Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out
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Express Sport readers still rate Lewis Hamilton as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) in Formula One despite him missing out on the 2021 Drivers’ Championship to rival Max Verstappen last Sunday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Briton was beaten on the last lap at the Yas Marina Circuit after owning the lead for much of the season-ending race, the two having gone into the decider in the desert exactly level on points in the standings.
Hamilton had seemed primed to take his eighth world title to surpass Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher and become the single-most successful F1 driver of all time.
Yet Nicholas Latifi’s Williams hitting the wall prompted the contentious downfall of the 36-year-old’s bid with Red Bull’s Verstappen going on to become the first non-Mercedes driver to reign supreme since 2013.
The withdrawal of the safety car late on, and the five lapped cars between race leader Hamilton and Verstappen being told to unlap themselves – unlike the rest of the grid – made the 36-year-old a sitting duck.
Verstappen was on fresh soft tyres compared to Hamilton’s worn hard compounds and that meant he could only fight off his rival for so long, with the Dutchman finding his way past at Turn Five.
Mercedes twice protested the outcome of the race, both of which were thrown out by the stewards, and then eventually ditched an appeal on Thursday, despite the apparent breach of FIA rules from race director Michael Masi.
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It is thought Hamilton, despite Mercedes’ strong legal case, was reluctant to try and win his eighth title in the courtroom rather than on the track.
The team’s statement read: “The reason we protested the race result on Sunday was because the safety car regulations were applied in a new way that affected the race result, after Lewis had been in a commanding lead and on course to win the World Championship.
“We appealed in the interest of sporting fairness, and we have since been in a constructive dialogue with the FIA and Formula One to create clarity for the future, so that all competitors know the rules under which they are racing, and how they will be enforced.”
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The Silver Arrows “welcome” the FIA’s decision to set up a commission to properly look through the events in Abu Dhabi and “to improve the robustness of rules, governance and decision making in Formula One”.
And despite the result, with Hamilton remaining level with Schumacher on seven championships, Express Sport readers are still largely backing the Briton as F1’s greatest ever driver.
Our poll is not yet closed but as of yet, 62 per cent of our readership – as of Saturday morning – think Hamilton is the greatest driver of all time.
Another 14 per cent insist that if Hamilton earns an eighth title before he retires from F1, then he will be regarded as the GOAT above the likes of Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Juan Manuel Fangio.
Despite his success however, 24 per cent still do not think Hamilton is the best ever, despite the 2021 season having seen him hit two centuries.
The seven-time world champion clinched his 100th pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix then later won his 100th race in F1 at the Russian Grand Prix.
He now stands on 103 wins and poles, as well as an unparalleled 182 podiums, but the Mercedes driver was still left pained by the nature of his loss to Verstappen in Abu Dhabi.
As such, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has suggested it is not 100 per cent certain he will return to the grid in 2022 although he is under contract with the Brackley-based champions until 2024.
The new F1 season is scheduled to get underway in Bahrain on March 20 with a 23-race calendar which includes the debut of the Miami Grand Prix. The Australian, Canadian, Japanese and Singapore Grands Prix are scheduled to return after two-year absences.
Agree or disagree with the way the voting’s going? Our poll is still open and you can cast your verdict below.
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