A "detailed analysis" of the controversial ending to last month's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has started, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has confirmed.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth title when he was beaten by Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the final lap of the season-ending grand prix on December 12.

Mercedes were furious with how race rules were applied in a safety-car situation and challenged the result, believing Hamilton was unfairly prevented from winning the race and the championship when Verstappen passed him with only a few corners remaining.

The German constructors launched two challenges that were both rejected by the FIA, with Mercedes giving notice of an intention to appeal. However, the team eventually decide not to proceed down that route following discussions with F1 and the FIA.

On Thursday, the FIA released a statement via Twitter outlining the next steps in their analysis of the situation, saying: "Following the decision of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 15 December 2021, the FIA administration, under the leadership Mohammed Ben Sulayem, has started the detailed analysis of the events of the last Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

"The FIA President launched a consultation with all F1 teams on various issues, including this one.

"On January 19, an item on the agenda of the Sporting Advisory Committee will be dedicated to the use of the Safety Car. The following stage will be a shared discussion with all F1 drivers.

"The outcome of the detailed analysis will be presented to the F1 Commission in February and final decisions will be announced at the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on 18 March."

There has been recent speculation since the end of the season that Hamilton could retire from motor racing, with the 36-year-old and his team left distraught by the outcome, and reports suggest that the Briton is waiting to see the outcome of an inquiry.

Lewis Hamilton is relaxing at the ski slopes and doing "fine" after losing out to Max Verstappen in the battle for the Formula One title, his brother Nicolas has said.

Seven-time champion Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth title when he was beaten in a controversial finish to the second-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 12.

Mercedes were furious with how race rules were applied in a safety-car situation and challenged the result, believing Hamilton was unfairly denied victory in the race and the championship when Dutchman Verstappen passed him on the last lap.

The crushing blow has led to speculation Hamilton could retire from motor racing, with the 36-year-old and his team left distraught by the outcome.

Former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone last week cast doubt on whether Hamilton would return to the sport in 2022, when he is due to partner George Russell for Mercedes.

Since being denied another title, Hamilton has gone quiet on social media and stopped following the select few Instagram accounts that he previously watched.

But Nicolas Hamilton says his superstar brother is merely unwinding with family, saying on livestreaming service Twitch: "Lewis is fine. I think he's just having a bit of a social media break which I don't blame him for.

"Social media can be a very toxic place. But he's cool though. He's fine. Yeah, he's all right. He's watching the kids ski at the moment."

Hamilton also missed out in the F1 team principals' driver of the year vote, coming in second to champion Verstappen.

The result of a poll of team chiefs was revealed on the official F1 website on Monday, with Red Bull star Verstappen top of that particular podium too.

With principals appraising drivers based on the race system, where first place earns 25 points and 10th takes only one, Verstappen scored a total of 213 points, with Hamilton scoring 192 in second place.


Team principals' driver of the year result: 1. Max Verstappen 213, 2. Lewis Hamilton 192, 3. Lando Norris 110, 4. Carlos Sainz 85, 5. Charles Leclerc 70, 6. Fernando Alonso 69, 7. Pierre Gasly 64, 8. George Russell 44, 9. Valtteri Bottas 43, 10. Esteban Ocon 41.

Bernie Ecclestone believes Lewis Hamilton could be poised to retire from Formula One after the heartache of losing the world championship in Abu Dhabi.

Long-time F1 supremo Ecclestone, who left his role as chief executive in January 2017, said he had spoken to Hamilton's father, Anthony, since the British driver was pipped to title glory by Max Verstappen.

Although he gained no direct insight into the seven-time world champion's future plans from that call, Ecclestone told Swiss newspaper Blick he thinks Hamilton may have made his mind up to quit.

"I don't know it, but I don't think he's coming back," Ecclestone said. "His disappointment is too great. And you can somehow understand it. Now it would be the time, with seven world championship titles like Michael Schumacher, to tackle his dream of becoming a fashion entrepreneur."

He said of his telephone call with Hamilton's father: "I immediately felt that he wouldn't answer a question about his son's future. So we only talked about business."

Mercedes superstar Hamilton, who turns 37 in January, was struck by deep disappointment when he was denied a record-breaking eighth F1 title in controversial fashion at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 12.

Verstappen, on new tyres, passed race leader Hamilton on the final lap after the safety car had been deployed when Nicholas Latifi crashed. Hamilton and Verstappen had been tied on points coming into the race, making it a straight shoot-out for the championship.

The decision-making from race director Michael Masi that allowed for one lap of racing in such circumstances came in for criticism, particularly from the Mercedes team, but appeals to race stewards failed to change the result.

Hamilton's Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has since said he hopes the man whose F1 career began in 2007 will not quit the sport after this setback.

The former McLaren star is due to partner George Russell next season, with the campaign scheduled to begin in Bahrain in March.

Hamilton is the only driver to achieve both 100 F1 poles and a century of race wins, and Wolff said he "would very much hope" that his star driver would be back for more in the new year.

Speaking last week, after Mercedes decided against taking an appeal to the courts, Wolff said: "It is going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened. I don't think we will ever get over it. That's not possible – and certainly not as a driver."

Ecclestone suggested Hamilton "could only lose" if he returns to the cockpit in 2022, and the 91-year-old has been impressed by the rise of Verstappen.

"With him, Hamilton has finally found an equal opponent after many years," Ecclestone said.

Nicholas Latifi has revealed the "hate and abuse" sent to him on social media following his crash at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Williams driver Latifi skidded into the barriers late in the final race of the Formula One season on December 12, resulting in the safety car being called onto the track.

Latifi had been tussling with Mick Schumacher for 15th place, but the incident had huge repercussions at the front of the race.

Lewis Hamilton held a healthy lead over Max Verstappen at the time and looked all set to claim a record eighth world title.

Yet with the gap closed after Latifi's crash, the FIA contentiously allowed several lapped cars to overtake the safety car, meaning Hamilton and Verstappen had a one-lap sprint for the championship, with the Red Bull driver, who was on fresher tyres, coming out on top.

It will go down as one of the most memorable, and controversial, moments in F1 history, but Latifi has now confirmed he received abuse, including death threats, for his incidental part.

In a statement published on his official website, Latifi said: "I've purposely been staying away from social media to kind of let things settle down from the events of the last race.

"A lot has been made of the situation that came about after my retirement in Abu Dhabi. I've received thousands of messages to my social media accounts – publicly and via DMs. Most have been supportive, but there's been a lot of hate and abuse, too.

"This isn't some scripted statement, but rather me speaking my mind in the hope that this maybe sparks another conversation about online bullying and the drastic consequences it can have on people. Using social media as a channel to attack somebody with messages of hate, abuse and threats of violence is shocking – and something I am calling out.

"Going back to the race weekend, as soon as the chequered flag dropped, I knew how things were likely to play out on social media. The fact that I felt it would be best if I deleted Instagram and Twitter on my phone for a few days says all we need to know about how cruel the online world can be.

"The ensuing hate, abuse, and threats on social media were not really a surprise to me as it's just the stark reality of the world we live in right now. I'm no stranger to being talked about negatively online, I think every sportsperson who competes on the world stage knows they're under extreme scrutiny and this comes with the territory sometimes.

"But as we've seen time and time again, across all different sports, it only takes one incident at the wrong time to have things completely blown out of proportion and bring out the worst in people who are so-called 'fans' of the sport. What shocked me was the extreme tone of the hate, abuse, and even the death threats I received.

"Thankfully, I'm comfortable enough in my own skin, and I've been in this world long enough that I can do a pretty good job of just letting any negativity wash over me. 

"To all the fans and people that did have my back during this whole situation, I want to say a huge thank you. I've seen and read a lot of your messages and they are much appreciated. It's nice to know I have so many people supporting me."

Mercedes initially appealed against the result of the race, but subsequently withdrew their complaints.

Max Verstappen says he sees no reason why Lewis Hamilton would walk away from Formula One after the Dutchman controversially dethroned him in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton looked destined to win a record eighth F1 title as he dominated the decisive season-ending race at the Yas Marina Circuit last Sunday, having made a great start to pass pole-sitter Verstappen.

There was a dramatic late twist, though, as the safety car was deployed after Nicholas Latifi crashed and Red Bull called Verstappen in for fresh tyres in one final throw of the dice.

Race director Michael Masi then made a contentious call to let the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass the safety car and allow one lap of racing, opening the door for the Dutchman to snatch his maiden title.

Mercedes launched a double protest of the outcome, which was dismissed, and then lodged an intention to appeal against the stewards' decision, before finally accepting Verstappen's triumph on Thursday.

Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff said Hamilton was disillusioned after being "robbed" of victory and the Brit will never get over what happened in Abu Dhabi, stating that there were no guarantees the 36-year-old would be back to try to regain the title next year.

Yet Verstappen would be surprised if Hamilton decides to call time on his incredible career.

He said: "I can understand the first few days after a race like that you're not happy.

"But you should also understand this is racing and these things can happen. He should just look back at what he has achieved already.

"That should give him a lot of comfort, and it should also be that drive to keep on going because he is still trying to challenge for that eighth title and for sure he can do that next year, so I don't see any reason to give up just now."

Verstappen added: "I don't feel sorry [for Hamilton] but I can understand that it can be very painful. But at the end of the day, he also won a championship like that."

Toto Wolff has told of Lewis Hamilton's hurt at the contentious nature of his Formula One title failure but hopes the seven-time world champion will not quit the sport.

Hamilton looked to have done enough to beat Max Verstappen to the championship on Sunday, leading with one lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and the season – remaining.

Despite Verstappen's pole, Hamilton had forged ahead in just the second F1 title race to see the top two level on points heading into the final grand prix of the year.

But race director Michael Masi made a controversial call to let the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass a late safety car and allow one lap of racing.

Verstappen, on fresher tyres, passed Hamilton to secure his first title, becoming the first driver ever to win the championship by passing his direct rival on the final lap of the season.

Mercedes launched a double protest of the result, which was dismissed, and then appealed, before finally accepting Verstappen's triumph on Thursday.

Team principal Wolff confirmed to reporters Hamilton had played a part in those decisions, having seen a contentious finale put a huge dampener on another historic season in which he became the first man to both 100 F1 poles and a century of race wins.

Could that painful final chapter in 2021 put Hamilton off returning in 2022 for another tilt at the outright F1 championship record? For now, he remains tied with Michael Schumacher on seven titles.

"I would very much hope that Lewis continues racing, because he's the greatest driver of all times," Wolff said.

"When you look at it from the point of view of the last four races, he dominated them. On Sunday, there wasn't even a doubt who won the race. And that was worthy of winning the world championship."

He added: "It is going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened on Sunday. I don't think we will ever get over it. That's not possible – and certainly not as a driver."

Despite Mercedes' protests, Wolff said they had not wanted "to win a world championship in the courtroom".

Having initially kept his counsel as the team went through the appeal process, Wolff on Thursday accused Masi of a "freestyle reading of the rules" that "left Lewis like a sitting duck".

The Silver Arrows at least had the consolation of an eighth constructors' championship – all of which have come in the past eight seasons. For 2022, George Russell will replace Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes have withdrawn their appeal against the result of Sunday's contentious Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw Max Verstappen pip Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One drivers' title.

Hamilton had built up a healthy lead over his Red Bull rival in the season finale, with both men having entered the race level on points, until a controversial late safety car period was followed by Verstappen overtaking the Mercedes driver on the final lap.

The German constructors launched two challenges that were both rejected by the FIA, with Mercedes giving notice of an intention to appeal.

However, the team said in a statement they will not proceed down that route following discussions with F1 and governing body the FIA.

Mercedes said: "We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed. Of course, it's part of the game to lose a race, but it's something different when you lose faith in racing.

"Together with Lewis, we have deliberated carefully over how to respond to the events at the Formula 1 season finale. We have always been guided by our love of this sport and we believe that every competition should be won on merit.

"In the race on Sunday many felt, us included, that the way things unfolded was not right. The reason we protested the race result on Sunday was because the safety car regulations were applied in a new way that affected the race result, after Lewis had been in a commanding lead and on course to win the world championship.

"We appealed in the interest of sporting fairness, and we have since been in a constructive dialogue with the FIA and Formula 1 to create clarity for the future, so that all competitors know the rules under which they are racing, and how they will be enforced.

"Thus, we welcome the decision by the FIA to install a commission to thoroughly analyse what happened in Abu Dhabi and to improve the robustness of rules, governance and decision making in Formula 1. We also welcome that they have invited the teams and drivers to take part.

"The Mercedes-AMG Petronas team will actively work with this commission to build a better Formula 1 – for every team and every fan who loves this sport as much as we do. We will hold the FIA accountable for this process and we hereby withdraw our appeal."

Hamilton had built up an 11-second advantage over Verstappen, but the race swung in dramatic circumstances when the Williams of Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers four laps from the end, presenting Verstappen with a chance to pit for fresh tyres.

An opportunity to make the pass presented itself when race director Michael Masi controversially ruled lapped cars could overtake the safety car before it headed back to the garage to leave one final lap of racing between the contenders.

Verstappen made the pass, with Masi later telling Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff: "We went car racing."

Hamilton is thought to have been the key influencer in Mercedes' decision, with the seven-time champion said to have wanted to avoid the destination of the title being decided in the courts.

Mercedes continued their statement with a gracious statement to first-time champion Verstappen, while hailing the continued excellence of Hamilton, who was this week knighted in the United Kingdom.

"To Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing: we would like to express our sincere respect for your achievements this season. You made this Formula 1 Championship title fight truly epic," they added.

"Max, we congratulate you and your entire team. We look forward to taking the fight to you on the track next season.

"And lastly, even though this drivers' championship did not end the way we hoped, we could not be prouder of our team.

"Lewis, you are the greatest racer in the history of Formula 1 and you drove your heart out for every lap of this incredible season. You're a flawless sportsman on and off the track and you delivered a faultless performance.

"As a pure competitor and as a role model for millions around the world, we salute you."

Mercedes have withdrawn their appeal against the result of Sunday's contentious Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw Max Verstappen pip Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One drivers' title.

Hamilton had built up a healthy lead over his Red Bull rival in the season finale, with both men having entered the race level on points, until a controversial late safety car period was followed by Verstappen overtaking the Mercedes driver on the final lap.

The German constructors launched two challenges that were both rejected by the FIA, with Mercedes giving notice of an intention to appeal against the decisions.

However, the team said in a statement they will not proceed down that route following discussions with F1 and governing body the FIA.

The FIA says the fallout from the controversial ending to Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is "tarnishing the image of the Championship" and will subsequently conduct an analysis and clarification exercise.

Max Verstappen was crowned Formula 1 world champion after a stunning final-lap overtake of title rival Lewis Hamilton – the pair were level on points heading into the season-ending GP.

Verstappen had trailed defending F1 champion Hamilton by more than 10 seconds with 10 laps remaining, but was offered an avenue to victory following the lap-53 deployment of the Safety Car after Nicholas Latifi's crash.

The Dutchman overtook Hamilton on the final lap after being permitted to move past five lapped cars between them to sit on his rival's tail with fresher tyres, having pitted before the safety car moved aside. It caused confusion and protestations from Hamilton's team Mercedes. Both official protests were dismissed by stewards.

In a statement issued after a planned meeting of its World Motor Sport Council on Wednesday, the FIA said Verstappen's success was being overshadowed by the "argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship".

It also stated that outgoing FIA president Jean Todt wanted further discussion to provide clarity for teams and drivers before the 2022 season.

"The FIA's primary responsibility at any event is to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the integrity of the sport," read a statement.

"The circumstances surrounding the use of the Safety Car following the incident of driver Nicholas Latifi, and the related communications between the FIA Race Direction team and the Formula 1 teams, have notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans, an argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship and the due celebration of the first Drivers' World Championship title won by Max Verstappen and the eighth consecutive Constructors' World Championship title won by Mercedes.

"Following the presentation of a report regarding the sequence of events that took place following the incident on Lap 53 of the Grand Prix and in a constant drive for improvement, the FIA President proposed to the World Motor Sport Council that a detailed analysis and clarification exercise for the future with all relevant parties will now take place.

"This matter will be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers to draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media, and fans about the current regulations to preserve the competitive nature of our sport while ensuring the safety of the drivers and officials. It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis, but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships.

"Following that presentation and an extensive discussion, the World Council has decided to unanimously support the President’s proposal."

Mercedes have since lodged a notice of an intention to appeal and must notify the FIA by Thursday if they plan to take it on to the International Court of Appeal.

Lewis Hamilton has been knighted three days after he was dethroned as Formula One world champion in the most dramatic fashion.

Hamilton was well on course to win a record eighth F1 title at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday but was overtaken by Max Verstappen on the final lap.

With fresh tyres fitted, Red Bull driver Verstappen went on to snatch his maiden F1 crown, capitalising on race director Michael Masi controversially ruling that lapped cars could overtake the safety car before it headed in to leave one last lap of racing between the contenders.

Hamilton claimed on the team radio that the incredible finale had been "manipulated" and Mercedes lodged two complaints with the stewards, both of which were rejected – prompting the Silver Arrows to lodge a notice of their intention to appeal.

After the heartbreak of seeing his four-year reign as champion come to an end, the Brit was given a new title when he was knighted by the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old F1 legend became Sir Lewis Hamilton, having been named in the New Year Honours list at the end of 2020 after matching Michael Schumacher's record tally of seven world titles.

Hamilton's mother, Carmen Lockhart, watched her son join Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jack Brabham as the only F1 drivers to be knighted.

New Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen has revealed he was graciously congratulated by both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff following Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix triumph.

The Dutchman ripped his first-ever world championship from Hamilton's grasp after overtaking the Briton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi after a controversial late-race safety car period.

Mercedes protested twice about the circumstances around Verstappen's triumph after Hamilton appeared to be coasting to victory with an 11-second lead with 10 laps to go.

Despite that, Red Bull driver Verstappen said that Hamilton and Wolff had been gracious in defeat.

"Toto sent me a text - congratulations on the season and that I deserved to win, that was very nice," Verstappen said.

Verstappen added: "Lewis is a great sportsman in general."

He continued: "Of course it helps if you have already seven titles," Verstappen said. "That comforts him a bit. I think if it was the other way around, it would have been more painful for me because I didn't have one.

"Lewis came up to me and congratulated me. It must have been very tough in that last lap. It also shows the respect we have for each other.

"Of course we had our tough times through the season but we respect what we're doing and we were pushing each other to the limit and it has been very enjoyable racing against him."

Meanwhile, a message aired via car on-board channels has surfaced with Hamilton claiming on radio message "this has been manipulated" with four corners to go when trailing Verstappen on the final lap.

Hamilton made the remark to race engineer Peter Bonnington, angered by Race Control's handling of the safety car restart with only the five lapped cars between the seven-time world champion and Verstappen permitted to be overtaken, allowing the Dutchman a clear run in the final lap.

Ex-Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has accused Mercedes of looking like bad losers in the aftermath of the controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw Lewis Hamilton pipped to the title by Max Verstappen.

An immense battle for the drivers' championship concluded in the most dramatic of circumstances on Sunday with Verstappen passing Hamilton on the final lap after the safety car had been deployed.

With the two neck-and-neck heading into the season finale, it looked as though Hamilton would retain his title having built up a healthy advantage over his rival.

However, there was a late twist when the Williams of Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers four laps from the end, with Verstappen pitting for fresh tyres as the wreckage was cleared in order to try to get a shot at Hamilton.

Such an opportunity presented itself when race director Michael Masi controversially ruled lapped cars could overtake the safety car before it headed in to leave one last lap of racing between the contenders.

It was Verstappen who proved triumphant, with Mercedes left furious with Masi, who told Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff: "We went car racing."

Amid Red Bull's celebrations, Mercedes lodged two complaints, claiming Verstappen had overtaken Hamilton before the safety car had pitted and opposing Masi's decision to allow the lapped cars to pass.

Ruling body the FIA dismissed both challenges, but Mercedes could yet appeal against the second of those.

Ecclestone said Mercedes ought to let the issue rest.

Speaking to Stats Perform, he said: "It's always been the same. The funny thing is the winners laugh and the losers have to make their own arrangements, and that's how it is. 

"It's no good being a bad loser. I'm sorry to say, the problem at the moment is Mercedes look a little bit like that, which is not what they are like and they shouldn't even make it look as if they are bad losers. 

"In the end what happened, if you really want to analyse it properly, you can say the world championship came down to one lap. It was the last lap of the race where two guys were on the track with nobody there. In fact, Lewis was a little bit lucky as he started that lap before Max, but in the mean, they were there racing each other, and Max came out in front. 

"Nobody should really, really complain. I don't know whether people did complain at the beginning where Lewis got a little bit of an advantage when he went past Max not on the track, and Max was actually on the track. I thought there was going to be some sort of a reprimand about that. 

"Nothing happened, which is okay. They should get rid of all the silly regulations in Formula One. 'Don't go over the white line, don't do this and don't do that', and when the lights go off, the guys are racing on their own, and they're racing."

Ecclestone added that he had no issue with the decision made by Masi.

"A couple of times this year I've thought that the race director was a bit stupid with one or two things he did, when he had plenty of time to think," he said.

"But in this case, I would have no complaints at all because he was there with a few seconds to make up his mind what to do and it took four hours of Mercedes' team with a lawyer to decide who was right and who was wrong. 

"It's difficult to say that the race director should take four hours to do the same thing. Even then, they haven't come back with the right decision, according to the stewards, so we'll have to wait and see. 

"You need a race director and you need one person to be in charge, and if the person isn't doing a good job over a period of six months or whatever, then get rid of him.

"But that's not the case in his case. He hasn't done a bad job throughout the year. He's made one or two which look like mistakes, but probably if you closely analyse them they probably wouldn't have been mistakes anyway."

The history books will remember Max Verstappen as the 2021 Formula One champion.

However, anyone lucky enough to take in an astonishing back-and-forth battle with Lewis Hamilton will surely never forget just how close Verstappen was run.

As the fallout from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix continues, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this thrilling title race and its epic finale.

FIGHTING TO THE LAST

With the title decided on December 12 – the final day of the season – this matched the latest ever triumph in a calendar year, 62 years to the day since Jack Brabham secured the championship at the United States GP.

Hamilton's late-season form prevented Verstappen from wrapping up victory prior to that point, instead entering the Abu Dhabi GP tied on 369.5 points.

Only once previously had the top two been level ahead of the final grand prix of a season, when Emerson Fittipaldi got the better of Clay Regazzoni in their 1974 showdown at Watkins Glen.

Fittipaldi, speaking to Stats Perform this week, said he had "never experienced so much pressure in my career" as they engaged in "a duel".

The Brazilian told of how Regazzoni tried to ram him off the track, and the possibility of Verstappen – ahead on races won – doing likewise was discussed ahead of the Abu Dhabi decider, so fine were the margins.

The standings still did not end up quite as tight as the 1984 record, which saw Niki Lauda champion by half a point ahead of Alain Prost, who won the decisive race in Portugal but crucially had his rival finish second.

However, this was the first occasion one contender had passed the other during the final lap of the season to take the title.

VERSTAPPEN EVENTUALLY VICTORIOUS

Although Verstappen was widely considered Hamilton's biggest rival in pre-season, he had never actually led the championship at the start of the year.

That changed at the Monaco Grand Prix, though, and the Dutchman – the first champion from his country, the 15th different nation to triumph – was just about able to finish off the job.

In fact, had Hamilton held on in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen would have maintained the record as the driver to have led the standings for the most raceweeks without having won a title (14). He had taken that rather unwanted honour from Carlos Reutemann after the Saudi Arabian GP but got his name on the trophy seven days later.

A 10th win of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit – to go with his 10th pole – boosted Verstappen's 2021 podium tally to 18, the most by any driver in a single year in F1 history.

Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel had each reached the steps on 17 occasions in one season, while Hamilton has done so in five different campaigns. Of course, with 22 grands prix, this was the longest season ever in F1.

HISTORIC HAMILTON WAITS ON EIGHT

The landmark Hamilton really wanted – an eighth championship to take him clear of Schumacher – evaded him, but this was another historic season for one of the sport's true greats.

While Verstappen might be on top of the world right now, he has a long, long way to go to match Hamilton's extraordinary longevity.

At the Spanish GP in May, Hamilton secured his 100th pole, the first man to that mark. He then completed a century of race wins at the Russian GP in September.

Schumacher (68 poles, 91 wins) is next behind Hamilton in both categories, with Vettel a distant second among active challengers (57 poles, 53 wins).

Hamilton matched a Schumacher achievement in 2021 by winning at least one grand prix in a 15th consecutive season, with that record surely set to fall in 2022.

The 2021 Formula One title race will be spoken about for years to come.

Max Verstappen took the championship after a quite remarkable Abu Dhabi Grand Prix victory on Sunday, sensationally passing Lewis Hamilton on the final lap.

Stats Perform reflects on the key races in a sensational season.

EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX (Apr 18)

A flying Hamilton start hinted at another year of dominance, as he won three of the first four grands prix. He also secured two poles in that run, reaching 100 for his career; at the time of his unprecedented century, the rest of the drivers on the grid had a combined 129 poles.

The first signs of a genuine title tussle came in raceweek two, when Hamilton started from pole but did not win. In the rain at Imola, the Mercedes man crashed just before a red flag for an incident involving current and future team-mates Valtteri Bottas and George Russell.

Although Hamilton recovered to finish second, he reflected on "the first time I've made a mistake in a long time" as Verstappen got off the mark.

AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX (Jun 6)

Verstappen responded to Hamilton's strong form with his own run of four wins in five races, although he also endured frustration in the one grand prix over that stretch that escaped his grasp.

The second real moment of genuine drama in this increasingly exciting battle saw Verstappen's tyre blow out as he was coasting to victory in Baku, even if team-mate Sergio Perez was the man to profit.

Red Bull found further consolation in Hamilton's result: a miserable P15. However, that pointless return was not necessarily a surprise to the defending champion, who had forecast problems after a seventh-placed finish at the previous street race in Monaco.

BRITISH GRAND PRIX (Jul 18)

This back-and-forth came to a head at Silverstone. Verstappen's first career sequence of three victories in a row had opened up a 32-point gap to Hamilton, while Mercedes were on their worst winless run (five races) of the hybrid era, but the first high-profile contact between the two contenders slowed the Dutchman's momentum.

Verstappen won the inaugural sprint race but did not last a lap of the main event, sent into the barriers by Hamilton's attempted overtake at Copse Corner.

While Hamilton went on to triumph and close to within eight points – despite a 10-second penalty – Red Bull team principal Christian Horner fumed at his "dirty driving", which he claimed cost the team £1.8million. Red Bull's appeal for a harsher punishment was rejected.

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX (Aug 29)

P2 in Hungary after Silverstone had given Hamilton a narrow lead heading into the mid-season break, but the resumption at Spa did not go at all as the Silver Arrows superstar would have planned.

Woeful conditions meant a delayed race started behind the safety car before being red-flagged after two laps and then called off, with enough of the grand prix completed to award half points – a decision described by third-placed Hamilton as "all a money scenario".

Verstappen had pipped Russell to pole and so was granted a precious victory in this season of fine margins.

ITALIAN GRAND PRIX (Sep 12)

Verstappen nudged ahead of Hamilton again prior to the Italian GP and protected that position in the race – albeit in unorthodox fashion.

Neither Verstappen nor Hamilton finished the grand prix after the Dutchman caught the kerb when looking to pass his rival and landed on top of the Mercedes, with the halo protecting its driver.

"I am so grateful I am still here," Hamilton said afterwards, with Verstappen handed a grid penalty for the next race. The Red Bull man still extended his advantage thanks to P2 in Monza's sprint race.

RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX (Sep 26) 

Events in Sochi summed up the unpredictable nature of this season, with momentum swinging to and fro throughout the weekend, kickstarted by Red Bull's call to change Verstappen's engine and have him line up at the back of the grid.

Hamilton started in fourth after a pit-lane crash in qualifying but put himself in position to steal victory when poleman Lando Norris span off three laps from the end in yet more treacherous conditions.

That meant a long-awaited 100th F1 triumph for Hamilton – in his 281st race – but secured only a marginal lead over Verstappen, who brilliantly battled back to P2.

SAO PAULO GRAND PRIX (Nov 14)

The tour of the Americas had put Verstappen firmly back in control prior to the final Brazil leg, having held off Hamilton at the last in the United States before easing to victory in Mexico. He looked on course for more joy in Sao Paulo, too.

Hamilton was already set to serve a five-place grid penalty when his qualifying time – the fastest on the grid – was struck off for a DRS infringement, meaning he had to start from 10th even after recovering from 20th to fifth in the sprint race, in which Verstappen claimed P2.

Sensationally, Hamilton roared back to win ahead of Verstappen, who escaped punishment for forcing his rival wide early in the race. These various factors counting against Hamilton "woke up the lion", Toto Wolff later claimed.

SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX (Dec 5)

With no room for error, Hamilton won again in Qatar and then continued his fine form in highly controversial circumstances in Saudi Arabia.

Hamilton started from pole after Verstappen's qualifying crash, but the spectacle was only just beginning; last Sunday saw two red flags and a succession of safety cars that meant Max could not escape Lewis after taking the lead.

Verstappen twice gave the position back to Hamilton's due to infringements, while he was further punished for an additional flashpoint that saw the Dutchman brake, triggering a collision. Hamilton dashed clear to send the title race into its final grand prix all square for only the second time ever.

ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX (Dec 12)

Even with the pair level on points heading into the deciding race, few could have imagined the championship would be settled in such dramatic fashion. Hamilton looked to be coasting to victory in the closing stages.

The Mercedes man had been ahead of pole-sitter Verstappen since passing him on the start, able to preserve that position despite Red Bull's claims of an illegal early move.

It was the Silver Arrows who were furious come the end of the race and the season, however. The race director allowed Verstappen to take on Hamilton at the last, snatching victory on the final lap of the campaign – this tying the latest date in the calendar a title has been settled.

Max Verstappen hailed his battle with Lewis Hamilton throughout the Formula One season for "pushing each other to the limit" after the Red Bull star clinched the title on Sunday.

Verstappen secured a maiden F1 world championship in controversial fashion as he overtook Hamilton on the final lap of a decisive last race of the season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton was moments away from claiming the championship for a record eighth time after building up a healthy lead over Verstappen heading into the closing stages.

However, the British driver's advantage was wiped out on the final straight as Verstappen raced past Hamilton after a safety car was deployed with four laps remaining following Nicholas Latifi's crash.

Mercedes immediately lodged two complaints about the bizarre end to the race at the Yas Marina Circuit, but the stewards rejected the proposals – a decision the German racing team intends to appeal against.

The finale was ultimately an almost fitting way to end a topsy-turvy battle between Hamilton and Verstappen throughout the season, and the Red Bull driver looked back on his season-long contest with the Briton fondly.

"Of course, in general, I think we have really enjoyed it," Verstappen told reporters when asked about the battle between the pair.

"We had our moments, but I think in a championship battle, that's part of it. And now that the season is over, I think we can relax a little bit more about it – but it's been tense. 

"The competition, almost every race we have been pushing each other to the limit, within our cars as well. And I think that is just really nice to see. 

"There have been quite some tough races, just physically also because you were just pushing like hard all the time, there was no lap to rest and throughout the whole weekend – qualifying, race – it was so important to always try and be perfect.

"[That is] very hard in Formula 1 to be perfect because there is always some[thing happening], a little tiny lock-up can make the difference between P1 and P2 and in the championship that we had, that was massive, so the level of focus required was very high."

Pressed for further comment on Hamilton, Verstappen spoke glowingly of his opponent as he also reflected on a momentous first win despite his team failing to win their respective championship.

"I have a lot of respect for Lewis but you know, I'm just very happy that I won in general because it's been a very tough season fighting against Mercedes and Lewis," he added.

 "I don't want to sound arrogant or whatever to say it's a great satisfaction to win against him and I just have a lot of respect for him, as a driver and I know he's an amazing driver in terms of what he has achieved but I'm just very happy that we won it.

"I think even when you talk to the [Red Bull] team, they really wanted me to win this championship, but over the whole season we were not the quickest. 

"So, then it's natural that you can't win the team championship. But we gave it our all you know, we can't be disappointed about anything because we really maximized a lot of our results. 

"Like I said, we gave it our all, and of course in the team championship we came up short but we won the Drivers."

Verstappen had hinted in the past that one world title would be enough to satisfy him for the rest of his career.

Having now achieved the feat, he concluded that any further success will simply be an additional bonus.

"No, of course, I will continue driving but of course, in terms of achievements, I have achieved everything in Formula 1 now so everything that comes next is just a bonus," he continued.

"People always doubt 'ah, you know with impact or whatever'. There was also criticism.

"But I think what, again, these moments teach you is that you have to keep believing in yourself and in your own beliefs, you know, and be a strong person about it, that's always worked very well for me."

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