The 2021 Formula season ended in chaos, sparks, and controversy, but it couldn’t have been more fitting.

Photo: Car and Driver

Photo: Car and Driver

This season, those who have tuned in to watch Formula 1 had the honor to witness one of the greatest seasons in Motorsport history. A back and forth 22 race long war that culminated in Abu Dahbi, at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Coming in, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were tied in points, with the latter holding the tiebreaker. In theory, he could of did what Michael Schumacher did in 1994 or what Aryton Senna and Alain Prost did in 1989-1990, which is just wreck your opponent to win the championship. However, after Michael Schumacher tried that again in 1997 against Jacques Villeneuve and failed, he was disqualified from the entire season and wasn’t able to rebound from it until 2000. Since then, the tactic has never been tried since. Both drivers came in looking to prove themselves with Verstappen looking for his 1st and Lewis looking for his record-breaking 8th championship.

Leading up to this race, there were several key moments that led to the battle being as tight as it is now.

The first came in Round 10/22 at Silverstone, England where on lap 1 Verstappen and Hamilton collided, sending Verstappen into the tire barrier and ending his race, while Hamilton went on to win the race and cut the championship deficit from 32 to 8 points. (26 is the max you can gain in a race.) This was seen by many as Hamilton wrecking his biggest title competitor to get an edge, but in actuality Verstappen was trying to block a car that had momentum and Hamilton didn’t lift when he could have, a true “racing incident”.

Besides that and a few other minor incidents, it was total dominance by both drivers.

The 2nd major event came the next race at the Hungaroring in Hungary where Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, collided with both Redbull teammates in Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, which caused the former to be out while Verstappne was out of contention and finished 9th, while Hamilton finished 2nd and was able to take the points lead.

The next race at Spa, Francochamps in Belgium, Verstappen’s home track, we saw a race that didn’t actually happen. Due to excessive rain, only two yellow flag laps were ran and then it was called off, with half the points normally being rewarded to the drivers. No passing was made, which meant because Verstappen got 12.5 points and Hamilton¬† got 7.5 points after starting 1st and 3rd respectively. This was obviously controversial because the race could have been either postponed or cancelled, but instead, they held what was a glorified qualifying session.

In round 14 at Monza, Italy, both drivers crashed again on lap 26, which took both drivers out of the points and was yet another case of very aggressive driving by both drivers.

Besides that and a few other minor incidents, it was total dominance by both drivers. Hamilton was coming off of 3 straight wins and had 8 to this point in the season to go along with 16 podiums (top 3s) in 21 starts, while Max had 9 wins and 17 podiums but was slightly less consistent.

At the final race, 2 started in the front row, with Hamilton getting the advantage at the start. However, Verstappen drove hard heading into turn 9 and they almost collided, causing Hamilton to get off the track but keep the lead. This was the first controversial move as Verstappen didn’t do anything technically against the rules and many thought Hamilton didn’t give back the track position he gained, but no penalty was given. Regardless, the race continued and he was far ahead of the rest of the field.

On lap 25, 2007 F1 Champion Kimi Riakkonen had a brake failure and retired from the race in his final start. On Lap 33, his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi brought out the first caution after a gearbox failure led to him stopping in a bad spot on the track. Hamilton stayed out with his old tires to maintain track position while Max got tires, but Hamilton still had a 18 second advantage with 20 laps left.

With 9 to go, the back-marker driver Nicholas Latifi crashed and brought out another caution. By then, Hamilton was still holding strong with an 11 second advantage, but that was wiped away.

All the drama, incidents, aggression, and speed ended in possibly the best season Formula 1’s ever had, and those who watched were all witnesses to greatness.

Under Caution, Verstappen pitted again while Hamilton stayed out, as there was a good chance it would end under caution and they didn’t want to lose that track position. There were 5 lapped cars between the two and if they restarted, Verstappen would have to get past all of them to potentially win. However, they let the lapped cars get past the pace car, despite them not getting enough time to catch up to the lead pack, which went against the FIA’s rules that said the lapped cars had to either stay where they were at or be given enough time to catch up. Instead, Hamilton and Verstappen now lined up right next to each other with 1 lap to go, and with 40 lap fresher tires, Verstappen was able to pass Hamilton and win the championship – by 2.3 seconds.

This is one of the most controversial endings to a race in sports history, but despite protests by Mercedes, the case was dismissed and Max Verstappen officially won his first title.

All the drama, incidents, aggression, and speed ended in possibly the best season Formula 1’s ever had, and those who watched were all witnesses to greatness.