Max Verstappen is the thirty-fourth champion in the history of Formula 1 . The Dutchman has touched glory with his victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix , an incredible race in which he had to wait for the last lap to overtake Lewis Hamilton and leave the Englishman with honey on his lips, lots of honey, specifically his eighth world title that he will have to keep waiting for. An immense Carlos Sainz completed the podium.
All the tension accumulated during the season exploded already in the first lap of the race. After signing a spectacular pole, Verstappen wasted his job on Saturday with a poor start. His car got stuck and Hamilton took advantage of the opportunity to position himself first. This continued until the fateful Turn 7, in which the Dutchman dived from far away, the cars brushed against each other and the Englishman left the track. Taking advantage of the giant loopholes of Yas Marina , he made a straight and returned to the front while his rival did the curve naturally. Suspense. What would the stewards and race director Michael Mas i do? Would they force him to return the position? His response was to wash his hands, go on, go on. “This is incredible!” Max was venting on the radio. He knew his big break might be gone. Fate had a big bounty in store for him.
Hamilton took the hammer out for a walk and began to string together fast laps. The two hopefuls entered to change tires before lap 15 and at that moment the figure of Sergio Pérez emerged, a faithful ally of their leader in Red Bull . The Mexican managed to stop Hamilton for a couple of laps defending his position tooth and nail and the numbers confirmed his good work: when the Englishman passed him, his lead over Verstappen had been reduced from 8 to 1.3 seconds. A new career was beginning. “Checo is a legend”, Max was grateful, his spirits very renewed after 20 laps chewing on the initial incident.
But Hamilton did not allow him to dream of an overtaking. He put the direct back on and escaped little by little. Inertia led him to the eighth title and his rival needed some kind of incident not to say goodbye to the title. The surprise guest was Antonio Giovinazzi. The Italian’s Alfa Romero pulled into a loophole on lap 37 and race direction activated the virtual safety car. Toto Wolff was complaining about the decision to Michael Masi . The bitterness moved from ‘box’. At Red Bull, they exhibited good striker reflexes and made their final bet, a desperate move to keep their pilot’s hope alive. Verstappen went in to change tires knowing that Hamilton would hold his own until the end. The final chase began, the worthy epilogue to an incredible World Cup: 19 laps to go and a 17-second lead for the Briton.
Latifi’s accident changes everything
The countdown began: 15 laps, 15 seconds. 10 laps, 12 seconds. 9 laps, 11 seconds. Pilots bent on the Verstappen road. 6 laps, 11 seconds. The hope of the noisy fans ‘oranje’ was exhausted. But there was still the epilogue of the World Cup epilogue. Nicholas Latifi crashed with five laps to go, causing the second safety car to exit. Hamilton will never forget the awkwardness of the Canadian driver.
Verstappen quickly went into the pits to fit new tires. The safety car was on the track for four laps and left just before the last. The World Championship one lap, less than six kilometers to decide the champion after 22 races around the world. Verstappen had it in hand powered by his new tires and it did not fail. He overtook Hamilton and launched himself for the greatest success of his career. ‘Mad Max’, new champion.