Max Verstappen has won his first Formula One world title after winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, edging out championship rival Lewis Hamilton in a dramatic and controversial final-lap shootout.
Hamilton was able to keep his fierce rival at arm’s length after overtaking him on the first lap, before the safety car came out after Nicholas Latifi crashed out with six laps to go. That left Verstappen right behind him when the race restarted, and the Red Bull man took his chance to win in extraordinary fashion, overtaking on the final lap.
The defending champion had made the perfect start as he beat Verstappen off the line and led into the first corner. The pair almost collided at turn seven on the first lap, with Hamilton running wide to stay in front as Verstappen pushed to regain the lead.
The race stewards did not take any further action over the incident, a decision which left Verstappen and Red Bull outraged. The Dutchman struggled to keep pace on soft tyres and pitted at the end of lap 13, switching to hard tyres and forcing Hamilton to stop on the next lap.
Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Pérez, found himself in the race lead and worked hard to stop Hamilton retaking it allowing Verstappen to close the gap again with 20 laps gone. Hamilton quickly built a comfortable lead but the introduction of a virtual safety car on lap 38 allowed his rival to pit quickly again and briefly raise hopes of a fightback.
Those hopes looked dashed until Latifi’s crash and a dramatic, unexpected finale. A shell-shocked Hamilton came home second, with Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) in third after Pérez retired late in the race.