7 biggest ever F1 controversies – and where Hamilton vs Verstappen finale ranks

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The 2021 Formula One season came to a close on Sunday and the controversies from a dramatic finale are still firmly boiling over.

Max Verstappen was the man who somehow prevailed ahead of arch title rival Lewis Hamilton for his maiden world championship in one of the most dramatic F1 finishes in recent times.

Despite leading for the majority of the race and being in a dominant position throughout, Hamilton squandered the lead on the very last lap, after a safety car allowed Verstappen to catch up and subsequently take over him in the dying moments.

The Mercedes team were unsurprisingly left outraged, however they are most definitely not the first to feel hard done by F1 controversy and will not be the last.

From Prost vs Senna to Hamilton vs Verstappen, here is a look at Formula One’s most controversial moments.

7) 1985 – South Africa Grand Prix

As racial segregation continued in South Africa during the 1980’s a number of sports pulled some of the world’s biggest events from the nation, after previously being expelled by the likes of FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.

Pressure then grew on Formula One to cancel the 1985 Johannesburg Grand Prix, however they controversially opposed and went ahead with the event.

As a result, Ligier and Renault boycotted the race whilst Marlboro removed its branding from the McLaren cars in protest.

F1 finally gave in and did not return to South Africa until the apartheid system in 1992, however the sport’s image had already been tarnished.

6) 2006 – Monaco Grand Prix

What do you think is F1's biggest ever controversy? Let us know in the comments section below.

Racing great Michael Schumacher was never short of drama during his remarkable F1 career, and his final year behind the wheel in 2006 was no different.

The seven-time world champion found himself in an intense title battle with Fernando Alonso, and when Schumacher headed to the winding streets of Monaco he attempted to do all he could to get an advantage over his Spanish rival.

After setting a leading time in qualifying the German parked his car at Rascasse leading to a yellow flag, in an attempt to slow down his competitor Alonso.

Schumacher pleaded his innocence but was punished by being put to the back of the grid, whilst Alonso went on to win the race and the 2006 world championship.

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5) 2005 – US Grand Prix

It was tyres causing controversy back at the 2005 US Grand Prix after Michehlin – one of only two tyre suppliers – found their equipment was failing on the track’s high-speed final turn.

The seven teams sporting the failing tyres then requested for a chicane at the final corner, to slow their cars down and make it safe enough to run however the FIA denied the request.

This led to 14 Michelin-wheeled cars being pulled into the pits at the end of the formation lap meaning just six cars competed in the event.

Understandably the American crowd were not happy, as they booed and littered the track with objects thrown from the stands following a shambolic showing in Indianapolis

4) 2007 – Stepneygate

Arguably one of the sport’s biggest off-track controversies came in 2007 after McLaren engineer Mike Coughlan was caught with plans of Ferrari's car, which had been given to him by Nigel Stepney of Ferrari.

McLaren were then handed an eye-watering £75million fine as punishment, as well as being excluded from the 2007 constructors' championship.

The team returned one year later and came back in style, as Lewis Hamilton picked up the first of his seven world titles in 2008.

3) 1997 – European Grand Prix

Where Schumacher went controversy usually followed, and this time he found himself in hot water in Jerez in 1997.

The German was competing against Jacques Villeneuve for the title that year and as the decider came down to the final race, the leading pair – alongside Heinz-Harald Frentzen all remarkably set the exact same qualifying time.

Villeneuve took pole after being the first to complete his lap, however Schumacher was quick out the blocks at lights out and took the lead early on.

This lead would last 48 laps, before the Canadian made his move to overtake the German, who turned his front-right wheel into Villeneuve's car in an attempt to take him out of the race.

This quickly backfired though as Schumacher was the man left stranded out the race, whilst the Canadian clambered to a third place finish and the F1 title. The German was slammed afterwards and was stripped from the 1997 standings.

2) 1989 – Japanese Grand Prix

Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost shared arguably the sport’s greatest ever rivalriy, even as McLaren teammates.

Their fiery relationship spiralled out of control in the penultimate race of the season at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix with both fighting for the drivers’ title.

Prost turned on his teammate in an attempt to wipe both of them out of the race and secure himself the title, however Senna returned to the pits and the track before going onto win the race.

Despite this the Brazilian was controversially disqualified handing the title back to Prost.

The very next year Senna vowed he would take revenge, and that he did as he took out his once teammate – who joined Ferrari – and took the 1990 title back in remarkable fashion.

1) 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Finally we finish with the remarkable scenes played out in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Hamilton and Verstappen headed into the final race of the season locked on 369.5 points each, and after the latter nicked pole in qualifying, the Dutchman looked in pole position.

However, the Englishman was rapid out of the blocks and nipped ahead of Verstappen to take the lead on lap one, and despite briefly changing places with his rival’s teammate Sergio Perez he maintained that spot for the majority of the race. He was on course for a comfortable victory.

That was until lap 52 of 58, after the lowly Nicholas Latifi crashed late on, forcing a safety car onto the track which dramatically cut down Hamilton's lead, allowing Verstappen to now breath down his neck.

The controversy then continued, after FIA director Michael Masi contentiously allowed the lapped cars between the title rivals through, leaving Hamilton and Verstappen within touching distance and in a one-lap shootout for the title.

And thanks to fresh tyres, the 24-year-old was the man who prevailed in the dying moments leaving Mercedes – and F1 fans around the world – jaw dropped.

  • Ferrari
  • Mercedes
  • Formula One
  • Lewis Hamilton
  • Max Verstappen
  • Michael Schumacher

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