Formula One

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen wins first F1 title following controversial FIA safety car decision and last lap pass on championship rival Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen clawed his way to a first World Driver’s Title in controversial circumstances over rival Lewis Hamilton as he won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a final lap pass.

The pass came in an incredible scenario which involved both Mercedes and Red Bull in the steward’s office following the race with the former arguing that the race director Michael Masi had stolen the title away from Hamilton.

Verstappen denied Hamilton his record-breaking eighth World Drivers’ Title by just eight points with the Briton still tied on seven with F1 legend Michael Schumacher.

The victory means Verstappen is the first Dutch World Champion and the 34th different driver to be crowned World Champion with new regulations coming in next season to end the Hybrid Era.

In a race that was touted as ‘Winner Takes All’, it was race director Michael Masi who took all the attention away from the eventual winner Max Verstappen following his decision to change the race order to allow a last lap showdown between title rivals Verstappen and Hamilton.

With the safety car out and Hamilton leading after Williams driver Nicolas Latifi crashed out with six laps to go, there were five lapped cars between the two title rivals.

However, in a bizarre turn of events, Masi decided to allow the cars in between Verstappen and Hamilton to pass the safety car meaning they were side-by-side as the race restarted on the final lap.

With Verstappen’s tyre advantage, he scooped up the chance given to him, passing Hamilton on the inside of turn five and crossing the line first to take the championship.

Mercedes lodged an immediate protest against the decision to allow multiple, but importantly not all, lapped cars to pass the safety car which by the regulations is not allowed.

Despite both appeals being denied, Mercedes have chosen to appeal the decision of the FIA’s findings. Whilst the Hybrid Era might’ve come to an end, this chapter may not for quite some time.

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