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Formula 1: Verstappen pips Hamilton, wins world championship after last-lap drama in Abu Dhabi (Ld)

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Abu Dhabi, Dec 12 (IANS) Max Verstappen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Formula One world championship title for Red Bull after passing the Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on the last lap in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. He became the first Dutch driver to win the Drivers’ Championship, ending Hamilton’s dominant streak of seven consecutive titles.

Lewis Hamilton finished second as the race ended in a nail-biting one-lap sprint, which saw Valtteri Bottas finish sixth and Sergio Perez retired from the final race.

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The Mercedes, however, clinched a record eighth consecutive constructors’ championship.

“Oh my God!” Verstappen screamed over his radio. “You are the world champion! The world champion!” screamed back Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

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“Let’s do this for another 10 or 15 years!” Verstappen replied.

Hamilton jumped ahead Verstappen at the start, while the Dutchman came back in Turn 6, nudging him wide and over the run-off, but the Mercedes driver continued in the lead. Stewards decided not to investigate.

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The pit window opened when Verstappen came in on Lap 13, Hamilton a lap later, leaving Sergio Perez in the lead with the mission to hold off Hamilton.

Perez did exactly that, on Laps 20 to 21 — being dubbed a “legend” by his team-mate as he let him past to continue the chase, before pitting on Lap 22. The podium looked certain until he retired on Lap 56 under a Safety Car, which was brought out for a Nicholas Latifi crash.

Hamilton was cruising past Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles on Sunday in a race he controlled until Nicholas Latifi crashed with five laps remaining. F1 sent out the safety car for a clean-up and resumed the race with one lap remaining.

Carlos Sainz took the final podium place ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in P4 — while AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly rounded out the top five.

Valtteri Bottas struggled to P6, running as low as eighth, and losing a potential podium spot from fourth to sixth under the final Safety Car.

Alpine took points with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon eighth and ninth respectively, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc rounding out the top 10.

Alfa Romeo suffered a double retirement as Kimi Raikkonen bowed out on Lap 26, teammate Antonio Giovinazzi 10 laps later. Latifi was Williams’ second retiree after George Russell bowed out from his tenure with the team with a loss of drive on Lap 27.

Red Bull won its first F1 title since 2013; Mercedes had won every championship since.

–IANS

–inj/bsk

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