Red Bull driver clinches his first world championship after a controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen clinched the Formula 1 World Championship with a dramatic, controversial victory in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Red Bull-Honda driver and rival Lewis Hamilton had entered the race tied on points. Verstappen qualified on pole position, but he was beaten to the first turn by title rival Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen tried to regain the lead with a forceful move on the first lap, but Hamilton raced off the circuit and held position well ahead of the Dutchman. Red Bull complained that Hamilton had gained an advantage, but the stewards determined no action was necessary.
Hamilton then led much of the race, and seemingly held a pace advantage. But the race turned dramatically when Nicolas Latifi crashed his Williams with five laps to go, bringing out the safety car.
With Verstappen only 12 seconds behind, Mercedes-AMG left Hamilton on track on his used tyres, while the Dutchman stopped for a fresh set. It looked like the race might finish under caution, but FIA race director Michael Masi then instructed the four lapped cars between the two rivals to unlap themselves, before instantly restarting the race with one lap to go.
That set up a one-lap shoot-out, with Hamilton unable to resist Verstappen’s charge due to his worn tyres.
Verstappen, who has won 10 races this year, called the result “unbelievable.” He aded: “Throughout the whole race. I kept fighting. And then of course, that opportunity in the last lap. It’s incredible.
“It’s insane. I mean, I don’t know what to say, these guys here from my team, and of course, Honda as well, they deserve it.”
The Dutchman’s maiden championship denied Hamilton’s bid to win a record-breaking eighth crown, and ended Mercedes-AMG’s streak of eight consecutive drivers’ titles – although the team did secure the constructors’ title. The event was also the final race for Red Bull’s engine supplier Honda, although it will continue to help Red Bull next year as it transitions to developing and building the engine itself.