Webber claims Hamilton had to fight ‘outside force’ in Abu Dhabi, not Verstappen

Max Verstappen snatched his first-ever F1 world championship on the final lap of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in controversial fashion.

Former Formula 1 driver Mark Webber has lamented the manner in which the 2021 championship was decided in December.

Sir Lewis Hamilton had looked set to beat Max Verstappen to the title heading into the closing laps of the race at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but a late crash for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi extracted the Safety Car.

Aware that losing track position so late on may cost the 37-year-old the championship, Mercedes opted to keep the Briton out on track, but Verstappen knew he had nothing to lose by pitting, so he was called in for fresh tyres.

The Red Bull team were then dismayed when race director Michael Masi ruled that no lapped runners would be allowed to pass the Safety Car, but some interesting discussions would then ensue between the Australian and the Milton Keynes squad.

The team’s sporting director, Jonathan Wheatley, told Masi: “Those lapped cars; you don’t need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack. You only need to let them go, and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands,” to which the 44-year-old replied “understood.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner would then also chime in, indicating to race control that only one lap of green flag of green flag racing was necessary.

Former racing river Tiff Needell finds the latter radio chatter the “spookiest part” of the contentious finish, because one lap of green flag racing was exactly what we got.

But this was not before Masi contradicted his earlier ruling by allowing only the five lapped cars between the title protagonists to get their lap back, leaving the rest in position.

Michael Masi could be fired after costing Lewis Hamilton 2021 F1 championship.v1

Verstappen would then pass the seven-time champion on the last lap to claim his maiden crown in controversial fashion.

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Hamilton appeared remarkably gracious following the race given what had just happened to him, but his disappearance from social media for over a month prompted questions as to whether he was considering retirement.

Now, though, it appears he will stay on for 2022 and compete for his eighth title.

Webber fully understands why the Briton and his fans will have been left so upset by the ending.

“He felt he was robbed on the last lap, because he couldn’t fight. He had nothing to fight with, and it wasn’t through his own doing. He was fighting against something that was an outside force,” he told Nine Wide World of Sports.

The Australian emphasises that the Dutchman earned the title just as much as his rival did, but is disenfranchised by the way in which the title was decided.

“For the sport we were all disappointed it ended like that, it’s not how we wanted it to end. Both of them deserved to lift that trophy, but we did not want it to finish like that at all,” he explained,

“Of course in hindsight they would all agree we could have done something different, what happened wasn’t the ideal scenario.”

The FIA are currently conducting an investigation into the contentious events of mid-December which they will conclude on 18 March – two days before the start of the 2022 season in Bahrain