“No Michael! No, no, Michael, that wasn’t right,” Mercedes Motorsport boss Toto Wolff said on the radio to race director Michael Massey.
On the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen had just overtaken Lewis Hamilton, who had been leading until then, on his fifth turn at the Yas Marina Circuit, thus also reclaiming the lead in the virtual championship, which he should not have given up in the last few metres. .
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The Dutchman’s path to fulfilling his childhood dream of an unforgettable Sunday in Abu Dhabi was tough enough.
Verstappen vs. Hamilton: Chronology of Events
Starting from pole position, Verstappen was at first glance the best starting position in this World Cup showdown, with both he and Hamilton scoring 369.5 points.
However, the 24-year-old had to start with the soft tyres, which experience has shown will last much shorter than Hamilton’s medium tyres. The most important thing for Verstappen was to stay ahead at the start.
But he got off to a “bad start”, as he himself explained after the race, and his championship rival died in the first corner. The Dutchman tried to tackle with a violent maneuver in his sixth turn, but kept Hamilton off the track. Use the replay area and line up again in front of Red Bull.
Despite complaints from the Austrian team via radio to the race management, there was no investigation so Hamilton withdrew thanks to Mercedes’ powerful engine.
Verstappen’s teammate Perez offers support
With strong help from Sergio Perez, who succeeded in stopping Hamilton, Verstappen briefly made a comeback after the first stop, but when the Briton overtook the Mexican, he extended his lead again.
Verstappen used a virtual safety car stage for the second stop. His attempt to attack again with newer tyres failed, although Hamilton could not change himself. The World Cup seems to be over.
But then came lap 54 of 58 laps and Williams driver Nicholas Latifi put his car in the wall as soon as it passed the hotel. The safety car came out. Red Bull responded and brought Verstappen back. He’s got soft tires.
On the other hand, Hamilton had to stay on his worn hard tires because the safety car stage was not called until after he had already passed the pit entrance.
Race management reviews its own decision before restarting
But from the point of view of the British, everything was still fine. Verstappen had new, soft tires in second, but in between there were still a few slick cars that the Dutchman had to outpace all after the restart.
Following the message that the arrangement behind the safety car would remain in place, the race management decided shortly before the end of the SC stage that wrap cars could bypass the safety car in order to clarify the condition of the race on the track.
So Verstappen got close to Hamilton and finally managed to overtake the world record champion on the last lap and put himself on top of the world championship.
To the annoyance of Toto Wolff, who demanded that race director Massey’s final lap be canceled after the race and wanted the result to count as one lap before the finish. “This is motorsport,” replied the race director, a little annoyed.
Russell shoots race director: ‘This is unacceptable’
Williams’ George Russell, who will be Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes next year, was highly critical of the jury’s decision. “This is unacceptable,” the Briton tweeted after the race in large letters, visibly angry.
In einem weiteren Tweet ergänzte er: “Max ist ein absolut fantastischer Fahrer, der eine unglaubliche Saison hinter sich hat, und ich habe großen Respekt vor ihm, aber was gerade w passiert ist, ist absolut, inakzeubir glazep to have.”
Mercedes protests two breaches of regulations
But Red Bull boss Christian Horner had a different opinion. “I made the right decision,” said the 48-year-old.
However, his hope that the case would end was not fulfilled. Instead, he and his team had to go to the hosts a little later.
Mercedes has lodged a double protest over the race result. From the German team’s point of view, two conditions of Article 48.12 of the Sports Regulations were not met at the start of the first half: the safety car did not enter the pits at the end of the next lap, but rather on the lap in which the overtaking took place. In addition, not all rolled-up drivers were allowed to pass the safety car before restarting. Accordingly, the reboot could have been released infrequently.
In addition, just before the restart, Verstappen briefly passed Hamilton behind the safety car.
Verstappen threatened to lose the world title
It looked as if Verstappen might lose his world title again. Because with a time penalty, as well as with the decision to record the race as Mercedes requested after the penultimate lap, Hamilton will suddenly be world champion.
And shortly after 8:00 PM German time, it was clear what had already been decided at 3:33 PM: Max Verstappen is the 2021 Formula 1 World Champion!
Red Bull boss Christian Horner was relieved: “We didn’t want the hosts to go, but they made the right decision, which we’re grateful for. Michael wanted to let them go, and that’s exactly what we’ve been talking about for years, Niki Lauda started with the concept of ‘let them race’.”
He had little sympathy for the protest itself: “[Wir sind] Very frustrating because we had to get through that. “But it’s been a great year and Red Bull is very proud of Max and the whole team.” He is the world champion, the deserved world champion. “No one can take that away from him,” Horner added.
Mercedes announces its date
But it would not be the craziest end of the season in the history of the first division, if it did not have small restrictions: Mercedes announced that evening that it would resume the rejected protest.
This last race of the season in Abu Dhabi may keep us busy in the coming days.
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