The 2021 F1 season couldn’t have been written by a Hollywood writer. Not even the wittiest of minds at Netflix could have dreamt up the season that fans have been treated to this year. Lewis Hamilton, the barrier breaking British driver, up against his fiercest competition yet – a driver with racing in his DNA.
When it looked as though the Dutch dream was disappearing, Christian Horner’s call for a miracle was answered in the form of a safety car. What unfolded was a final lap that will go down in F1 history as perhaps the most adrenaline-inducing drive that fans will ever see. Only one could win it all and this year the championship went Dutch.
The Lion Claims His Prize
After a season filled with controversial moves and awe-inspiring overtakes, there was no doubt that Abu Dhabi was going to deliver from the moments the lights went out. Hamilton on medium tyres got a better start off the line before Verstappen caught up in turn 6. After going wide and returning to the track, the stewards decided not to investigate what Red Bull claim as lasting advantage for Hamilton.
Red Bull focused on strategy to try and claw back the lead, but even with the help of Perez, it looked as though Hamilton had the pace to bring the championship home for a record-breaking eighth time.
With ten laps to go, Christian Horner told Sky Sports that they would need a miracle to bring the RB16B over the finish line first. At the most unlikely of moments, that call was answered. After battling against Schumacher, Nicholas Latifi crashed, resulting in a safety car.
Verstappen pitted for soft tyres in what would become the most dramatic single lap in F1. There was a back-and-forth between the FIA and teams over whether lapped cars would be allowed to overtake the safety car before the restart. After initially saying they wouldn’t be, Massi made the decision to allow the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton to un-lap themselves.
In the words of Michael Massi, “we went car racing”. Verstappen made the decisive move on turn 5 with Hamilton attempting to claw it back several turns later but Dutchman delivered a flawless defence that saw an emotional finish with former teammate Alex Albon congratulating him over the team radio.
The decision to allow only the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen un-lap themselves – allowing one final lap of racing – was protested by Mercedes. They initially lodged their intention to make a formal appeal but rescinded it after the FIA announced that they would be conducting an “analysis and clarification exercise” into the race.
Checo’s Legendary Defence
As a driver, your instinct is to win every race. It’s a sport where man and machine come together with one goal. Teammates are known for their rivalry with Mercedes and Red Bull being no exception. Checo Perez is perhaps a different breed of driver, understanding his role in helping his teammate clench his first world championship.
His defence against Lewis Hamilton allowed Verstappen to close the gap after pitting and bring the championship back into contention. Verstappen called his teammate a “legend” for holding back his rival. A podium looked as though it was in hand for the Mexican driver before he unexpectedly retired on lap 56.
Mercedes wins their 8th constructors championship
While Verstappen’s win – and the eventual fallout – overshadowed the moment, Mercedes still made history in Abu Dhabi. With Perez having to retire his car and Bottas finishing 6th, Mercedes took home their 8th consecutive constructors’ championship.
Ahead of the race, Lewis Hamilton debuted another cap to finish off the season. The Mercedes Lewsi Hamilton Abu Dhabi special edition cap is a must-have collector’s item for Hamilton fans.
How the rest of the grid finished up
Carlos Sainz closed his first season at Ferrari with another podium after finishing third. AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda had his best finish of the season in P4 with his teammate Pierre Gasly finishing 5th.
Bottas and Norris claimed 6th and 7th, while Alonso and Ocon gave Alpine a double point finish with Leclerc finishing up the points positions in P10. Vettel, Ricciardo, Stroll, and Schumacher finished the rest of the grid after several DNFs.
Kimi’s silent goodbye
Kimi Räikkönen is famously a man of few words. It was perhaps fitting that his final race in F1 ended in a silent goodbye after an early retirement from the race. The Iceman was voted Driver of the Day for the world champion’s final race after a 20-year career.
In his pre-race interview, Raikkonen said that his wife would be more emotional than him when waving goodbye to his F1 career. Alfa Romeo ran a special livery on their car with “Dear Kimi, we will leave you alone now” on Kimi’s car with ‘Grazie di Tutto, Antonio” on Antonio Giovinazzi’s car as the Italian driver moves to Formula E.
After 349 starts in F1 with 21 wins and 108 podiums, Kimi Räikkönen leaves behind a lasting legacy in the sport.
The drama continues
The fallout from the dramatic final lap has continued. On Thursday, Verstappen was awarded the World Championship trophy at the FIA Prize-Giving ceremony. Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff skipped the ceremony, but with Valtteri Bottas attending to receive his third-place trophy.
George Russell made his first appearance for Mercedes as a signed driver in the post-season testing this week before he officially becomes Hamilton’s teammate for next season. Valtteri Bottas made his own first appearance for Alfa Romeo during post-season testing. He’ll be driving for the team with Guanyu Zhou, the Chinese F2 driver joining F1 next season. George Russell’s seat at Williams is being taken by his friend Alex Albon, the former Red Bull driver making his return to F1.
Ahead of next season, it’s the perfect time to show off your team spirit with official F1 merchandise. Whether you’re supporting Hamilton for a comeback or Verstappen to make it two in a row, F1 merchandise lets you keep the racing spirit going during the off season.
Rest up for now and enjoy Christmas. F1 is back in 2022 for the Bahrain GP on the 18th-20th March.