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Max Verstappen

The key moments that helped Verstappen win his first F1 title

Max Verstappen won his first F1 world title in dramatic circumstances in a controversial finale in Abu Dhabi. But a championship is won over a season, as RacingNews365.com delves into.

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To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

Although the 2021 Formula 1 season ended controversially, we must remember that this year's championship has been won and lost over 22 events.

Max Verstappen has been relentless, placing in the top two at every race he finished, apart from the Hungarian Grand Prix, where he carried a wounded car to ninth. In a year where there has been nothing to separate Mercedes and Red Bull, that's an incredible record.

Verstappen has impressively maximised nearly every race, and he's needed to, in order to topple the mighty combination of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes.

A wonderful, wet start in Imola

A mistake in qualifying for the Emilia Romagna GP saw Verstappen outqualified by a teammate for the first time in more than two years, when Sergio Perez beat him to second place.

However, the rain began to fall in Imola and a standing start gave Verstappen a great opportunity to make up for his average qualifying.

That's exactly what happened as he perfectly launched his Red Bull off the line and found a gap to get alongside Hamilton whilst he momentarily had two wheels in the grass.

This gave Verstappen the inside line going into the first chicane and he aggressively forced his way into the lead with a brave, late-braking overtake.

Track position in Imola is vital so Verstappen was able to absorb the pressure from Hamilton and it was actually the latter who cracked.

Winning without the fastest car

Winning a race when you don't have the fastest car is a rarity in F1, but that's what Verstappen arguably did at the French GP.

He managed to undercut Hamilton in the first round of pit-stops thanks to a superb outlap, however both Mercedes drivers were pushing him very hard.

There was no way Verstappen could maintain such a high pace without severe tyre degradation, so Red Bull opted to pit him for a second time.

It was a small surprise and it gave Verstappen a huge task to close a gap of 20 seconds on a track where overtaking isn't easy.

Teammate Perez moved over for Verstappen, but there were still two Mercedes drivers to pass.

Valtteri Bottas held Verstappen at bay, but not for long as a small mistake into the chicane down the back straight gifted the Red Bull driver a chance to make the move.

With just Hamilton to go, Verstappen was closing and it was a highly intense fight between the sport's two best drivers.

At one point, Hamilton had Verstappen covered, but the Dutchman caught his rival with one-and-a-half laps to go and went for it at the chicane. The pursuit was complete and Red Bull's bold two-stop strategy was the only way Verstappen could win at Paul Ricard.

An underrated pole position

The 2021 Belgian GP will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons as just one official lap was completed behind the Safety Car due to the weather conditions.

It gave Verstappen 12.5 points, but we can't forget how he put his car on pole position, which also handed him the victory.

McLaren driver Lando Norris had a massive crash in Q2 so a delay only heightened the tension for the final part of qualifying.

A classic Q3 climax saw everything come down to the final lap and Verstappen hooked up a beautiful lap to beat the Williams of George Russell.

Verstappen qualified 2.3 seconds clear of teammate Perez and any pole position lap in the wet at Spa-Francorchamps is special.

Predicting the rain in Russia

A fourth power unit change felt inevitable for Verstappen following his big shunt at Silverstone, and it came at the Russian GP.

Starting from the back, Verstappen made his way through the field quickly in the opening half of the race, only for his charge to come to a halt when he reached sixth place.

It looked like Verstappen was going to settle for a position just outside of the top five, but a late rain shower turned the race on its head.

Verstappen was one of the first drivers to switch from dry tyres to the Intermediates, and it paid off as he found himself running in second when his rivals pitted later or struggled in the rain.

Red Bull's strategy was excellent throughout 2021, and they got it spot on in Sochi, which gave Verstappen his most important non-victory of the year.

Last of the late brakers

A poor qualifying saw Red Bull on the second row of the grid in Mexico with Verstappen and Perez, whilst Mercedes locked out the front row.

Similarly to Imola, Verstappen turned things around in the opening seconds of the race. He had a great launch and managed to get alongside Bottas on the racing line to make it three-wide, with Hamilton on the right, on the long run down to Turn 1.

Verstappen braked incredibly late, not locking up on his cold tyres and slowing the car down to stay on the road and take the lead.

Maybe Verstappen would have won the race anyway, had he not taken the lead, but he made his life relatively easy with a dominant drive to another victory at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

A huge win in the USA

Amongst the drama and thrilling moments F1 has produced in 2021, there is nothing like a pure motorsport race and that's exactly what we got at the Circuit of the Americas.

Verstappen and Hamilton started next to each other on the front row and it was the seven-time World Champion who jumped ahead.

F1 fans love to reminisce about Grands Prix such as Japan 2000, when Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen went head-to-head, and this year's US GP had a similar feel to that special Sunday at Suzuka.

Verstappen pitted early to take the lead, leaving himself with a long stint to the chequered flag following the second round of pit-stops. Meanwhile, Hamilton had fresher rubber with a gap to close.

Both drivers were flat out all race, as much as you can be in modern F1, leaving nothing on the table in a bid to get the most out of the tyres and to win the race.

Ultimately, Verstappen came out on top in another 50/50 race. Red Bull had the perfect strategy and it required some brilliant driving from Verstappen to execute a crucial victory.

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