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Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton to F1 world title after late controversy

Dutch driver Max Verstappen secured his first Formula One world championship with victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.

Verstappen became world champion for the first time after a controversial finish to the season-ending which saw him overtake British driver Hamilton on the final lap of a thrilling late Safety Car.

Hamilton appeared to be cruising to an eighth championship after overtaking the polesitting Verstappen at the start but a crash for Nicholas Latifi in the Williams brought out the Safety Car with five laps to go and created all manner of drama to end an incredible season.

Red Bull pitted Verstappen for new soft tyres after a virtual safety car was initially called, while Hamilton stayed out in the lead on his older hard tyres.

While there were initially five lapped cars between them in the queue behind the Safety Car, Race Control instructed those to join the back of the pack on the penultimate tour and that recreated the Hamilton-Verstappen one-two in the queue for a final-lap restart.

Amid protestations from an angry Mercedes pit wall, the race resumed on the 58th and final lap of the race – and gripping season – and Verstappen overtook Hamilton down the inside at Turn Five to take the win and the crown away from his Mercedes rival.

Verstappen becomes the first Dutchman to win the title and the second for Red Bull after Sebastian Vettel.

“It’s unbelievable,” said a disbelieving Verstappen. “Throughout the whole race I kept fighting and to have an opportunity on the last lap, it’s incredible. I’m having cramp. It’s insane.”

Despite the huge disappointment of the stunning late turnaround just as he appeared on the cusp of history, Hamilton sportingly went straight to congratulate Verstappen in parc ferme.

“Firstly congratulations to Max and to his team. I think we did an amazing job this year,” said F1’s outgoing champion. “My team, everyone back at the factory, have worked so hard this whole year, it’s been the most difficult of seasons. I’m so proud of them and I’m so grateful to be a part of the journey with them.

“This last part of the season we gave it absolutely everything and never gave up.”

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