Let us guess… such a conclusion to the 2021 Formula 1 season could not have been predicted. We, too, were swept up in a wave of emotion and we, too, fell into a vortex of rushing emotion. It took us a while to come to our senses after being confused by everything that was going on at the Abu Dhabi GP 2021. The epic story of the battle for the F1 championship between Sir Lewis Hamilton and the daredevil Max Verstappen ended in Max’s favor. Let us take a deep breath to put everything in order.
How did Mercedes’ advantage turn into desperation at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021?
What other car can compare to the average speed of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes? The simple answer – no one. Yas Marina Circuit is traditionally a track that suits them better, even with the latest track updates. Pretty clear picture since Friday practice in Abu Dhabi and the average speed of Lewis Hamilton during Sunday’s race. Only qualifying on Saturday changed the cold statistics. But it was more tactical play than the picture of reality.
The main question after Saturday’s qualifying session: “If Mercedes were so fast, why didn’t they win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?” is: “Why didn’t they win the Abu Dhabi Qualifying?”. Yes, Lewis Hamilton concedes Max Verstappen, but he has the advantages with long-distance tires. So the Red Bull driver showed the best time on soft tyes, but Lewis Hamilton was preparing to start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix second on medium. That’s how the plan should work. If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.
Was the logical follow-up to the “greatest care” in driving as much as possible in the eyes of Formula 1 race director Michael Masi. Charged like a rocket, Lewis Hamilton raced away from Max Verstappen from the second lap and progressed from lap to lap. Most importantly, the medium tires simply worked according to Mercedes’ plan. Tyres allowing Lewis Hamilton to pull away with an advantage for the future pit stop.
Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
There was nothing to stop Mercedes from celebrating two titles at the weekend – Lewis Hamilton’s eighth and F1’s Constructors’ championship. But when is Formula One easy? Antonio Giovinazzi stopped the car on lap 35 due to gearbox problems in the safety zone. Race Control announced the virtual safety car mode. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff could not allow all of Hamilton’s advantages to disappear and politely asked Michael Masi not to interfere unnecessarily in the battle.
And if Mercedes got lucky and the virtual safety mode was quickly removed, Nicholas Latifi’s crash accident factor knocked the entire Mercedes off course with a bang. On the Yas Marina Circuit, a lively and genuine safety car appeared! That’s exactly what brought all the cars together. Indeed, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were on the same shelf at the decisive Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
In the frantic situation, Michael Masi forgot or was a little confused or wanted to cheer on Hamilton or Verstappen. Formula 1 race director wanted to restart the race in Abu Dhabi with cars that were one lap behind the leaders. That means Lewis Hamilton would have the advantage over Verstappen, who could have lost the chance to win because of a traffic.
Red Bull Team contacted Masi directly to recall the rules. Thus, there was one thing that Safety Car has to do. Yes, to skip cars that were one lap behind the leaders and claim the restart with the almost unbeatable Lewis Hamilton and Max Verrstappen. That is what was happen on the final 1.5 laps until the end of the 2021 Formula 1 season.
Mercedes protest after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s downforce, or rather better downforce, turned the entire Abu Dhabi Grand Prix upside down! Max Verstappen took the lead almost straight away and overtook Hamilton. Lewis had been trying to reclaim the coveted first place for a few more turns. Up to the finish straight it seemed he could reclaim the Abu Dhabi victory, but – alas. Soon he realized that both the victory and the F1 championship title had disappeared in the beams of glory… of Max Verstappen.
Taken aback by Red Bull’s sudden dominance, Mersdes had to protest and make demands on the regulations, the… many things. And, yes, we can agree with them in part – with the confusion that goes on from race to race in the season finale.
But everything else is within the rules that should not be violated. Therefore, Mercedes’ protest was rejected by stewards. Max Verstappen became the official winner of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the new youngest champion in the history of Formula 1.
How Max Verstappen took the bull by the horns?
Everything is actually simple.: From the very beginning, the F1 title contender had no high expectations. Max Verstappen repeated several times in front of journalists – just to win, well, at least once, is already an achievement.
Red Bull, charged by the love of the fans, appeared at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix inspired and without much ferocity for the title and the constructors “championship. It seemed as if these guys had just come to work hard and finish the 2021 Formula 1 season with glory. Victory in qualifying in Abu Dhabi was a great start, but it was clear – soft tires would give way before the nerves of his main rival Lewis Hamilton. And here in the Red Bull they did not lose, Max Verstappen was one of the first to open the pits’ wave as far as it is necessary to keep in pace of Mercedes.
No wonder they say Max Verstappen fought like a lion and they are damn right! Despite the obvious advantage of Mercedes’ speed, the Red Bull driver did not lose hope in any corner, not for a second of the lap, and continued to attack to the limit.
Max took heart with the advent of virtual safety mode, and the real safety car after Nicholas Latifi’s accident brought the dream of the title closer and made it almost a reality. Max Verstappen felt this new reality when he saw the chequered flag at the finish of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Instead of an afterword.
After the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen became Formula One World Champion and Mercedes won the constructors’ “championship. Although Red Bull’s dreams were not realized to the end, they took the first step that… absolutely gives wings. However, this race – such an epic finale – will be remembered for many other objective reasons. In summary, the rivalry and competition between Mercedes and Red Bull has become clear that it is unacceptable to hold ceremonies with the teams. It means that Michael Masi’s approach requires change. Lewis Hamilton’s dominance ended for the first time in four years. Nico Rosberg took the title in 2016.
Despite criticism from experts and journalists, Formula 1 achieved almost the impossible – and attracted the attention of the whole world. Max Verstappen became the main character for a long time, eclipsing not only the third place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Carlos Sainz, but also Lewis Hamilton.Everyone saw the race at Yas Marina, even the athletes of different sports and even those who were never F1 fans. A great achievement in the true sense of the word.