checo, Latifi (Max’s best friend and Lewis’ worst enemy), the Italian Jesus, Russell, and the legendary Kimi Raikkonen, all didn’t get a chance to finish the race.
Well, unfortunately, the racing’s over. At least for this year. We have witnessed a remarkable season in 2021. History has been made, records have been broken, we have been treated to the best battle in a long, long time. There’s certainly no guarantee that Red Bull will be dominant next year. There’s certainly no guarantee that Max Verstappen would retain his title next year. Hence, we should simply celebrate them for they deserve every bit of praise this year. This is Chirag Khanna, signing off from the last race report of the 2021 season. See you soon!