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How Verstappen joined F1's list of World Champions

Max Verstappen finishing ahead of Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi means that the Dutch driver joins F1's very exclusive roster of World Champions.

Max Verstappen has become Formula 1's latest World Champion, and first new winner of the prestigious Drivers' title since Nico Rosberg in 2016. With Verstappen finishing ahead of Hamilton in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his small points advantage after 22 races this year means that he is crowned Formula 1's 34th World Champion. Strangely, due to Verstappen's meteoric rise from karting into Formula 1 in the space of two years, it's his very first single-seater title, as he only finished third in the 2014 European Formula 3 Championship before stepping up to F1 with Toro Rosso in 2015.

How did Verstappen do it?

Verstappen's fight for the 2021 World Championship hasn't been an easy one, with Hamilton ensuring that the title battle dragged on until the very end. Verstappen has been a model of consistency this year, claiming nine victories before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He won the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix emphatically at the second round, following it up with victories in Monaco, France, Styria and Austria before the summer break. Of course, it wasn't all plain sailing. At Silverstone, Verstappen clashed with Hamilton while squabbling over the lead on the opening lap, and the crash saw him suffer a 51G impact with the barriers at Copse Corner. This resulted in a huge points swing in Hamilton's favour, and the situation was made worse when Hamilton won in Hungary, while Verstappen could only finish ninth after being innocently taken out at the first corner amid carnage caused by Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas. With Verstappen also retiring from the lead in Azerbaijan after a tyre failure five laps from the end, it was his relentless second-place finishes to Hamilton in the other rounds that ensured he only trailed by eight points in the Drivers' Championship at the summer break.

A tougher second half

With Verstappen and Red Bull appearing to be on par, or even slightly quicker than Hamilton and Mercedes, in the first half of the season, the second half was tough going for the Dutch driver. Taking pole for the Belgian Grand Prix, Verstappen had his first bit of fortune as the race never got going due to torrential rain. This gave him the victory, with Hamilton resigned to third, meaning Verstappen was just three points behind Hamilton as they left Belgium due to the awarding of half points. This was followed up by a peerless performance at home in the Netherlands, with Verstappen absorbing race-long pressure from Hamilton to win in front of his adoring fans. Monza was the scene of the title rivals' second clash of the season, although this time, both were eliminated from the race as Verstappen's car bounced on top of Hamilton's in the gravel trap. The next seven races saw Hamilton and Verstappen trading wins and second places - Hamilton won in Russia after Verstappen took an engine-change grid penalty, as well as wins in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, ahead of Verstappen. Verstappen took an unlikely victory in the United States after an aggressive strategy from Red Bull got him track position, following it up with his most dominant win of the year in Mexico, as Red Bull's RB16B proved the much more able car in the thinner air of Mexico City. But after all that, Hamilton and Verstappen went into the final race exactly level on points. With Hamilton appearing to have the edge through practice, it was Verstappen's momentous pole position lap that made the race all to play for. And the rest was history...

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