Our live blog for the 2021 F1 title decider
The 2021 Formula 1 championship will be decided this Sunday and our Abu Dhabi Grand Prix live blog will bring you all the action from the Yas Marina Circuit. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are level on points going into this race, but the Dutchman has the tiebreaker of most Grand Prix wins and he also has pole position. It should be fascinating and we’ll have the latest updates right here.
This is the start of our live blog for the F1 title decider between Verstappen and Hamilton. Our Abu Dhabi Grand Prix updates that are nearest the top are the most recent ones.
It will take some time to get over that truly amazing finish to the season and that only whets the appetite for 2022 with new regulations and a new world champion. A fully deserved title for Max Verstappen means Lewis Hamilton has finally been dethroned after four seasons of dominance. Next season can’t come soon enough!
The pandemonium in the Red Bull garage won’t stop for some time. We’ve never heard emotion like that from the Dutchman, who has realised his boyhood dream. A note to Lewis Hamilton, who has put up a massive fight all season and misses out on a record-breaking eighth title this year. He sits gutted in his car as Verstappen is mobbed by his team.
I CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT I’VE JUST WITNESSED. Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to win his first world title and the crowd has gone mental. Mercedes are furious but it’s unprecedented elation for Max and Red Bull! What an ending to an insane season.
Race control have let the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen through so it is a one lap shootout for the world title! OH MY WORD IT COULD HAPPEN
A huge break for Hamilton and Mercedes means the lapped cars won’t get to unlap themselves under safety car. This could mean we do get the racing lap but Verstappen won’t be close enough to overtake. A red flag could’ve given us a stunning shootout and Christian Horner and Red Bull are incensed at the decision.
They’re still trying to bunch the pack up as Hamilton complains the safety car isn’t going fast enough. They’ve got to get the lapped cars through yet and we could get one lap in. Perez retires from third which hands Carlos Sainz a podium place! This could hand him fifth in the championship.
Nicholas Latifi has crashed big time in the final sector and the safety car has to be called. Verstappen pits for soft tyres but Hamilton stays out again! If we get a restart then Verstappen could be in an ideal position to attack and take the title. Hamilton isn’t pleased with his team’s decision to leave him out.
The McLaren, now on new medium tyres, is flying and passes Alonso for eighth where he needs to be to usurpe Leclerc for fifth in the drivers’ standings but Sainz could well jump ahead of both of them as he continues in fourth. Verstappen has caught the train now with an extra car to clear following Norris’ stop.
It happened in Qatar, it’s happened again in Abu Dhabi. Lando Norris was on for a top-five finish, but a slow puncture has forced him to pit for a second time. He’s had a rotten run of luck at the end of the season, but could that be an issue for Hamilton too? Mercedes warn him to stay off the curbs where possible.
He’s smartly picked his way past the four-way fight and Hamilton now has some clean air in front of him with just 10 laps to go. Verstappen is not closing in fast enough right now and his title hopes appear to be fading away. Surely only a safety car can bring this back towards Red Bull.
A four-way battle for ninth is what Lewis Hamilton can see ahead of him; Alonso, Ocon, Ricciardo and Leclerc are going at it for the final points and Hamilton needs to be cautious getting through the fight, but he can’t afford to lose too much time with Verstappen closing in, albeit not enough at the moment to worry Mercedes.
A simple DRS move for Pierre Gasly on Fernando Alonso sees AlphaTauri now seventh and eighth, as Bottas is now right on the back of Norris for fifth. The Brit pitted much earlier than the Finn, so a move should come soon enough with Sainz not too far gone in the distance.
Mercedes think Verstappen needs eight tenths a lap to catch Hamilton out front, and he does exactly that on the first flying lap after the VSC was withdrawn. Alonso and Tsunoda were involved in a huge battle through thr third sector which culminated in the Spaniard lungeing under the Japanese racer for the position. He gives it back though having gone off at turn 12 to complete the move.
Perez follows his teammate in as Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly, who hadn’t pitted yet, have lucked out and they gain places as they emerge in eighth and ninth. VSC ends with Verstappen further back, but on fresher tyres in the fight for glory.
Third time lucky for Valtteri Bottas, who finally passes Charles Leclerc into turn six and the Ferrari can’t respond into the next turn. Giovinazzi meanwhile has ground to a halt at the exit of turn nine and ends his F1 career in disappointment and the VSC is out. Leclerc pits in the Ferrari as does Verstappen. Hamilton though stays out! This could be crucial for the battle.
Bottas’ brand new tyres are giving him plenty of performance, but it isn’t quite enough yet. Charles Leclerc has twice been under attack from the Finn, but he has repelled him on every occasion. Every lap halts Bottas’ charge forward, as Norris and Sainz pull away ahead.
That’s one less thing to worry about for Max Verstappen, as Bottas pits from third and opens up a gap on track for him to pit and keep track position. Bottas emerges behind Leclerc, but he has managed to jump Tsunoda in the train. Will his newer tyres allow him to make moves forward?
As George Russell retires in his last race for Williams, Red Bull seem to be seriously considering a second pit stop as Hamilton extends his lead to four seconds. It might be the only chance for Verstappen to beat Hamilton, who is looking very good out in front. Bottas is the only issue for Verstappen here as he wouldn’t quite clear the Mercedes should he box now.
Kimi Raikkonen’s 349th and final F1 race appears to be over. The Finn has front wing damage after a big brake problem into turn six and he brings the Alfa Romeo back to the pits to retire from the race and F1. George Russell has issues of his own as he reports a loss of drive, as he also limps back to the pits.
Tsunoda has now pitted and that has opened the track up to Valtteri Bottas, who can try and lay down some rapid laps on his medium tyres. He has to go long now to ensure he doesn’t fall back into the train he couldn’t make inroads into before. Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly started on hard tyres, so they will be going even longer.
He’s done his job in slowing Hamilton down but he couldn’t do it forever. Perez now pits from third for hard tyres amd comes out in fifth, although Tsunoda and Bottas are yet to stop ahead of him. Kimi Raikkonen has made his last scheduled pit stop in Formula 1 as he runs 18th in his swansong grand prix.
Hamilton has DRS down to turn six, but Perez fights back on the brakes. Hamilton gets a better exit but the Mexican gets DRS back and passes the Mercedes again. Perez is doing his job perfectly right now, as Verstappen is closing right in. Hamilton gets him one lap later and Perez instantly lets his teammate through who has closed the eight-second gap to two in just one lap. Brilliant teamwork from Red Bull.
It took more laps than he would’ve liked, but Verstappen has found a way past Carlos Sainz for third on the road and is now eight seconds behind Hamilton. Norris has pitted from fifth, having reported a potential gear loss issue, but he emerges ahead of Leclerc down in 13th.
As expected, Mercedes are taking no risks of the undercut and bring Hamilton into the pits one lap later. A clean stop sees him comfortably ahead of Sainz, who is being caught by Verstappen. Leclerc and Ocon also pit, as Perez inherits the race lead. Could he disrupt Hamilton’s race enough for Max to come back?
He has been struggling on the soft tyres for some time and now Red Bull bring Verstappen in to pit for hard tyres. He comes out behind Norris and Leclerc nearly wipes him out as he understeers thanks to the dirty air of the Red Bull. Verstappen passes Norris down the straight as Leclerc battles to keep Tsunoda at bay.
These early exchanges have been much calmer than many expected. No one is really threatening to make an overtake up or down the field as everyone has settled into a good rhythm. Bottas has found himself stuck in a train behind Yuki Tsunoda; he has struggled to get through these kind of situations too often this year which could be one reason that George Russell will replace him next year.
Understandably, Red Bull are still not happy with the lack of punishment for Hamilton as Christian Horner calls it a “complete lack of consistency” on Sky Sports F1, and they’ve been talking again to race director Michael Masi asking for clarification. Hamilton leads by 2.3 seconds as Perez holds on to the leading duo in third. Sainz has dropped nearly 10 seconds off the Mexican in fourth.
The stewards have looked at the lap one incident but decide nothing doing, as they believe Hamilton gave back any advantage gained. Red Bull don’t agree as it looked like he had a much bigger gap exiting the chicane. Norris is struggling in the McLaren, battling with Leclerc for fifth on the road as well as in the championship.
We’re racing for the final time in 2021 and Hamilton gets a super start as he takes the lead into turn one! Verstappen then launches up the inside into turn six and Hamilton has to go across the chicane to stay in the lead. Norris loses places to Perez and Sainz as Bottas drops to eighth.
The most anticipated race in decades is moments away, with the cars on their formation lap for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ‘Decider in the Desert’. Hamilton or Verstappen? We’ll find out very soon. Fasten your seatbelts – it’s showtime!
It’s not just Verstappen and Hamilton who have something to race for today. Lando Norris could secure fifth in the drivers’ standings if he can outscore Charles Leclerc by five or more points, and he’s in a great place to do so from third on the grid. Sergio Perez could also play a huge role in the title fight if he can get ahead of Hamilton early on.
The engines are roaring almost as much as the crowd as the pit lane opens and the cars make their way to the grid for the final time in 2021. The big talk is on tyres, with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton starting the race on different compunds (Max on softs, Lewis on mediums). Despite that, though, Pirelli expect the one-stop to be the fastest, no matter the starting tyre with hard tyres the choice at the stop. The altered Yas Marina layout hasn’t affected tyre wear enough for a two-stop to become profitable unless a safety car intervenes.
The front of today’s grid features Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris, but Sergio Perez in fourth will be looking to get a good start and make life difficult for Hamilton. Remember: we only have 19 drivers for today’s race after Haas’ Nikita Mazepin tested positive for COVID-19.
Max Verstappen will begin in pole position for today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after setting a time of 1:22.109 during Q3 yesterday. Here is how his pole-setting lap went.
A lot of focus has been placed on who will win the Formula 1 title, with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton coming into the last race level on points at the top of the standings, but one storyline that has been largely overlooked is the fact that this will be Kimi Raikkonen’s last-ever race in F1.
Haas driver Nikita Mazepin has tested positive for COVID-19 and will therefore miss the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, with the American team opting to not call up a replacement for the Russian driver. Therefore, Mick Schumacher will be their only representative on the track today.
The race of the Abu Dhabi GP weekend gets going at 17:00 local time in the UAE, which is 13:00 GMT for fans in the United Kingdom, who can follow along on Sky Sports. It’ll be ESPN showing the race in the USA, where the start time is 08:00 EST on the east coast. For other start times from around the world, this graphic has the details.
Max Verstappen will start this Sunday’s race from the front of the grid, having benefited from a slipstream provided by Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez to post the fastest lap on Saturday, ahead of second-placed Lewis Hamilton. It’s Lando Norris third, so he’ll have the best seat to the start of the world championship duel.
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