Formula One

‘Super Max’ reaps the reward for his consistency and class

After a no-holds barred showdown between Verstappen and Hamilton, the former emerged on top.

After a no-holds barred showdown between Verstappen and Hamilton, the former emerged on top.

To win your first World title with a last-lap overtake at the final race of the season is the stuff of dreams and Max Verstappen did just that to pass rival Lewis Hamilton on track to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the 2021 Drivers’ title.

However, the way the race ended was marred by how the Safety Car period that started on lap 54 and ended on lap 57 was handled which allowed Verstappen a chance to attack Hamilton after having been nearly 10 seconds behind his rival.

Also Read: Explained | What led to Max Verstappen’s win at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi GP?

Unfortunately, what has been one of the most closely-contested championships in recent times has finished in controversial circumstances with the final race being decided inside the stewards’ room.

Verstappen constructed a flawless first championship bid and was pushed closed by a determined Hamilton who almost had one hand on the eighth title.

The 24-year-old produced one of the most consistent season-long performances in recent times. To illustrate, in races that he finished, he was either first or second in all but one race with 10 wins and eight-second place finishes.

What this shows is that on the day when he had a chance to win, he did and managed to be second when his rival had a better overall package.

Faultless season

Verstappen produced an almost faultless season and it is hard to point out a race in which he left points off the table.

Without the tyre failure in the Azerbaijan GP, a race he was on course to win with six laps to go, he lost out 25 points. He was also an innocent victim in the crash in Hungary triggered by Valtteri Bottas, which damaged his car heavily and he could only finish ninth when he had the pace to finish at least third if not even second.

In contrast, the defending champion had the rub of the green go his way a few times and will be the first to agree he left points on the table.

In Baku, Hamilton out-braked himself and went off-track on the last lap when fighting for the lead, had sub-par performances in Monaco, Austria and in Turkey where he was not forceful enough while coming through the pack.

Champion stuff

But he also showed why he is a seven-time champion as he came off strongly in the second half of the year, winning three races on the bounce before Abu Dhabi and was able to best his rival in wheel-to-wheel battle in Brazil and Saudi Arabia apart from doing it earlier in the season as well.

He was on course for his fourth straight win only for the lady luck to ditch him when it mattered the most.

It will be a travesty if the 2021 season is remembered for the last lap shenanigans and not the generational fight between the young upstart and the grizzled veteran.

Once the dust settles on the controversy, F1 should consider itself lucky to have a seven-time champion more determined to right the wrongs of 2021 going against Verstappen, who has now tasted what it is to be a world champion.

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Printable version | May 27, 2022 6:07:11 am |