Max Verstappen prevailed in his final-race shoot-out with Lewis Hamilton to claim the Formula One Drivers' World Championship after a dramatic final lap.
The Red Bull driver looked out of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at various points but, after a safety car came on to deal with a Nicholas Latifi crash, he was given a reprieve.
He changed his tyres during the delay and, after lapped cars were allowed to clear the safety car, he and leader Hamilton had a final-lap race in which the Dutchman prevailed.
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) December 12, 2021
Lewis Hamilton had got off to the perfect start in his quest to claim an unrivalled eighth world championship – beating pole sitter Verstappen off the line.
The pair have gone head-to-head all season and even by the end of the first lap the duo had almost collided once more, Hamilton running wide as Verstappen pushed to retake the lead he had worked so hard to take in Saturday qualifying.
Hamilton would pump in a number of fastest laps with Verstappen complaining on team radio that he was struggling with his rear tyres.
The Dutchman would pit at the end of lap 13, putting on a set of hard tyres and forcing Hamilton to stop on the next lap – following Verstappen onto the same rubber.
If Hamilton thought he was going to have it all his own way he was very much mistaken as Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez stayed out to take the lead of the race.
He then managed to hold up the flying Hamilton, cutting almost seven seconds out of his advantage over Verstappen, who was full of praise for Perez over the radio: “Checo is a legend,” he shouted.
Following Giovinazzi crash into the wall, a virtual safety car was required to clear the stricken Alfa Romeo with Mercedes opting to leave Hamilton out.
Verstappen, instead, came into the pits for a fresh set of tyres knowing he would need to take almost a second a lap out of Hamilton to catch him by the end of the race.
After confusion of how, or if the race would restart, with Mercedes questioning why just five lapped cars were instructed to overtake the safety car, the front-runners were cleared to race to the line with just one lap remaining.
The Briton took his time with the restart, with Verstappen pulling alongside to put him under pressure, but with the Dutch man on fresher tyres, Hamilton was powerless to defend his position to the line.
Verstappen ultimately took the chequered flag, claiming his first Drivers World Championship of his career.