In a dramatic and controversial finish to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates, Max Verstappen stormed past Lewis Hamilton in a winner-take-all final race and one lap of racing to win his first Formula One title.
Max Verstappen became a future Formula One world champion from the moment he joined the Red Bull Junior Team in 2014. That it came in the form of an incredible last lap sprint in Abu Dhabi on Sunday which knocked Lewis Hamilton off his throne makes it even sweeter for the 24-year-old, who is the first Dutchman to hold the crown.
“My goal when I was little was to be a Formula One driver,” said Verstappen after the finish in Abu Dhabi.
“You dream of podiums and victories. But when they tell you that you are world champion, it’s incredible.”
The 36-year-old Hamilton has been a sensational champion with Mercedes but Verstappen’s victory suggests the arrival of a new world order.
His pace and talent has long been evident but it is his calmness under pressure and willingness to go toe to toe with a genuine F1 great, even when things got hairy, that has marked out this season’s rise to the top.
At Silverstone, Verstappen ended up in the crash barriers; at Monza he crash-landed his Red Bull on top of the Mercedes. In Saudi Arabia, Hamilton crunched into the back of the Red Bull after Verstappen braked to let him pass.
Hamilton, the British great who turns 37 in January, has dominated Formula One since his 2007 debut, finishing one point behind Kimi Raikkonen in that year’s title chase and then winning his first of seven drivers’ championships in 2008. He also holds several Formula One records that include career wins and top-three finishes. Verstappen, a 24-year-old Dutch driver, has shown flashes of brilliance, employing an aggressive style that often turns to impatience on the track in a season in which he hoped to win the championship trophy for the first time.