Max Verstappen World Champion in Last Lap Drama

Max Verstappen is the new World champion after a dramatic finish to what has been an incredible season. Hamilton gave it all he had but it came down to the final lap of the race after a safety car.

To start the day of drama Mazepin tested positive for Covid and was not able to race. It was too short notice for Haas so they ran with only 1 car.

Lights out and Hamilton gets a much better start leading Verstappen into turn 1. This meant Verstappen had the slipstream down the back straight, he made a lunge into the corner alongside Hamilton who had left the door open. It nearly ended in tears when the 2 touched as Verstappen went too deep and Hamilton had to go to the escape road, coming out ahead. The stewards decided that the gap had not changed from before the move and that Verstappen forced Hamilton wide and therefore did not investigate. Perez gained a place on Norris in turn 1 but Bottas had lost 2 places in the first lap so RedBull had both cars fighting Hamilton in his lone Mercedes out at the front.

Lewis Hamilton leads Max Verstappen and the rest of the field at the start (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images/Red Bull Content)

The RedBulls pitted first for the hard tyres on lap 14 and came out behind Norris and Leclerc. However, Leclerc went straight on at turn 3 so Verstappen only had to dispatch of Norris down the back straight. Hamilton responded just 1 lap later but came out P2 while Verstappen was in P4. This meant they now had tyres at the same level. With Perez in the lead RedBull tried to use their 2nd driver to hold up Hamilton.

On lap 17 Verstappen was pushing hard behind Sainz who was driving very well. In the penultimate corner Verstappen got caught int the dirty air and went very wide into the corner. This meant he had to wait another lap to overtake his former teammate using DRS down the back straight. So, on lap 18 the gap between Perez and Hamilton was shrinking but Verstappen was now in P3 catching the pair of them.

Hamilton had caught Perez on lap 20 but Perez was doing his job by making his RedBull by having a fantastic battle all the way from the back straight to the start/finish straight constantly swapping places cleanly and fairly. This gave Verstappen plenty of time to catch and the ordered swap between the teammates was clean making the gap between the championship rivals just under 2 seconds.

Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton battle for track position (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/Red Bull Content)

Lots of things were happening at the end of this season, including Kimi Raikkonen leaving Formula 1, and on lap 23 he came in for his final ever scheduled pit stop. Every fan around the world shed a small tear. Just 4 laps later and his career in formula 1 nearly ended in the barriers. He had a brake issue going into turn 9 and spun, brushing the barrier. He made it back to the pits, but he turned car off and had to retire from the race.

George Russell was also having problems with his gears right up until his power unit appeared to lose drive. He also had to retire from his last race with Williams before moving on the Mercedes next year. Not the end these 2 drivers would want.

The day went from bad to worse for Alfa Romeo because on lap 36 Giovinazzi stopped on track with gear shifting problems. This brought out the VSC and whilst some cars did pit, including both Ferrari’s but Mercedes decided to stay out. Verstappen and RedBull did pit coming out with a gap of 17 seconds behind Hamilton. So, with fresh tyres they were hoping to catch Hamilton as his tyres lose grip later on in the race. The battle was truly on.

There was a battle for the final points positions with Alonso losing places to both Alpha Tauri’s on lap 41 and 42. It was a tense fight from both Alpha’s, Alpine’s and Ricciardo. Leclerc was catching this pack hoping to get back into the points. Not too much further up the road Bottas was fighting Norris for P5. At this point Mercedes were still winning the constructors championship with the RedBulls in P2 and P3.

Yuki Tsunoda and Charles Leclerc compete for position on track during (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/Red Bull Content)

Lap 50, the gap at the from was down to 12 seconds but Verstappen had to get through the same traffic of that pack fighting for the last points positions. Norris came in with a puncture in the hard tyres from the curbs. This could have come into play for the 7 time world champion who was now running tyres over 30 laps old.

With 5 laps to go Latifi had a big crash into the barrier and a full safety car was deployed. In an odd choice Mercedes decided not to pit Hamilton to keep track position. Again, RedBull did pit Verstappen for new soft tyres knowing that if the race did restart that he would get a good jump on Hamilton who had heavily used tyres.

Perez pitted to retire the car at this point to retire the car and Mercedes had officially won the constructors title for the 9th year in a row. The stewards decided they wanted to see the race finish on a racing lap and therefore the lapped cars were not allowed through. It is not mandatory for the stewards or FIA to let the lapped cars through, the rule says they may be let through. However, they then changed their minds to let just 5 lapped cars in front of max through.

This set up a dramatic race to the finish with a 1 lap shoot out. Into turn 5 Verstappen used his soft tyres to his advantage. But Hamilton fought back gaining a slipstream on the back straight. Verstappen would come out on top though with Hamilton having to concede in the final complex.

Verstappen finished P1 and was therefore the new World Champion! Hamilton finished a very disappointed P2 but once out of the car both him and his dad headed straight to the Verstappen’s to congratulate them.

Max Verstappen  is congratulated by Lewis Hamilton (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/Red Bull Content)

A shout out to Carlos Sainz who finished P3 helping his team to solidify their P3 finish in the constructor’s championship.

It was a crazy end to an amazing season. This may yet continue into the next few weeks with Mercedes questioning why only 5 cars were allowed through. Despite this both Hamilton and Verstappen have driven heroically all season and it will go down as one of the greatest championship rivalries of all time.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview: The curtain falls on 2019

Abu Dhabi sees the curtain drop on another Formula One season. However, it is a slightly tatted curtain and, much like the Greatest Showman – sorry to anyone who thought it was good – it is the end of a somewhat dull and monotonous year.

Of course, it has not been all doom and gloom. There have been some stunning races in 2019, like Austria, Silverstone, Germany and Brazil. However, the exciting and scintillating moments we associate so strongly with F1 have been few and far between.

With that said, the F1 bandwagon arrives at the 5.5-kilometre Abu Dhabi circuit – an excellent and enjoyable track for the drivers, not so much for the fans.

(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Abu Dhabi first appeared on the calendar in 2009, with Sebastian Vettel winning the race, and has played host to the last race on the calendar for eight of the last ten years.

However, the races have not always captured the eye for wheel-to-wheel magnificence. The circuit is rather clumsy to look at, especially the underground pit exit – which I am sure seemed a good idea to begin with – where it is difficult to mount cameras and no-one can actually see.

What rescues the track is the setting. The backdrop of the exhilarating Ferrari World, the grandstands and the pit complexes, and of course the pristine hotel with the LED lit roof, make the Abu Dhabi track quite the spectacle, and gives it a real feel of an end-of-season race. Speaking of which, this is the first time that the Formula One championship will have ever ended in December – hopefully the teams have remembered to pack their advent calendars.

Lewis Hamilton is a four-time winner in Abu Dhabi, and having wrapped up his sixth title already, he would love to see out the year in style with another victory.

As form has it, Mercedes have a good chance of another one-two finish under the lights. Abu Dhabi is predominantly a power track, but this has been a surprising area of inconsistency for both Mercedes and Ferrari all throughout the year, with the Honda power impressive in the back of the Red Bull and Toro Rosso cars. This was exemplified when Pierre Gasly out-dragged Lewis Hamilton to the line for a second placed finish in Brazil, so this race could yet be an interesting one.

2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

2020 will likely not include Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, and will definitely not include Williams’ Robert Kubica, and so these two drivers will probably make their F1 farewells this weekend. Although, the return of Esteban Ocon, mixed with Hulkenberg’s impressive consistency, could lead the German to believe that he has a shot at a seat in the future. Kubica’s seat at Williams seat is still up for grabs though.

Following Carlos Sainz’s remarkable podium finish in Brazil – McLaren’s first since Melbourne 2014 – he and Lando Norris, who has excelled in his first season in F1, have sealed fourth in the constructors’ in what has been a superb improvement on the last six years for the British team. 2020 could see them propel themselves even further in the right direction, but they are still a way off third best team Red Bull at the moment.

The real battle is for fifth in the Constructors’ between Renault, who currently occupy the spot, and Toro Rosso, who are just eight points behind. The midfield battle has been extraordinary this year, and Racing Point and Alfa Romeo are still mathematically in with a shot, but they are extreme outsiders. Haas are set to stay ninth in what has been an abysmal year for Grosjean and team-mate Kevin Magnussen, who managed to get both cars into Q3 in Brazil, only to fail to score points in the race.

All eyes are on the midfield then, but there are plenty of other places to look around the beautiful setting at the Yas Marina Circuit as Formula One heads into the final race of the decade.

(Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

And at the end of what has been a tumultuous year, let’s not forget those we have lost.

Charlie Whiting passed in his sleep just before the Australian Grand Prix at the start of the year. The race director was one of the most influential pioneers in F1’s pursuit of safety. He was forever on the side of the drivers and the fans, had a human side that simply could not be matched, and he had an infectious smile that warmed the heart. What he did for Formula One is the reason we are able to watch races in the way that we do today. He will be missed.

We also said goodbye to Niki Lauda. The Austrian was a three-time world champion who drove for both Ferrari and McLaren, and even continued to achieve great success after his horrific accident at the Nurburgring in 1976. In his later years, he worked as non-executive chairman of Mercedes, but he was so much more. He played a part in race weekends, strategies and was a phenomenal mentor to their drivers. Lewis Hamilton was so affected by his passing that he was excused media obligations before the Monaco Grand Prix, demonstrating the effect that Lauda had on the entire paddock, both on a racing level and on a personal level.

And finally, we lost promising French star Anthoine Hubert, whose crash at Spa in the summer claimed his life and left Juan Manuel Correa in hospital. Correa is now recovering at home. Hubert was a ray of sunshine in the F2 paddock, and had the racing prowess to match. His death rocked motorsport, and a minute’s silence was respectfully held on race day in both F1 and F3 on the Sunday – F2 chose not to race that day. He was a brightly shining star taken from us far too soon.

Though we will move on from 2019, we, as a motorsport family, will never forget them.

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

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