Currently reading: F1 2021: Max Verstappen claims title in dramatic finale
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 Sir Lewis Hamilton had entered the race tied on points. Verstappen qualified on pole position but he was beaten to the first turn by the Mercedes-AMG man.

Verstappen tried to regain the lead with a forceful move on the first lap, but Hamilton ran off the circuit and held position. 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 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 added: "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 24-year-old'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.

However, Mercedes has protested the result of the race.

James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
CarNut170 13 December 2021

An FIA stitch-up bringing an F1 Season to a boring end?! - Go figure.... F1 continues to match form, as the laughing stock of the motor racing world. (and that world contains Nascar!)

xxxx 13 December 2021

@Peter, all he had to do was follow the existing rules, not make them up as he went along. Remember he's a full time professional.

Peter Cavellini 13 December 2021

@xxxx, And if the result had been the other way?, what made, or who made the FIA changed their ruling?, was there pressure from being harangued by Toto and Christian?, or, the all season long COVID restricted stresses of ?, it can't be easy, we all critique on here, armchair experts the lot of us, the last few races had been crazy to say the least, Verstappen youthful approach to F1 driving and how to win are just that youthful, maybe as matures ( he's only 24) gets a few more seasons under his belt his driving style will just like Lewis when he started , Lewis has been driving (?) so has been there done that, knows when and when not to push, it's called experience,well,maybe Max will to, what's ruining F1 just now?, will it's not the racing, and it's not all the FIA' s fault either, I think how media report it can be insightful, I've never met a celebrity, so I can't go on a media/ journalists opinion of what the celebrity is actually like, a lot of us take it as verbatim what they write/ report, roll on 2022!