Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2021

Verstappen’s last-lap pass “a wonderful way to win the championship” – Horner

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Christian Horner heaped praise on Max Verstappen, Red Bull’s first world champion for eight years, after the last-lap pass on Lewis Hamilton which won him the championship.

However Verstappen’s victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and therefore the conclusion to the world championship, remains in doubt as rivals Mercedes have lodged two protests over the controversial conclusion to the race.

Horner said Verstappen had been subject to “immense pressure” during the season, “particularly for a young man.”

“He doesn’t show his emotion, but sure, he feels it,” Horner added. He praised “the way he’s handled the scrutiny, the pressure, the media spotlight on him, the whole narrative of ‘he’s a dangerous driver’ and so on.”

He recalled his words to Verstappen ahead of the race, which he started from pole position. “I just said to him this morning, just go out there and enjoy it. Whatever happens will happen. Just drive as you have all year and it’s that driving that’s put us into this position.”

However Verstappen lost the lead at the start and had to fight to regain the initiative from Hamilton.

“He’s had to convert it with that last lap pass on Lewis. So a wonderful way to win this world championship, and we’re incredibly proud of him.”

Horner said Verstappen’s victory was in no way guaranteed, as Hamilton led the majority of the race. “I think Mercedes had a quicker car than us today. We had a bad start, Max made the move in turn six, we felt a bit hard done by the stewards not to have got the place back but thereafter we just didn’t have the pace to go with Lewis.

“And I think that Checo did a wonderful job bringing Max back into play, being a brilliant team mate. At the end, the safety car, we needed something from the racing gods and we got it today.”

Regardless of any luck with the restart, however, Horner emphasised that Verstappen had earned the title. “It’s not just about today, it’s about the whole year,” said Horner. “I think Max has just been sensational all year. He’s driven his heart out and he’s done that again today.”

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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54 comments on “Verstappen’s last-lap pass “a wonderful way to win the championship” – Horner”

  1. Famous last words

    1. Blaize Falconberger (@)
      12th December 2021, 17:46


  2. Blaize Falconberger (@)
    12th December 2021, 17:46

    Hmmm…. while he thinks that, it seems that most people aside from the RB and Max fans think it was a total farce… other teams and drivers included. Nice reset next season anyway.

      1. Blaize Falconberger (@)
        12th December 2021, 17:52

        Nice clip, thanks :-)

    1. A sc is to clean the track as soon as possible and to regain the race.
      It’s not meant to end a race. The track was clean and Masi saw an option to race. That’s why we are following this sport. Not for the politics or other non race related mumbo jumbo.
      Accept the reason behind rules and why they are there.

      1. The rules weren’t applied, that’s the problem.

      2. Yes, the safety car rules are there for… shock… safety. You can’t break them for the show… well, we’ll see if you can or not, but certainly you shouldn’t.

      3. erikje, by that logic why are we even letting cars unlap themselves?

    2. An Farce no but for Lewis really unlucky, but with all the luck he had somethings you get a bad roll on the most uncertain time he wanted. ( i was already thinking flat tyre in the last lap or something like that or a safety car in the last 5 laps..)

  3. Say what you want about the race director, red bull and verstappen did everything right and when you look at the season as a whole he was the more deserving champion, for anyone screaming for Max to be stripped of the title, 1. Its not going to happen and 2. Your issue is with Michael Masi apparently, leave verstappen out of that particular argument

    1. Blaize Falconberger (@)
      12th December 2021, 17:53

      Not seen anyone calling for Max to be stripped.

      1. Except Mercedes 😉

        1. Blaize Falconberger (@)
          12th December 2021, 18:02

          Have they actually said that anywhere? Or are we speculating?

          1. They wanted him to get a 5s penalty for overtaking under the safety car, and they want the last lap discounted. Both of which would strip Max of his title. Someone’s not been paying attention.

        2. Blaize Falconberger (@)
          12th December 2021, 18:31

          They logged a protest that ‘could’ result in a 5s penalty… but that would be up to the stewards. If you can point me to a source where they said that was what they wanted, that would be great.

      2. Except 80% of the mostly toxic reactions.

    2. Yes, I’m a verstappen fan and I have no problem saying hamilton drove better this race, however merc also had the best car the last few races (clearly) and across the season more marginally and hamilton has been far luckier overall across the season, even if you include this, so imo it brought to a fair outcome, pre-protest ofc.

    3. 25 points in Baku
      25 points in silverstone
      16 points in Hungary

      Plus the first lap Hamilton gaining advantage

  4. It wasn’t really wonderful, it was a sitting duck pass, inevitable even. Wonderful would have been both on fresh rubber and getting the move done through pure skill. But alas… This was just luck.

    1. Yes, that is true, would’ve probably been unlikely given how well hamilton defended.

    2. If Ham would win wdc it would be just luck, and with luck I mean Hungary

    3. You’re not seeing the grand picture.
      Why was Max on fresh rubber?
      -> Red Bull took a strategical gamble of pitting Max on every safety car period.
      Why was Lewis on very old rubber?
      -> Mercedes took a strategical gamble of leaving Lewis on old tyres for the benefit of keeping the better track position.
      Red Bull risked it and won. Mercedes went ultra conservative and lost.

      The overtake was wonderful because it was a result of the more risky strategy that helped overcome the pace deficit.
      Mercedes could’ve given Lewis fresh tyres as well, but they didn’t. Even if he had lost track position to Max, with the Mercedes power advantage he would’ve easily take the lead back.

      1. What, I’ve seen exactly that picture and commented on it elsewhere… But it’s still not a wonderful way to win, a gamble on a pit stop under safety car… Wonderful indeed -_-

      2. Red Bulls strategy was to watch what Mercedes do, than do the opposite and hope.
        That’s not brilliant, that’s just the only sensible thing they could could do.
        Hamilton on the other hand (also due to Perez’s great defending) never had the gap to pit and stay ahead of Verstappen, so for them it was the only viable option to stay out.
        In the end it worked out for Red Bull but not because Mercedes did anything wrong.

      3. If Hamilton pitted, Verstappen would have done the opposite by staying out. Later Massi would have finished the race behind safety cars.
        And all of you will be talking about Mercedes strategy blunder now.
        It was a Joke yesterday how F1 operated. It was like WWE.

  5. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    12th December 2021, 17:55

    I don’t like that Masi was basically in a position to chose who won the championship. And implemented an arbitrary fabricated scenario to allow Max to win. I don’t believe this was a fix or favouritism but purely to create drama and make a show of the event. This is wrong, the rules should be black and white and it would appear he has gone against those rules as today he chose Max to win.

    1. And implemented an arbitrary fabricated scenario to allow Max to win

      If Mercedes followed the choices made by Redbull, Lewis would have the same opportunity.
      It’s called racing, the only reason why we look.

      1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        12th December 2021, 18:00

        Not true. If Mercedes had pitted, Max would have stayed out and had track position. Mercedes did not know the race would restart at all, let alone under such false circumstances with only certain lapped cars allowed to unlap and no additional SC lap following the arbitrary unlap. So they had no choice but to stay out.

        1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
          12th December 2021, 18:02

          My point is, how could Mercedes make the right pit call when the protocol was not followed for the restart. If the correct interpretation of the rules was implemented Mercedes did the right thing.

  6. I wonder how much he paid to Michael Masi for such a blatant cheating act with Safety car. Several drivers already are confused why they were not allowed to pass at the final laps (Stroll, Vettel, Norris).

    1. yes, Masi is a disgrace making up rules to benefit one driver over another,
      100% guarantee you that the race would finish under sc if Lewis pitted and max did not handing him the WDC . Feels like merc was screwed either way,
      its a complete farce and i hope merc overturn this tainted result.

  7. I must admit Lewis showed true dignity today. It’s not the first time he must accept the loss. 2007 and 2016 were quite painful. It’s Toto who really surprised me.

  8. I for one am very pleased that the season ended in a suitable fashion. Who wants to see it end under a safety car? In the end Mercedes messed up their strategy, no sympathy for them. Safety cars are part and parcel of the sport. I just hope the FIA stick with the results and don’t bow to Wolff’s inevitable bullying. Yes, it was lucky for Red Bull, but also… Mercedes and Hamilton have had a lot of luck with well-timed safety cars and red flags in the past, so I don’t mind. As a neutral who doesn’t support either (or any) driver, I thought it was a superb way to end a superb season.

    1. The issue is they didn’t mess anything up. They were told lapped cars wouldn’t be allowed to unlap, so decided not to pit based on the fact there’d be several cars between them with only one lap remaining. That was randomly and unfairly overturned.

      1. This is all before the decision to overlook the rules to have a last lap mugging mind you..

      2. The decision not to pit was well before that. Mercedes didn’t know how long it was going to take to clear Latifi’s car; it could have been much quicker and they’d have been in big trouble then as well. Wolff is good at always portraying his team as the victim but they were in trouble by their own mistakes. One could even argue they were lucky the safety car lasted as long as it did…

        1. They couldn’t pit for the following reasons: Had they pitted immediately, Verstappen would have stayed out on relatively new mediums and would have inherited the lead. At that point nobody knew if the race would be red flagged finished behind the safety car.
          Also it’s not a given that Hamilton would be able to pass Verstappen quickly and cleanly without DRS. So way to much risk to pit Hamilton while Red Bull had nothing to lose and could afford to gamble.
          What created the perfect storm for Mercedes was that Hamilton caught the safety car immediately. So he couldn’t go round for an other lap and pit than because the other cars have already closed up.
          That was bad luck, but that’s racing.

          1. Merc mistake was not to pit before with vsc

  9. Easy to say it’s wonderful when the result goes your way. If he looked at it with a fully unbiased view then it’s actually dreadful. A sport which literally doesn’t follow its own rules leads to one driver winning a championship. Sport is all about fairness all and most introduce rules to help. Football has VAR, tennis challenges and Hawkeye etc. In F1 we literally have opinion and rules made up on the spot.

    I’m genuinely gutted by the result. Not because of the winner but more the situation. I’d prefer Hamilton to have won, but would openly accept Max as a genuine champion after his year of arguably stronger driving. The problem is now even it it’s overturned Hamilton doesn’t get any of that live celebrating. No fans get to see the champion crowned live and of course Max goes from highs to extreme lows and fans who celebrated live are left confused and feeling robbed.

    It’s like an Olympian being excluded years after the event, a somewhat “so what” attitude if felt by both sets of fans. Real fans don’t understand it. New fans don’t understand it. And diehard “twitter warrior” fans are worse than ever. Sadly there’s no winners from this one. Masi needs to go.

    This is literally the worst possible outcome for everyone.

  10. Says a lot about the kind of man Horner is if he thinks this is wonderful (for anyone involved).

    Kind of neutral between the drivers but in the other battle we were watching ‘sport’ lost the fight with ‘entertainment’ today.

    1. +1 here we see if F1 is a sport or entertainment. Wonder if sky will include it in their entertainment package next year. It’d save all up fans some money.

  11. That pass would’ve been more wonderful if it happened on merit rather than through FIA assistance.

    1. @jerejj The pass itself was on merit entirely. Safety cars are part of F1; if the lapped cars had stopped Verstappen challenging Hamilton that would have been equally unfair. Also, the pass wasn’t a given. Sainz managed to hold off two soft-shod Alfa Tauris on old hards, and Perez kept Hamilton behind for over a lap earlier on when Hamilton had a massive tyre advantage.

  12. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    12th December 2021, 18:45

    Cheating!!! Verstappen the worst driver of all time!

  13. Regardless – we all know who was the fastest driver today… I’m at peace.

    1. @theswift Likewise we know who the better driver over the course of the season was, and he won the championship.

      1. Max is faster and more talented driver FULL STOP.

        1. Lewis is faster and more talented driver FULL STOP

      2. In your dreams. Hamilton was the better driver. Smashing trashtappen the last 4 races only for FIABULL to stop him. Gifted cheated Champion

  14. Whatever you think about him as a person or the way the situation was managed today, Max managed the pressure like a true champion this season!

  15. This is why Horner is a hypocrite. Had this happened to Max, he got cheated like this, Horner would be the loudest and saying the meanest things to the FIA and race director. Just a race or two ago he labelled a Marshall as Rogue for a much smaller incident.

  16. Horner made a big play about how this race shouldn’t be treated any differently to any other race this season. Any other race this season would have finished behind the safety car – there wasn’t enough time to let the lapped cars through after the track was cleared and there be a racing lap.

    It was treated differently to manufacture a racing lap and an unfair result.

    I also thought his comment about Niki Lauda and letting them race was totally classless.

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