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Lewis Hamilton

On this day: Hamilton’s last win in controversial 2021 Saudi Arabian GP

December 5th marks two years since Lewis Hamilton recorded his last victory in Formula 1, a controversial and crazy Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Verstappen Hamilton crash Saudi
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To news overview © Red Bull Contentpool

The penultimate round of the 2021 Formula 1 season at Saudi Arabia was a prelude to the controversial end in Abu Dhabi.

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton and challenger Max Verstappen were separated by eight points, with the Mercedes driver needing a win with fastest lap to set up a title showdown.

The pair already had a history of clashes throughout the year, notably at the British Grand Prix when they collided at high speed through Copse on Lap 1, while the pair would come together again during the Italian Grand Prix, with Verstappen landing on top of Hamilton - his life being saved by the halo.

During his attempt for pole in Jeddah, Verstappen was clearly on it. The Dutchman strung together 26 perfect corners, but faltered 27th when he locked the inside front-left in the final braking zone, and too greedy on the throttle, slapped the wall, breaking the rear-suspension.

Hamilton claimed pole position while Verstappen third on the grid behind Valtteri Bottas. 10 laps into the race Mick Schumacher became the first retiree with a heavy crash at Turn 22, triggering first a Safety Car and then red flag for barrier repairs.

Mercedes had elected to pit both drivers from the lead under the Safety Car, but Red Bull was dealt a huge slice of luck when the red flags were thrown.

Verstappen had not stopped, and as is allowed under red flag regulations, swapped his tyres without a bona fide pit-stop, maintaining the lead as the field took to the grid for a standing restart.

Verstappen and Hamilton clash in words and deed


On the restart, Hamilton got a better launch and moved into the lead, but Verstappen would not cede the position, and got off the brakes and sent it around the outside, cutting Turns 1 and 2 to maintain the lead as Esteban Ocon squeezed through into second place.

Fears about the closeness of the walls were realised back in the pack as Sergio Perez was tipped into a spin that put him out while Nikita Mazepin, in his final Grand Prix, rammed the back of George Russell, having been unsighted and left with no-where to go. Cue a second red flag.

Under this suspension, race director Michael Masi offered Red Bull the choice of Verstappen dropping to third for the restart with Ocon on ‘pole’ and Hamilton second. Sporting director Jonathan Wheatley agreed, and so Verstappen’s actions were not sent to the stewards.

But on this restart, Verstappen dived up the inside at Turn 1, forcing Hamilton into Ocon, and scampered away, with the Mercedes clearing the Alpine at the start of the next lap. The chase was on.

What followed was a feisty duel for the win. Hamilton tried to pass Verstappen on the 36th lap, who himself shot off the track and again stayed ahead of the Mercedes driver. The stewards demanded that Verstappen voluntarily give the leading position to Hamilton.

Hamilton eventually whittled the gap down and at the start of Lap 36, attempted a move for the lead into Turn 1, but Verstappen again cut the track as he desperately tried to maintain the lead, leading Hamilton to label him “crazy.”

Masi informed Red Bull that Verstappen would need to let Hamilton past for the lead, with the team telling him to do that tactically - i.e in a position to get DRS along the main straight with the detection point on the entry to the last corner.

Later on Lap 36, Verstappen brake-tested Hamilton, with the two colliding, but the only damage was to a front-wing end-fence on the W12, and perhaps sport.

This led to the iconic scenes of Toto Wolff smashing his headphones in the Mercedes garage along with Communications Director Bradley Lord also far from impressed.

Verstappen earned a 10-second penalty for erratic driving, but Hamilton claimed the 103rd win of his career, and with the fastest lap, levelled the championship up at 369.5 points apiece heading to Abu Dhabi.

The text continues after the image.

			© Red Bull Contentpool
	© Red Bull Contentpool

Abu Dhabi showdown

The showdown at sundown at Yas Marina was pre-faced by a warning from Masi that any action from either of the two protagonists to take the other out could lead to a points deduction.

Although they were level on points, Verstappen was ahead on count back with nine wins to eight. It meant if neither scored, he’d be champion - and the decision to award points for the abandoned Belgian Grand Prix would look even more questionable.

As it was, Verstappen qualified on pole, but Hamilton got the better launch and led away, as Veratappen tried a divebomb at Turn 6 to catch Hamilton out.

The Briton was forced to cut the corner, but no action was taken with Red Bull then electing to pit Verstappen early as Hamilton sailed off into the distance.

After his stop next time by, Hamilton emerged behind Perez who quite simply did a job on the seven-time champion, holding him up and allowing Verstappen back into the contest.

After clearing the Red Bull, Hamilton steadily pulled away and looked set to break Michael Schumacher’s tally of seven titles and hold the record for himself.

And then Nicholas Latifi crashed with five laps to go…
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