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How the 2021 F1 title was decided

| 13.12.2021

Race-by-race guide to the 2021 F1 season

Max Verstappen pulled off a last-lap pass on Lewis Hamilton to win his first world championship in astonishing circumstances in Abu Dhabi.

Here we take a look at each round of the championship and how the 2021 F1 title was ultimately decided.


The first round of the 2021 F1 season lived up to its pre-race billing, with Hamilton and Verstappen racing all the way to the chequered flag. On lap 53 of 56, Verstappen appeared to have got his man but the move was illegal, and Verstappen was ordered to give the place back. Hamilton crossed the line just 0.7 seconds clear of his rival to win for a 96th time and draw first blood in the championship.

Hamilton: 25

Verstappen: 18


Verstappen roared past pole-sitter Hamilton on the race down to the opening corner following a brilliant getaway at a rain-hit Emilia Romagna GP. After switching to dry rubber, Hamilton was in hot pursuit of Verstappen but on lap 31 of 63, he slid into the gravel at the left-handed Tosa corner. Hamilton recovered to second, with Verstappen claiming a dominant win.

Hamilton: 44

Verstappen: 43


Hamilton was staring down the barrel of defeat after a sloppy restart dropped him to third. But the British driver pulled off two supreme moves – first on Verstappen and then Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to take his second win of the campaign. Nico Rosberg described Hamilton’s win as “phenomenal”.

Hamilton: 69

Verstappen: 61


Mercedes rolled the strategy dice by calling in Hamilton for a second time with 24 of 66 laps left. Hamilton was faced with 22-second deficit to overturn, but by the start of lap 60, Verstappen was within striking range. Hamilton followed Verstappen at over 200mph along the pit straight before darting to the left and placing his Mercedes around the outside to secure another win and extend his title lead.

Hamilton: 94

Verstappen: 80


Verstappen won from pole position on the streets of Monte Carlo took him to the summit of the Formula One standings for the first time in his career. Hamilton, hampered by a poor Mercedes strategy call, started seventh and finished seventh.

Verstappen: 105

Hamilton: 101


Hamilton failed to take advantage of Verstappen’s horror 200mph tyre blowout on an afternoon where the championship rivals failed to score. A two-lap sprint to the chequered flag ensued after Verstappen’s terrifying crash, but Hamilton accidentally pressed the wrong switch on his steering wheel, causing him to run off the road and drop from second to 15th.

Verstappen: 105

Hamilton: 101


Verstappen passed Hamilton on the penultimate lap to take a pulsating contest. Hamilton should have won after he assumed control of the race when pole-sitter Verstappen ran off at the opening corner. But two strategy mistakes from Mercedes allowed Verstappen to join Hamilton on three wins apiece.

Verstappen: 131

Hamilton: 119


Verstappen led all 71 laps at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring to take the chequered flag 35 seconds clear of Hamilton and claim his second victory in as many weeks.

Verstappen: 156

Hamilton: 138


Verstappen dominated to win his third race in succession. Hamilton should have finished runner-up, but took the chequered flag in fourth after he damaged his car when running wide on the exit of Turn 10.

Verstappen: 182

Hamilton: 150


Lewis Hamilton, Formula One

Hamilton and Verstappen collided on the opening lap at Copse. Verstappen’s afternoon ended in the tyre wall and subsequently hospital where he was treated for concussion. Hamilton was handed a 10-second penalty for the collision but fought his way back through the field before passing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for victory on lap 50 of 52.

Verstappen: 185

Hamilton: 177


Hamilton moved back ahead of Verstappen in the standings after he finished second to Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. Hamilton looked on course to win but Mercedes left him out on wet tyres at the restart following a first-corner collision involving Bottas and Verstappen. Hamilton recovered from 14th to runner-up, while Verstappen, in his wounded Red Bull machine, limped home in 10th.

Hamilton: 195

Verstappen: 187


Verstappen was proclaimed as the winner of the shortest race in the sport’s 71-year history. Hamilton finished third after the after the rain-soaked Spa-Francorchamps race was abandoned following two laps behind the safety car. Half-points were awarded.

Hamilton: 202.5

Verstappen: 199.5


Verstappen’s 70,000-strong orange army created a carnival atmosphere in Zandvoort but under the weight of huge expectation he kept his composure following a fine drive from pole to re-take the championship lead. With overtaking almost impossible on the twisty 2.65-mile circuit, Hamilton started second and finished second.

Verstappen: 224.5

Hamilton: 221.5


Hamilton and Verstappen collided for a second time on lap 26 of 53. Verstappen ran out of room at Monza’s Variante Del Rettifilo, and into Hamilton’s Mercedes – the floor of his Red Bull crushing his rival’s machine. Both men were out of the race but Verstappen got two points for finishing second in the sprint race and took a five-point championship lead. However, the Dutchman was hit with a three-place grid penalty for the next race.

Verstappen: 226.5

Hamilton: 221.5


Verstappen did not bother to set a time in qualifying with his penalty compounded by being moved to the back of the grid due to exceeding his quota of engine units for the season. Hamilton took full advantage despite qualifying in fourth, taking the victory – the 100th of his career – almost a minute clear of Verstappen, who fought valiantly to finish second and limit any damage to his title charge.

Hamilton: 246.5

Verstappen: 244.5


Hamilton set the pace in qualifying at Istanbul Park but was relegated to 11th on the grid having taken his own engine penalties. Mercedes team-mate Bottas took the win ahead of Verstappen as Hamilton was only able to come home fifth, clashing with his team over the radio after a decision to pit seemingly cost him track position.

Verstappen: 262.5

Hamilton: 256.5

United States

Despite Verstappen being on pole in Texas, it was Hamilton who led at the end of the first lap, although the pace of the Red Bull was telling. Another harmful pit call, leaving Hamilton out as Verstappen pitted and lit up the timing screens, meant that by the end the Brit could not find a way past the Red Bull as Verstappen came home to take the chequered flag and extend his title lead.

Verstappen: 287.5

Hamilton: 275.5


Mercedes locked out the front-row in Mexico City but were blown away as Verstappen’s lightning start saw him streak past both Hamilton and pole-sitter Bottas. As Verstappen dashed away, Hamilton admitted over the radio that the Red Bull had the pace and so it proved as his rival secured the win and widened the gap at the top of the standings.

Verstappen: 312.5

Hamilton: 293.5


If Verstappen thought he would canter to the title from that point on, he was sorely mistaken. Hami reignited his bid for a record-breaking eighth world championship after taking a brilliant victory in Sao Paulo, passing Verstappen with 12 laps remaining with both drivers running wide – the stewards taking no action over an incident that would rumble on into the next race.

Verstappen: 332.5

Hamilton: 318.5


Mercedes lost an appeal to a right to review the decision not to punish Verstappen for the incident in Brazil but the team were more successful on the track as Hamilton dominated the first-ever race in Doha, taking pole position and storming to a lights-to-flag victory and closing in on Verstappen further still, the Dutchman achieving damaged limitations by finishing second and setting the fastest lap.

Verstappen: 351.5

Hamilton: 343.5

Saudi Arabian

The inaugural race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit proved to be one of the most memorable in recent times. Two red flags, the top two battling at the front of the field and another collision between the pair which saw both hauled in front of the race stewards. Hamilton would take the win as well as the fastest lap, with Verstappen finishing second despite two time penalties totalling 15 seconds – meaning they were locked level on points going into the season finale.

Verstappen: 369.5

Hamilton: 369.5

Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton appeared to have the 2021 F1 title in the bag after passing Verstappen off the line and then controversially keeping the lead off the track. He had a commanding lead heading into the final few laps but Williams’ Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers and brought out a safety car. Verstappen pitted for soft tyres while Hamilton had to stay out on old hard tyres. Mercedes were furious as some lapped cars were allowed to overtake the safety car, leaving the Dutchman behind Hamilton at the start of the final lap. He got the pass made and held the lead to clinch a maiden world championship.

Verstappen: 395.5

Hamilton: 387.5

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Andrew McDermott