Lewis Hamilton has been denied an eighth World Championship after being overtaken by rival Max Verstappen on the final lap of a thrilling and controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The British driver led the entire race and was in total control after overtaking the Red Bull driver at the first corner of the race, but a controversial safety car gave the Dutchman the opportunity to snatch the title away.
Hamilton appeared to be cruising to an eighth championship, but Williams driver Nicholas Latifi crashed into the wall duelling with Haas’ Mick Schumacher with just five laps remaining.
A virtual safety car was initially called and Verstappen and Red Bull used the opportunity to pit and fit fresh soft tyres, while Hamilton had no choice but to keep track position and stay out on his wearing hard tyres.
However, a full safety car was called by Race Control, bunching up the field and all but wiping out Hamilton’s lead.
Lewis Hamilton (;eft) congratulates Max Verstappen (right) following a thrilling final race of the season
The Dutchman pipped Hamilton to his first World Championship on the final lap of the race in Abu Dhabi
Second placed and championship runner up Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks dejected in parc ferme
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates winning the race and the world championship with the Netherlands flag on the podium
The drama-filled race began with the two title rivals nearly colliding on the very first lap of the race
In controversial circumstances, the safety car left the track with just a single lap remaining, leading to Hamilton and Verstappen fighting for the title over the just one trip round the circuit.
The Dutchman overtook Hamilton at turn five and, despite the Brit’s best efforts, held on to win his first World Championship.
The drama-filled race began from the very first lap when the title rivals nearly collided.
After Hamilton overtook Verstappen on the first corner, the Red Bull driver dived up the inside at Turn Seven and the cars seemed to be level as they touched, with Hamilton forced off track and wide up the escape route, easily retaking the lead.
And when stewards did not tell Hamilton to return the advantage he gained and ruled there was no investigation necessary, the Dutchman and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reacted angrily.
FIA Formula One World Champion Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium of the Yas Marina Circuit
Max Verstappen and Red Bull reacted angrily after his first-lap collision with Lewis Hamilton
Verstappen (right) dived up the inside of Hamilton (right) at Turn Seven, the cars touched, and the Brit was forced off track, running wide up the escape route and easily retaking the lead
Verstappen said on team radio: ‘That is incredible. What are they doing here?’
Horner then added on Sky Sports: ‘We are a little bit shocked at that because apparently Lewis gave his advantage back, which we have failed to see yet… It’s a total lack of consistency. We are focused on the race and still a long way to go.’
F1 Race Director Michael Masi, explaining the decision to Red Bull, insisted Hamilton did enough to show he didn’t gain an advantage.
Defending world champion Hamilton overtook Verstappen, on pole, before the first corner
Three former world champions gave different views on what happened in the controversial incident.
Nico Rosberg said: ‘So difficult. I think it’s OK what they’ve done. Max was a little bit too lungy and too aggressive, forcing Lewis out too strongly, even though he had a right to the corner there. Then Lewis didn’t give back everything he gained.
Damon Hill added: ‘You have to say Lewis had to basically move out the way because otherwise he was going to collide with Max, who made a very uncompromising a late lunge, left no room for Lewis to make any accommodation and had to leave the track.
The two fierce rivals are battling for the world title at the winner-takes-all Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
‘But I have to say I’m surprised they didn’t say give the place back.’
Jenson Button continued: ‘It was a very late lunge but it was always going to happen, Lewis knew he was coming. He pushed Lewis off the track – I guess – but he stayed on the track.
‘I’m struggling to understand the regulations right now because obviously in Brazil there was no penalty, but they both drove off the circuit. Max stayed on the track this time.’