2021 Abu Dhabi Thoughts
THE BIG PICTURE: No matter who ultimately won the title, it would have been well deserved. Both Hamilton and Verstappen drove brilliantly (and sometimes not so...) all season, head and shoulders above all their competitors. They both pushed each other to areas they both didn't know existed within themselves. Yet, when it was all over, we have this feeling we just saw a World Cup final decided on penalty kicks in favor of a team which did not control play most of the final game.
EVENT: The Dutch fans even travel all the way to Abu Dhabi. Well, at least they had some wild celebrations.
TRACK: The changes definitely improved the track. Perhaps not as much for passing (though, to be fair, the changes were made with the 2022 rules in mind), but still better. The flow and fun factor definitely were better.
QUALIFYING: Verstappen throws down the first gauntlet of this epic weekend, Hamilton can't find his practice speed, Norris shocks the number two drivers of the top teams, Perez does his supporting role exceptionally well, while Bottas does not.
RACE: So much for Saudi Arabia GP being one of the most talked about races in F1 history. That's already been forgotten after Abu Dhabi unheard of chaos.
START: Hamilton gets the perfect start to grab the lead, then Verstappen gives it all in a massive lunge, only for Hamilton to keep the lead thanks to the Stewards. Meanwhile, Perez does his job, Bottas does not, and Norris inadvertently stays way out of the way.
VERSTAPPEN: We knew it was only a matter of time. We just wondered whether Max's driving style would never allow him to get over the hump.
HAMILTON: Great champions like Lewis are never satisfied no matter how many times they win. He was as sporting as he could be, but skipping all the mandatory press conferences really tells you how he feels. After all his achievements, he still hates losing.
RED BULL: We have nothing against Red Bull ... okay, maybe we do, a lot ... but some of their comments are so hypocritical. Please, just enjoy your victory, defend your position to the Stewards, and move on. You don't need to make side comments.
HONDA: Well, at least this time, they won a championship before bailing on F1.
DENNIS: So Ron, do you wish you handled McLaren's relationship with Honda better? Just saying...
MERCEDES: We think Toto Wolff's head actually exploded. We're serious. Head. Exploded.
LATIFI: Nicholas, welcome to the Timo Glock and Jean-Louis Schlesser club. No matter what you achieve on the track in your racing career, you will forever be immortalized by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
CONSTRUCTORS: It's interesting the top two teams didn't seem to care about the constructors' title, when this is what pays the prize money. They even were willing to sacrifice the "money" title to win the drivers' title, which doesn't pay anything. Which just goes to show, when push comes to shove, everyone cares more about which driver takes the championship, not which manufacturer.
PEREZ: Sergio's exceptional driving to hold up Hamilton may have made the difference in that the lost time was crucial in Hamilton not being able to pit during the virtual safety car without worrying about losing track position.
BOTTAS: Never a factor down the stretch to help out Hamilton. The promise of Valtteri at Williams never really panned out when he got to a top team. He now returns to a back marker where he can impress ... kind of, sort of.
RUSSELL: 'Valtteri, thanks for keeping my seat warm.'
SAINZ: Whoa, where did that podium come from? And it propelled Carlos to fifth place in the final standings.
LECLERC: While Charles dropped to seventh thanks to a 10th place finish.
TSUNODA: A great season opening race. A great season ending race. But in between was highly questionable.
GIOVINAZZI: Despite an impressive debut for Sauber filling in for an injured Pascal Wehrlein in 2017, Antonio never lived up to the esteem Ferrari held him in. So, off to Formula E he goes.
RAIKKONEN: Kimi is a conundrum. His attitude coming from anyone else would have most likely made that person very unlikable. But somehow, Kimi was always able to pull it off to make him the most likable anti-hero in F1.
FIA: What a mess. The real issue here is consistency. And the FIA from the top to the bottom, has lacked it this whole year.
F2: As expected, Australian Oscar Piastri clinched the title in the first sprint race, and then for good measure, won the feature race on Sunday. He became the third driver to win F3 and F2 back-to-back in rookie years (he also won Formula Renault the year before). The other two? Charles Leclerc and George Russell.
WORD OF THE WEEKEND: [speechless]
STAT OF THE WEEKEND: 1 -- After 1,297 laps in the 2021 season, the whole championship came down to the very last lap.
HISTORICAL STAT OF THE WEEKEND: Of course, the events immediately brought up memories of the 2008 Brazilian GP when Timo Glock, still on slicks on a wet track, was unable to hold off Lewis Hamilton in the final turns, allowing Hamilton to gain just enough points to pip Felipe Massa of the championship, when the Ferrari garage was already celebrating. Well, we guess Hamilton now knows the horrid feeling Felipe Massa felt with the sudden emotional swings of winning then losing a championship in one lap.
TWEET OF THE WEEKEND: In the billions (we're not exaggerating...) of tweets sent out over the finish of this race, the one sent out by Danica Patrick -- yes, of all people, Danica -- encapsulated what many of us felt: "Def didn’t seem fair but exciting to watch!"
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: To Michael Masi for immediately shutting down Toto Wolff, "Toto, it's called a motor race. We went car racing."
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND RUNNERUP: Lewis Hamilton never said anything on the radio during the last lap and the aftermath. Except for one sentence which showed his anger when he knew he would not be able to repass Verstappen, "This has been manipulated, man."
SCHEDULE: There was supposed to be 23 races this year, not 22. There's some food for thought... Next year, we will (hopefully) get 23 races. How can we possibly top this year? Well, all new car specs should give us a completely different type of excitement, especially if an unexpected team nails the design.
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