Lewis Hamilton has been snubbed by F1 team bosses after they collaborated to choose their ‘Driver of 2021’. The Brit was pipped to the world title on the final lap of the last race of the season, losing out to Max Verstappen in dramatic and controversial fashion.
Having won consecutive Grands Prix in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Hamilton successfully closed the gap on Verstappen going into Abu Dhabi’s season finale. With the pair level on points, the title looked to be secure as Hamilton enjoyed a healthy lead for the vast majority of the race.
But FIA race director Michael Masi controversially wiped out the Mercedes man’s advantage with one lap remaining, ordering the lapped cars between the title contenders to pass through while behind the safety car.
On fresher tyres, the Dutchman prevailed in a blockbuster one-lap shootout, prompting celebrations in the Red Bull garage and cries that Hamilton had been ‘robbed’. Red Bull themselves judged the closing stages at Yas Marina to be a ‘miracle’, but a contentious ending was not enough to see Hamilton awarded with the Driver of 2021 award.
That fell to Verstappen after all 10 team bosses anonymously submitted thier vote, with points scored in a race format (e.g. 25 for first position). There will be no prizes for guessing who Mercedes and Red Bull bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner voted for, with both men passionately backing their own drivers during a heated title run-in.
In the days following Hamilton’s Abu Dhabi heartbreak, Mercedes labelled him ‘the greatest racer in the history of Formula 1’, while Horner claimed that Verstappen was ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest in 2021.
Having taken the opinions of all ten team bosses into account, Horner was eventually proven correct with the Dutchman winning by a 21-point margin. Some way behind the title-chasing duo is McLaren’s Lando Norris who claimed four podiums this year. The Ferrari duo followed, with Carlos Sainz edging out Charles Leclerc much as he did in the Drivers’ Championship.
There were also places in the top 10 for Pierre Gasly, George Russell, Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon, while 40-year-old Fernando Alonso was voted in sixth. Verstappen himself claimed that the Spaniard deserves to be competing at the front again in the near future, having drawn on Alonso’s advice to fend off Hamilton.
And the admiration is mutual, with Alonso’s pick for Driver of 2021 clear in light of recent comments, even if his view was not taken into consideration by team bosses.
“Mercedes has had the strongest car in recent races and should win in constructors, but Max is driving a step above the rest of the grid,” he said before the Abu Dhabi showdown,” Alonso said recently.
“Even more than the car gives him, and he deserves the title.” Not much has been heard from Hamilton, meanwhile, as retirement rumours continue to circulate while he weighs up whether to fight for revenge in 2022.