If we thought that the F1 season didn't have any more drama to give us, we were wrong. It saved the best until last, as the championship fight between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton not only went down to the last race of the season, but down to the last lap.
In an incredible conclusion, Verstappen clinched his maiden title with a stunning overtake on his rival right at the death.
Verstappen wins championship with incredible last lap pass on Hamilton
The title battle between Max Verstappen of Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes has been too close to call all season, with the pendulum swinging between the two throughout the year.
The scenario going into the final race of the season was almost unprecedented, with Verstappen and Hamilton tied on points entering the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - only the second time in the sport's history that that has happened.
On the opening lap of the race, the two almost came to blows. Hamilton made an outstanding start and took the lead at the first corner. Verstappen tried to retake the lead and ultimately forced Hamilton off the track. Hamilton kept the lead, but the Red Bull team were not happy, as they claimed he gained an unfair advantage by going off track.
Red Bull are not happy with this move from Lewis Hamilton at the start of the title decider 👀pic.twitter.com/tQXnGzzGEA
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) December 12, 2021
As the race progressed, Hamilton had the pace to pull ahead and stayed ahead through the first round of pitstops. Verstappen's teammate Checo Perez did a fantastic job of holding the Mercedes up, but the Red Bulls didn't appear to have the pace to keep up with Hamilton.
When the Williams of Nicolas Latifi crashed with only five laps to go, everything changed. The safety car was deployed and gave Verstappen the opportunity to pit again for faster tyres and close up to the back of Hamilton.
By the time the safety car came in, there was only one racing lap left for the Dutchman in the Red Bull to get past the Mercedes. He made every inch count with a championship-winning overtake right at the death.
MAX VERSTAPPEN SNATCHES THE WIN ON THE LAST LAP!! 😰
A FIRST WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FOR THE RED BULL DRIVER 🏆
📺 Sky Sports F1
#️⃣ #SkyF1 | #F1 | #AbuDhabiGP pic.twitter.com/XyGs0ENZA6
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) December 12, 2021
We were expecting fireworks in Abu Dhabi, but the championship going right down to the last lap of the last race of the season was a fitting conclusion for what was an outstanding title battle all-season long between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
There was a poignancy to it also, as Hamilton's first championship win in 2008 also came with a last lap pass.
Max Verstappen is the 2021 Formula 1 world champion - and now we have to wait over three months for the next race. We might fill the time by watching that last lap over and over again until March.