Max Verstappen Wins 2021 F1 Title over Lewis Hamilton in Controversial Abu Dhabi Win

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVDecember 12, 2021

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez of Mexico and Red Bull Racing stand on the grid prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

For nearly all of Sunday morning, it looked like Lewis Hamilton would capture his fifth straight Formula One title and a record eighth drivers' championship.

Then fate struck. And then race officials made a controversial decision that arguably cost Hamilton the crown.

Max Verstappen passed Hamilton on the 57th lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, capturing his first F1 title in the process. 

Hamilton held a massive lead over Verstappen for most of the race and was seemingly destined for a championship as he tried to preserve his tires in the final laps. Nicholas Latifi then crashed on lap 55, sending the safety car out to close the gap between the racers.

TSN @TSN_Sports

VERSTAPPEN WINS THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP!!<br><br>WHAT A FINISH!!!! HE'S DONE IT!!!<br><br>A last lap pass decides the title. What a season.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/F1?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#F1</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AbuDhabiGP?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AbuDhabiGP</a> <a href="https://t.co/3tpnyLo2DX">pic.twitter.com/3tpnyLo2DX</a>

While it looked as if Hamilton would still be safe because of the presence of lapped cars between him and Verstappen, the FIA made the decision to allow cars to pass the safety car and set up a final dash to the finish between Hamilton and Verstappen.

With Verstappen having the far fresher tires, it was only a matter of time before he passed Hamilton and went on to victory.

Hamilton, the owner of the most grand prix victories (103) and podiums (181) in the series, had put on a clinic of tire preservation over the course of the race's second half and would have won with ease had the safety cars not allowed Verstappen to pit for fresher tires.

Joel “Troel” Embiid @JoelEmbiid

GOATSTAPPEN 🐐🐐🐐🐐🐐 <a href="https://t.co/9h7wytW1Hp">pic.twitter.com/9h7wytW1Hp</a>

After the race, Mercedes filed two appeals, both of which were denied, confirming Verstappen as the champion.

The victory for Verstappen caps off a historic 2021 season that saw him lead the most laps in a single season of any racer in F1 history. 

The 24-year-old appears destined to challenge the 36-year-old Hamilton as the next face of the sport. Verstappen is backed by the powerful Red Bull team that has had a top-four finisher every year since 2009. Verstappen is their first champion since Sebastian Vettel won four straight from 2010 to 2013.