Verstappen outwits Hamilton in the extreme and takes the world title in a brilliant way

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Max Verstappen is the 2021 Formula 1 world champion after a crazy Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. For 56 laps it seemed that Lewis Hamilton would take the title, but due to a safety car situation and a brilliant call from Red Bull and Verstappen, the Dutchman finally took the 2021 world title.

At the start, Verstappen did not have a good start. Despite his softer tire and pole position, Lewis Hamilton got off to a much better start, allowing him to take the lead straight away. Verstappen closed in, with the strong starting Sergio Perez in P3. In sector 2, it came to a meeting between Verstappen and Hamilton, as the Dutchman had come closer due to the slipstream behind Hamilton’s car.

Verstappen tried to overtake Hamilton on the inside of the corner, whereupon Hamilton steered the other way and cut the corner. A debatable moment, which would ultimately no longer be investigated by the FIA. Despite a disappointed Red Bull team, the stewards decide that Hamilton does not have to give the spot back and so the Briton can extend his lead over the medium tyre. Verstappen and Perez followed Hamilton at an appropriate distance from that moment on.

The difference in speed between Verstappen and Hamilton was so great that Verstappen was already brought in on lap 14 for the hard tire. This put the Red Bull driver in P4. Hamilton reacted immediately, with the same strategy, in order to secure the track position ahead of Verstappen. Perez, on the other hand, stayed in place, so after a few laps the order was Perez – Hamilton – Verstappen. The assignment for Verstappen’s Mexican teammate seemed crystal clear: to catch Hamilton on the track.

Perez seemed to have understood that assignment well in all respects: the Mexican defended P1 tooth and nail, causing Hamilton to lose an enormous amount of time. It took two laps before the Mexican had to give his place to Hamilton, but that allowed Verstappen to catch up by more than eight seconds, leaving the Dutchman only two seconds behind the Briton. The battle thus seemed to have been reborn in round 22, thanks to Perez’s heroic performance.

Nevertheless, the same race pattern arose after the fight between Perez and Hamilton: the race pace of the W12 simply seems better than that of the RB16B. Hamilton widened his gap to Verstappen from first place and the Briton set the fastest lap of the race almost every other lap. Halfway through the race, the motto seemed clear to Hamilton, namely to finish the race and watch the tires.

On lap 36, however, there was yet another potential game changer: Antonio Giovinazzi had to pull his car over, after which a virtual safety car followed. Under that VSC, Verstappen went in for new hard tires, while Hamilton stayed outside. For example, Verstappen had brand new hard tires, while Hamilton’s were more than twenty laps old. As a result, Verstappen came a little closer to his big rival after his pit stop, but there was still a big question mark behind whether the time gained per lap would be enough to overtake Hamilton towards the end of the race.

While catching up, Verstappen seemed to be helped on lap 54: Nicholas Latifi drove his car into the wall, causing a safety car to enter the track. Verstappen went in for a set of softs, while Hamilton continued to drive on his hard tires. So with two laps to go a restart followed, with Verstappen making an ultimate attempt with the red tire to overtake Hamilton. The move by Red Bull and Verstappen turned out to be worth gold: Verstappen easily passed Hamilton on the red belt on the last race lap, allowing Verstappen to call himself 2021 world champion.

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