Max Verstappen has won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, giving him his first ever Formula One championship title after a season-long battle with reigning champ and seven-time winner Lewis Hamilton. With both drivers heading into the last 2021 F1 race of the season on equal points after Hamilton won the maiden race in Saudi Arabia last weekend, the world championship was up for grabs Sunday at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
Racing for Red Bull, Dutch driver Verstappen started the race in pole position after topping the qualifying session Saturday. However, Hamilton led the entire race until the final lap.
Hamilton held an 11-second lead over Verstappen prior to a safety car due to a crash by Williams driver Nicholas Latifi with five laps to go. Verstappen pitted during the safety car, with a controversial decision by the FIA then allowing all lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to pass before the race restarted. The FIA's decision put Verstappen directly behind Hamilton on fresh tires when the race restarted on the final lap.
Verstappen finished the season on 395.5 points, while Hamilton finished on 387.5. Both rivals started the race with 369.5 points. Coming in third for the championship was Hamilton's current Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who finished the season with 226 points. Rounding out the top five were Perez on 190 and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz on 164.5 points.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas won the 2021 constructors' championship, with both of its drivers in the top three.
Verstappen broke his rival's winning streak, but Hamilton and Michael Schumacher hold the record for most championship titles, at seven. Hamilton, who is also spearheading an initiative to push greater diversity and inclusion in motorsports, won the F1 championship in 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
The drivers get just three months off now, with the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship kicking off on March 20 in Sakir with the Bahrain Grand Prix. Hamilton will continue racing for Mercedes with new teammate George Russell, while Verstappen remains at Red Bull with current teammate Sergio Perez.
Season four of F1 Drive To Survive will be coming toin 2022 to recap this year's dramatic and controversial racing championship.