Opinion: What happened in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the right call


Credit: Courtesy of Flickr user Dave Wong

WSPN’s Deirdre Brown breaks down the situation between two popular Formula One drivers and sheds light on her opinion of the drama.

Deirdre Brown

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are two of the biggest names in the Formula One race community. In the 2021 F1 season, the two battled it out to the end. They went into the final Grand Prix with practically tied points, leaving the last race to determine the F1 World Champion.

In 2019, Netflix released a new documentary series following a different formula race team each week as they navigated through their Grand Prix races. The show gained loads of attention and allowed people at home to view the real drama behind the drivers and their teams.

This week, Netflix will be releasing the fourth season of “Drive to Survive.” Many have been anticipating this release due to the massive controversy and drama that went on in the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Due to the high speeds F1 cars travel at, when there is a crash, a safety car comes out and slows down the race while clean up crews help clear out the crash. In this case, Nicholas Latifi, racing for Haas, crashed right before the final lap of the Abu Dhabi race. Lewis Hamilton, racing for Mercedes, was in the lead at the time. Not too far behind him was Max Verstappen, racing for Red Bull.

Hamilton is considered one of the best F1 drivers of all time. As a 37-year-old, he has seven world championships. Verstappen had zero world championship titles before this race. Throughout the season, you can gain points from how well you place, and you can also gain points for driving the fastest lap in the race. Hamilton and Verstappen battled for every point possible during the season, and going into the last race, they were virtually tied for points. So, whoever won in Abu Dhabi would become the world champion.

Back to the race. While the safety car was driving, Hamilton was right behind. In between Verstappen and Hamilton were several cars that Hamilton had lapped, and Verstappen was close to lapping. Because these cars were in the way of Verstappen, it first had seemed like Hamilton was going to win it all. Originally the “referees” of F1 had said that the cars would not be allowed to “unlap” themselves, meaning that they couldn’t pass Hamilton or the safety car. Soon thereafter, the referees changed their minds and said that the cars could “unlap” themselves. On the referees part, this was the completely correct call to make. The original call put everyone at a disadvantage, except Hamilton.

Hamilton, along with Mercedes, was furious about this decision. This basically allowed Verstappen to come right up next to Hamilton and only let him be ahead of him by about an inch or so.

In F1, the quality of your tires is key. Verstappen had just gone into the pits to get a new set of tires. Hamilton however didn’t. So when it came to this last lap, Vertsappen had the upper hand. On turn five of the race, he overtook Hamilton and never looked back.

This whole situation was very controversial and confusing, but Verstappen was bound to win either way. In my view, Verstappen is a better driver. Hamilton has always had teammate Valteri Bottas block for him while Hamilton took all of the wins and glory. Bottas was in this race, but he was not purposefully blocking for Hamilton anymore. Bottas believes that he can be and is a better driver than Hamilton. He has also expressed that he is tired of helping out his teammate at his expense.

Going into the race, Verstappen had focused on gaining the fastest lap points as much as possible during the season. He had the upper hand on Hamilton by 395.5 points to 387.5 points. F1 is very cut throat. Considering this, Verstappen could have made the decision to crash Hamilton out of the race. This would leave Hamilton unable to race, and Verstappen would have an automatic win. I completely give Verstappen props for not doing this. It was practically a guarantee that he would win, and Verstappen wanted the chance to prove that he was in fact the better driver.

After the race, Hamilton, along with the rest of the Mercedes F1 team, protested the decision made in the race. Verstappen, however, didn’t let this bother him as he is confident he won the race fairly.

This ending was truly straight from a movie, and I encourage you to watch how it went down on the upcoming season four of “Drive to Survive.” I also encourage you to watch the 2022 live F1 season with the first race starting on March 18 in Bahrain.

Although Hamilton led for almost the entirety of the race, Verstappen’s dramatic ending was proof of his driving skills. Even after catching up to Hamilton, he still had to hold onto the lead. Verstappen has proven he is the better driver, and he will continue to prove his worth in the upcoming 2022 season.