the year of max verstappen


The conquest of the Formula One World Championship by Max Verstappen did not only mean the premiere of a Dutchman in the history of the championship: it implied the change of monarch in the premier class, in which the Red Bull captain dethroned seven-time English world champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), which pointed to an unprecedented eighth title.

‘Mad Max’ snatched the throne from Sir Lewis, named Knight of Queen Elizabeth after he matched the seven crowns of German Michael Schumacher last year and was officially invested two weeks ago in a ceremony officiated by her heir, Prince Charles.

He did it in the tightest, most exciting and most controversial World Championship in recent years, which was not resolved, literally, until the last lap of the last of the 22 races: in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The new Dutch idol, 24, and the eccentric and spectacular Stevenage champion, 36They arrived tied on points in the last race, in Yas Marina; after the championship seemed almost to go in favor of the Red Bull leader on two occasions – after the two races in Austria and after the one in Mexico – and after the Mercedes captain demonstrated not only his great talent and his enormous voracity, but its excessive capacity for resilience.

But a brilliant Verstappen – who at 18 became the youngest to win a race, precisely in Spain – showed mastery, knew how to manage the pressure and took the title in a season in which he signed half of the twenty victories that already sum in F1.

Hamilton had won, in Interlagos (Brazil) and in the debutants Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the three races prior to the closing; and put a red-hot World Cup in which smoke was also coming out of the offices: there were accidents in Silverstone (England) and in Monza (Italy); and new incidents between the two contenders, in Sao Paulo and in the Arab Jeddah, which also made the relations between the leaders of the two dominant teams very clearly improvable.

In Abu Dhabi, Verstappen started from pole and Hamilton passed him on the track, in controversial action that did not merit investigation. But when the Englishman led the race not without some comfort, with five laps to go, the Canadian accident occurred. Nicholas Latifi (Williams) which caused the security car to enter the track. The race was relaunched on the last lap and Verstappen, who had put on a fresh tire, went to the death, passed Hamilton and won the race and the title.The ending was again extremely controversial. Mercedes – which won the Constructors’ World Championship for the eighth time in a row – presented two protests against what they understood to be non-regulatory action during the safety car’s presence on the track, which were rejected; and announced an appeal that he did not file. Neither Hamilton nor those responsible for his team appeared at the FIA ​​(International Automobile Federation) Gala, in Paris, which awarded, among others, all the 2021 world champions. And the year closes with rumors about a possible retirement of the British star, statistically the best driver in history, who raised this year to 103 his own all-time records for pole positions and victories in the premier class of the engine.

Spanish was frequently spoken again in the motorsport honors division. Mexican Sergio Pérez, 31, who signed his best season in his debut with Red Bull and finished fourth in the championship, was a key player in putting his talent in favor of Verstappen. ‘Checo’ raised to two, by winning in Azerbaijan, his list of victories in F1, in which he already has 15 podiums, one of them this year before his fans, in Mexico City. And the Spanish Carlos Sainz (Ferrari, 27) and the double world champion Fernando Alonso (Alpine), who turned 40 during the season of his return to the premier class -after two absent-, they also shone in 2021.

Carlos Sainz, who debuted with the most awarded team in history, He completed his best season, which he finished at Yas Marina after finishing third in a race that took him to the final fifth place in the championship – two ahead of his Monegasque teammate Charles Leclerc. The talented Madrid driver signed four podiums this season and already has six ‘boxes’ since he has been driving in F1.

Alonso, who during the two seasons that he did not compete in the premier class, he won the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and, among others, the 24 Hours of Le Mans (France, twice) and the 24 Hours of Daytona (Florida, USA), He returned with a view to readapting to a category that will see a major rule change next year and which, on paper, will offer new possibilities for success.

The Asturian double world champion completed the best season of his F1 career since 2014, his last year at Ferrari, before facing his second stint at McLaren. He returned to the podium, finishing third in Losail (Qatar), seven years after he had last achieved it, finishing second, in red, in Hungary. And he finished the World Championship tenth, one place ahead of his French teammate Esteban Ocon, who celebrated Alpine’s (the old Renault) first victory at the Hungaroring, thanks to the magnificent work of containment that the Asturian genius did from Hamilton in that race. . It was awarded by the FIA ​​as the ‘Best Action of the Year’ which is about to close.

There are few who compare Verstappen with Alonso. Both put an end, at the same age (24 years) to the longest reigns in F1. Alonso – champion in 2005 and 2006, with Renault – dethroned the ‘Kaiser’, winner in 1994 and 1995 with Benetton and who chained five World Cups between 2001 and 2004, with Ferrari. Verstappen seized the throne from Hamilton, who was first crowned in 2008 with McLaren; and that he won the other six (2014-15 and 2017-20) with Mercedes.

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