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Controversial 2021 Drivers' Champion: Max Verstappen

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen snatched the 2021 Drivers' Championship win from Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - sparking debates on-and-off track.

Throughout the Abu Dhabi GP it appeared that Lewis Hamilton was in line to claim his 8th Drivers' Championship, until Williams' driver Nicholas Latifi crashed at Turn 14 with just five laps to go.

The Safety Car that resulted from Latifi's crash would be the 2021 Drivers' Champion decider. Verstappen chose to pit for soft tyres during the Safety Car while Hamilton and his team chose to stay out, a critical mistake from the Mercedes team but one that could not have been avoided.

Why didn't Hamilton change tyres?

Put simply, during a Safety Car the leading car may only pit if they are leading the race with a longer time than it would take said car to pit, change tyres, and return to the race while still being in the lead. Unfortunately for Hamilton, he was only 11 seconds ahead, which would not have been enough time to do so.

Due to this, Lewis was forced to stay out during the Safety Car on hard compound tyres that had been on the car since Lap 14.

Initially, the FIA had ordered lapped cars to stay in their positions, with five cars between Verstappen and Hamilton. However, following pressure from Red Bull principle Christian Horner, the FIA changed their decision and allowed lapped cars to un-lap themselves.

Finally, with just one lap remaining and all lapped cars out of the way, the Safety Car was removed and both championship contenders were left to race side by side.

Verstappen, with the help of his newer tyres, snatched the lead from Hamilton and became the 2021 Formula One World Drivers' Champion. The Red Bull driver is the first Formula One Dutch driver to win a World Championship - ending the reign of German and British driver champions.

Verstappen after winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, 2021.

However, the young Dutch drivers win has sparked controversy and Mercedes team have questioned its legitimacy.

The furious Mercedes team filed two protests: one against the restart after the Safety Car and the other arguing that Verstappen had overtaken Hamilton while the SC was still out.

It wasn't until several hours later the stewards came to the decision to disregard both protests from the Mercedes team. However, it is now down to Mercedes to decide whether they would like to take the issue to court, which would take several months to conclude.

Despite this, Red Bull and Max Verstappen celebrated the Dutchman's F1 win into the early hours of Monday morning. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is definitely one that will be discussed for many years to come.

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