Formula 1 finale delivers the drama, capping off a season for the ages Featured

Posted On Monday, 13 December 2021 01:17 Written by
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At age 24, Max Verstappen has claimed his first Formula One championship At age 24, Max Verstappen has claimed his first Formula One championship Photo courtesy of Red Bull Racing/Twitter

What a season! What a finale!

No, I’m not talking about NASCAR. I’m talking about Formula One, which wrapped up its 2021 season in Abu Dhabi on Sunday with a race that won’t soon be forgotten.

And everyone who follows the sport should take the time to appreciate what has just happened, regardless of who they root for on the track.

Tied in points entering the season’s final race, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were in a position where the driver who finished ahead of the other would be the champion.

Very much like the four-car NASCAR finale, except it came about naturally during a season of tight competition between the two best racers in F1.

To say this level of competition in F1 is rare would be an understatement. Most years in F1, there is a dominant driver who wins most of the races, and rarely does the points battle come down to the wire like this. If this season had been written by Hollywood screen writers, they couldn’t have done a better job.

Max and Lewis — who both put in performances this year worth of a champion — were at each other’s throats year-round (and at one point, Max’s Red Bull Racing car was literally on top of Lewis’ Mercedes ride).

While the drivers tend to remain cordial, the team principals (Christian Horner for Red Bull, and Toto Wolff for Mercedes) are generally less friendly, trading barbs on a regular basis throughout the intense battle of 2021.

Sunday’s race at Abu Dhabi brough controversy right from the start. On Lap 1, Verstappen made a move to pass Hamilton for the lead, but Hamilton went off track and kept the lead. Instead of ordering Hamilton to give P1 to Verstappen for exceeding track limits, they let Hamilton keep the position. In my view, this was the wrong move, but all the Red Bull team could do was press on and do their best.

Unfortunately for Red Bull, for most of the race, Mercedes was the class of the field, with Hamilton stretching out his lead. There was a nice assist from Red Bull teammate “Checo” Perez to hold up Hamilton and get Verstappen closer behind Hamilton, but heading into the final laps it was clear that a miracle was needed for Verstappen to pull out the win and the championship.

Of all things, that miracle involved backmarkers, and it happened when Mick Schumacher, son of 7-time F1 champ Michael Schumacher, got into an incident with Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, and Latifi ended up in the fence. The safety car was deployed, allowing Verstappen to pit and get a new set of soft tires and be right next to his title rival for the final restart.

But hold on! Would Verstappen be next to Hamilton? Or would he have several lapped cars between himself and Hamilton? At first, it appeared the lapped cars would be an impediment to Verstappen on the final racing lap, but Race Director Michael Masi decided at the last minute to order the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to pass the safety car, moving Verstappen alongside his title competitor.

From there, with Verstappen’s new tires, it was almost a foregone conclusion what would happen. Five turns into the final, one-lap shootout, Verstappen passed Hamilton and took home his first F1 title, a title that I’m sure will be the first of many for this young man. At only 24 years old, and driving one of the sport’s dominant cars, there’s a good chance he’ll contend annually and can run off a string of titles like Hamitlon, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have done in the past. 

Having competed in Formula One since he was a teenager, Verstappan has the talent and experience of a veteran, and well over a decade left on his driving career at the highest level of motorsport. There’s no doubt he could be rewriting the record books by the time he’s done, just like Hamilton has done this past decade.

But getting back to today’s race: Was the right call made? Should Max have been next to Lewis on that final restart? Despite protests from Mercedes, the stewards are sticking by their decisions. F1 stewards have dismissed both of Mercedes’ protests, upholding that Max Verstappen is the winner and 2021 World Champion

In a quote that will be long remembered, after hearing complaints from Mercedes’ Wolff about the decision making at the end of the race, Masi replied: “Toto, it’s called a motor race. We went car racing.”

I couldn’t agree more with that statement.

There are the purists who will say that according the F1 rules, once the lapped cars has passed the safety car, it legally had to wait another lap to come in. But had that been allowed to happen, the race would have finished under the safety car, with no final lap run at all.

I can’t think of a worse way to decide a Formula One world championship  — especially one this hard-fought all year long — than finishing under a safety car, so I applaud the decision to have it decided on the track in a one-lap shootout.

There will be further protests and lawsuits, and perhaps some monetary damages assessed if Mercedes can plead its case to the right people. But make no mistake, Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing won this race, and they are the champions. That is not going to change, and I’m willing to bet this marks the end of Mercedes recent dynasty in the sport of F1, and the dawn of a new one starring Red Bull.

I applaud Lewis Hamilton for a great season. He put on some spectacular drives, and did everything he could to try to win a record 8th title. He’s a classy individual, who uses his position to advocate for important causes, and as long as he races will be continue to be a leader in the sport of F1 and beyond.

But the Red Bull Racing team has established itself as the dominant car in 2021, and I see that trend continuing in the years to come.

This season and the tight competition it brought was a dream for racing fans at the highest level, and one that I don’t think we’ll see equaled for many years. Which is OK, because the next time it happens it will be that much more special.

Kudos to everyone on both Mercedes and Red Bull on an awesome season.

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Matt Myftiu can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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