KEY POINTS

  • Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the final lap at Yas Marina
  • Verstappen became the first Dutch F1 champion
  • Hamilton was aiming to win a record 8th world title

Fernando Alonso has suggested that Max Verstappen was "lucky" to win the world title at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He says he could not help but feel "sorry" for Lewis Hamilton.

Alonso, who had backed Verstappen to win the F1 drivers' championship ahead of the title-deciding race at Yas Marina, has also stressed that Verstappen's triumph was not underserved.

Coming into the Abu Dhabi race weekend, Verstappen and Hamilton were level on points. Whichever driver finished ahead would take away the F1 2021 title. While the seven-time world champion led the majority of the race until a late safety car was introduced, which allowed Verstappen to overtake the Brit in the last lap to claim his maiden championship.

"Today he was lucky; without the Safety Car Lewis was World Champion and with Safety Car Max is World Champion, so it’s a pure luck thing what happened today. And it's going to be a big topic I guess but if you take the 22 races as I said on Thursday, any of the two could be a World Champion. I think more than any other year if you can split the trophy in two, this was the year to do it because both of them were outstanding," Alonso said in an interview with The Australian, Planet F1 reported.

Alonso, who is a two-time F1 world champion, heaped praise on his former McLaren teammate, saying Hamilton was "driving at another level" in the second part of the championship this year.

"Sure [I feel sorry for Lewis] because Lewis was driving at another level, especially the second part of the championship. The Mercedes was a faster car, yes, but Valtteri [Bottas] was not second, it was Lewis putting that performance. So when you lose the championship because of a Safety Car in the last moment, for sure you feel a little bit sorry," Alonso, who won two back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006, further added.

Hamilton, who was aiming at winning a record eighth world title, had a flying start to the race at Yas Marina on Sunday. Starting on P2, Hamilton overtook the pole-sitter Verstappen at the start, and after controversially using the run-off to cancel Belgian-Dutch driver's attempted re-pass, Hamilton cleared up into a superior pace out front.

Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez drove his heart out to help the Dutchman, costing Hamilton a good amount of time. As Hamilton drove on worn tires, Perez ensured that he had bridged the gap between the title contenders down to just a couple of seconds.

That made all the difference when Nicholas Latifi crashed out in the closing stages, triggering a Safety Car. In what turned out to be a great gamble, Red Bull used the free pit stop and switched Verstappen onto fresh soft tires.

Max Verstappen won an epic season-long battle with reigning champion Lewis Hamilton
Max Verstappen won an epic season-long battle with reigning champion Lewis Hamilton AFP / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC


With Hamilton on old and worn-off tires, Verstappen had a massive advantage when the race resumed for the final lap that saw the latter become the first-ever F1 champion from the Netherlands.

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