As a significant question mark still hangs over the result of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the statistics for the season finale are, officially, provisional.
With the 20th win of his career – putting him level with Mika Hakkinen – Max Verstappen became the 34th world champion in the history of Formula 1, and the first from the Netherlands. His championship win means Stirling Moss once again holds the record for winning the most races – 16 – without ever taking the title.
Verstappen took a vital pole position on Saturday, the 13th of his career, giving him as many as Graham Hill, Jack Brabham, Jacky Ickx, Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya and Mark Webber.
However he was beaten to turn one by Lewis Hamilton, who stayed ahead of him for the rest of the race until that decisive final lap. Verstappen only led one lap of the race – the final tour. The last time this happened was when Jenson Button won the Canadian Grand Prix in 2011, passing Sebastian Vettel on the final lap.
Of the 1,057 world championship races so far, it was only the 13th time a race was won by a driver who only led the final lap. Two of those occasions were also last-lap championship deciders. However in both of those the driver who lost the lead still won the title: Jack Brabham when he was passed by Bruce McLaren at the 1959 United States Grand Prix, and Villeneuve after Hakkinen and David Coulthard overtook him in the 1997 European Grand Prix.
Verstappen therefore became the first driver in F1 history to clinch the title with a last-lap pass for victory in a race he had not led up to that point.
The Red Bull driver also set the fastest lap of the race and now has a total of 16, putting him level with Daniel Ricciardo. It was his third hat-trick of win, pole and fastest lap, coming one week after Hamilton did the same in Jeddah.
Carlos Sainz Jnr registered his sixth podium finish which ensured he ended the year a career-best fifth in the championship, one better than he managed in the last two seasons. He also finished ahead of team mate Charles Leclerc, who dropped two places to seventh behind Sainz and Lando Norris at the final race.
While McLaren slipped one place to fourth in the constructors championship compared to last year, they do have one achievement to celebrate. They were the only team all season to achieve a one-two finish, when Ricciardo led Norris home at Monza.
There was no consolation for Haas at the end of a tough season, however, as they recorded their first ever point-less season.
At the opposite end of the points table Mercedes claimed the constructors championship for the eighth year in a row. But the manner in which Hamilton lost the drivers’ title rankles deeply with them, and it remains to be seen whether they will lodge an appeal which could theoretically force a change to the record, however unlikely that is.
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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
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- Why Mercedes believe they would have won an appeal but still lost the title
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