Max Verstappen wins maiden Formula One title after controversial last lap: Mercedes appealstext_fields
This year's Formula One season ended in a barrage of controversy over the crowning of 24-year old Max Verstappen as World Champion in a tight race that went right down to the wire. Verstappen pulled ahead of Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to claim his first World Driver's Championship Title and broke the Mercedes stranglehold on the championship, denying Hamilton his eighth and record-breaking win.
With a safety car brought out in the last laps by the crash of Nicholas Latifi, the 12s advantage that Mercedes had built up was eroded as Max was able to pit for new soft tyres. Rejoining the race with five cars ahead of him, the drivers were initially told that overtaking would not be allowed. However, a late go-ahead was given, allowing Max to overtake and rejoin second at the restart, which then allowed him to push ahead of the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton running on its fast degrading hard tyres.
Hamilton, who had retained the lead the whole race, was left on the back foot as the Red Bull pushed mercilessly ahead, and although he did briefly fight back down the two straights after Turn 5, it was for nought as Verstappen crossed the finishing line to become the first Dutchman to win the championship, and the fourth-youngest driver to win it overall.
As attention was hyperfocused on the two title challengers, it was difficult to spot a notable performance by Carlos Sainz who overcame some troubles with the car in qualifying and managed to clinch third position away from Sergio Perez, who retired at the end of the race. Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri continued their consistent run of performances to finish fourth and fifth.
Perez received widespread acclaim for holding off Hamilton for an entire lap after Hamilton pitted and rejoined second, defending brilliantly against the faster Mercedes which sought to overtake him on Turn 1. His staunch display of driving was enough to allow teammate Max Verstappen to eat away at the gap to the lead.
Verstappen was initially looking at a two stop strategy of soft - hard tyres but the safety car near the end of the race afforded him a cheap pitstop which Mercedes opted to avoid at their own cost.
"It's insane," Verstappen said after the race. "The guys at my team, at Honda, I love them so much. Finally, a bit of luck for me."
He was congratulated by a subdued Hamilton and Hamilton's father Anthony Hamilton in parc ferme. The erstwhile reigning world champion was polite in defeat, appearing resigned. There was one bright spot for Mercedes, as they won their eighth Constructors Championship even as Verstappen and Red Bull began raucous celebrations.
Mercedes followed up with two protests regarding the unlapping of cars and an issue with Max overtaking under the safety car, but both protests were dismissed by the stewards after lengthy deliberation, confirming Verstappen as World Champion. The result is being hotly contested amongst fans with some saying Red Bull was given an unfair advantage.
Kimi Raikonnen was voted Driver of the Day on his final race, which he unfortunately could not finish due to mechanical issues with the car thy forced him to quit halfway through. The Finnish driver was on his 349th race, retiring after an illustrious career that saw him through three eras of F1 racing and battling numerous World Champions like Michael Schumacher, Mika Häkkinen, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Nicknamed 'The Iceman' Raikonnen has won the 2007 World Championship and is one of five drivers to have over 100 podiums.