Charles Leclerc has returned from the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with coronavirus, Ferrari have announced.

Leclerc came 10th in the contentious 2021 finale to end a disappointing campaign seventh in the drivers' standings.

Only 19 drivers competed in the race at the Yas Marina Circuit after Nikita Mazepin contracted COVID-19.

And Leclerc has followed in returning a positive test after heading home.

"Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow driver @Charles_Leclerc has tested positive for COVID-19," Ferrari said in a short statement on Twitter.

"In accordance with protocols required by FIA and the team, Charles was tested on his return from Abu Dhabi.

"He is currently feeling fine, with mild symptoms and will self-isolate at home."

Toto Wolff has told of Lewis Hamilton's hurt at the contentious nature of his Formula One title failure but hopes the seven-time world champion will not quit the sport.

Hamilton looked to have done enough to beat Max Verstappen to the championship on Sunday, leading with one lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and the season – remaining.

Despite Verstappen's pole, Hamilton had forged ahead in just the second F1 title race to see the top two level on points heading into the final grand prix of the year.

But race director Michael Masi made a controversial call to let the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen – running first and second but separated by a series of lapped rivals – pass a late safety car and allow one lap of racing.

Verstappen, on fresher tyres, passed Hamilton to secure his first title, becoming the first driver ever to win the championship by passing his direct rival on the final lap of the season.

Mercedes launched a double protest of the result, which was dismissed, and then appealed, before finally accepting Verstappen's triumph on Thursday.

Team principal Wolff confirmed to reporters Hamilton had played a part in those decisions, having seen a contentious finale put a huge dampener on another historic season in which he became the first man to both 100 F1 poles and a century of race wins.

Could that painful final chapter in 2021 put Hamilton off returning in 2022 for another tilt at the outright F1 championship record? For now, he remains tied with Michael Schumacher on seven titles.

"I would very much hope that Lewis continues racing, because he's the greatest driver of all times," Wolff said.

"When you look at it from the point of view of the last four races, he dominated them. On Sunday, there wasn't even a doubt who won the race. And that was worthy of winning the world championship."

He added: "It is going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened on Sunday. I don't think we will ever get over it. That's not possible – and certainly not as a driver."

Despite Mercedes' protests, Wolff said they had not wanted "to win a world championship in the courtroom".

Having initially kept his counsel as the team went through the appeal process, Wolff on Thursday accused Masi of a "freestyle reading of the rules" that "left Lewis like a sitting duck".

The Silver Arrows at least had the consolation of an eighth constructors' championship – all of which have come in the past eight seasons. For 2022, George Russell will replace Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes have withdrawn their appeal against the result of Sunday's contentious Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw Max Verstappen pip Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One drivers' title.

Hamilton had built up a healthy lead over his Red Bull rival in the season finale, with both men having entered the race level on points, until a controversial late safety car period was followed by Verstappen overtaking the Mercedes driver on the final lap.

The German constructors launched two challenges that were both rejected by the FIA, with Mercedes giving notice of an intention to appeal.

However, the team said in a statement they will not proceed down that route following discussions with F1 and governing body the FIA.

Mercedes said: "We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed. Of course, it's part of the game to lose a race, but it's something different when you lose faith in racing.

"Together with Lewis, we have deliberated carefully over how to respond to the events at the Formula 1 season finale. We have always been guided by our love of this sport and we believe that every competition should be won on merit.

"In the race on Sunday many felt, us included, that the way things unfolded was not right. The reason we protested the race result on Sunday was because the safety car regulations were applied in a new way that affected the race result, after Lewis had been in a commanding lead and on course to win the world championship.

"We appealed in the interest of sporting fairness, and we have since been in a constructive dialogue with the FIA and Formula 1 to create clarity for the future, so that all competitors know the rules under which they are racing, and how they will be enforced.

"Thus, we welcome the decision by the FIA to install a commission to thoroughly analyse what happened in Abu Dhabi and to improve the robustness of rules, governance and decision making in Formula 1. We also welcome that they have invited the teams and drivers to take part.

"The Mercedes-AMG Petronas team will actively work with this commission to build a better Formula 1 – for every team and every fan who loves this sport as much as we do. We will hold the FIA accountable for this process and we hereby withdraw our appeal."

Hamilton had built up an 11-second advantage over Verstappen, but the race swung in dramatic circumstances when the Williams of Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers four laps from the end, presenting Verstappen with a chance to pit for fresh tyres.

An opportunity to make the pass presented itself when race director Michael Masi controversially ruled lapped cars could overtake the safety car before it headed back to the garage to leave one final lap of racing between the contenders.

Verstappen made the pass, with Masi later telling Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff: "We went car racing."

Hamilton is thought to have been the key influencer in Mercedes' decision, with the seven-time champion said to have wanted to avoid the destination of the title being decided in the courts.

Mercedes continued their statement with a gracious statement to first-time champion Verstappen, while hailing the continued excellence of Hamilton, who was this week knighted in the United Kingdom.

"To Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing: we would like to express our sincere respect for your achievements this season. You made this Formula 1 Championship title fight truly epic," they added.

"Max, we congratulate you and your entire team. We look forward to taking the fight to you on the track next season.

"And lastly, even though this drivers' championship did not end the way we hoped, we could not be prouder of our team.

"Lewis, you are the greatest racer in the history of Formula 1 and you drove your heart out for every lap of this incredible season. You're a flawless sportsman on and off the track and you delivered a faultless performance.

"As a pure competitor and as a role model for millions around the world, we salute you."

Mercedes have withdrawn their appeal against the result of Sunday's contentious Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw Max Verstappen pip Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One drivers' title.

Hamilton had built up a healthy lead over his Red Bull rival in the season finale, with both men having entered the race level on points, until a controversial late safety car period was followed by Verstappen overtaking the Mercedes driver on the final lap.

The German constructors launched two challenges that were both rejected by the FIA, with Mercedes giving notice of an intention to appeal against the decisions.

However, the team said in a statement they will not proceed down that route following discussions with F1 and governing body the FIA.

The FIA says the fallout from the controversial ending to Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is "tarnishing the image of the Championship" and will subsequently conduct an analysis and clarification exercise.

Max Verstappen was crowned Formula 1 world champion after a stunning final-lap overtake of title rival Lewis Hamilton – the pair were level on points heading into the season-ending GP.

Verstappen had trailed defending F1 champion Hamilton by more than 10 seconds with 10 laps remaining, but was offered an avenue to victory following the lap-53 deployment of the Safety Car after Nicholas Latifi's crash.

The Dutchman overtook Hamilton on the final lap after being permitted to move past five lapped cars between them to sit on his rival's tail with fresher tyres, having pitted before the safety car moved aside. It caused confusion and protestations from Hamilton's team Mercedes. Both official protests were dismissed by stewards.

In a statement issued after a planned meeting of its World Motor Sport Council on Wednesday, the FIA said Verstappen's success was being overshadowed by the "argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship".

It also stated that outgoing FIA president Jean Todt wanted further discussion to provide clarity for teams and drivers before the 2022 season.

"The FIA's primary responsibility at any event is to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the integrity of the sport," read a statement.

"The circumstances surrounding the use of the Safety Car following the incident of driver Nicholas Latifi, and the related communications between the FIA Race Direction team and the Formula 1 teams, have notably generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans, an argument that is currently tarnishing the image of the Championship and the due celebration of the first Drivers' World Championship title won by Max Verstappen and the eighth consecutive Constructors' World Championship title won by Mercedes.

"Following the presentation of a report regarding the sequence of events that took place following the incident on Lap 53 of the Grand Prix and in a constant drive for improvement, the FIA President proposed to the World Motor Sport Council that a detailed analysis and clarification exercise for the future with all relevant parties will now take place.

"This matter will be discussed and addressed with all the teams and drivers to draw any lessons from this situation and clarity to be provided to the participants, media, and fans about the current regulations to preserve the competitive nature of our sport while ensuring the safety of the drivers and officials. It is not only Formula 1 that may benefit from this analysis, but also more generally all the other FIA circuit championships.

"Following that presentation and an extensive discussion, the World Council has decided to unanimously support the President’s proposal."

Mercedes have since lodged a notice of an intention to appeal and must notify the FIA by Thursday if they plan to take it on to the International Court of Appeal.

Lewis Hamilton has been knighted three days after he was dethroned as Formula One world champion in the most dramatic fashion.

Hamilton was well on course to win a record eighth F1 title at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday but was overtaken by Max Verstappen on the final lap.

With fresh tyres fitted, Red Bull driver Verstappen went on to snatch his maiden F1 crown, capitalising on race director Michael Masi controversially ruling that lapped cars could overtake the safety car before it headed in to leave one last lap of racing between the contenders.

Hamilton claimed on the team radio that the incredible finale had been "manipulated" and Mercedes lodged two complaints with the stewards, both of which were rejected – prompting the Silver Arrows to lodge a notice of their intention to appeal.

After the heartbreak of seeing his four-year reign as champion come to an end, the Brit was given a new title when he was knighted by the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old F1 legend became Sir Lewis Hamilton, having been named in the New Year Honours list at the end of 2020 after matching Michael Schumacher's record tally of seven world titles.

Hamilton's mother, Carmen Lockhart, watched her son join Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jack Brabham as the only F1 drivers to be knighted.

New Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen has revealed he was graciously congratulated by both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff following Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix triumph.

The Dutchman ripped his first-ever world championship from Hamilton's grasp after overtaking the Briton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi after a controversial late-race safety car period.

Mercedes protested twice about the circumstances around Verstappen's triumph after Hamilton appeared to be coasting to victory with an 11-second lead with 10 laps to go.

Despite that, Red Bull driver Verstappen said that Hamilton and Wolff had been gracious in defeat.

"Toto sent me a text - congratulations on the season and that I deserved to win, that was very nice," Verstappen said.

Verstappen added: "Lewis is a great sportsman in general."

He continued: "Of course it helps if you have already seven titles," Verstappen said. "That comforts him a bit. I think if it was the other way around, it would have been more painful for me because I didn't have one.

"Lewis came up to me and congratulated me. It must have been very tough in that last lap. It also shows the respect we have for each other.

"Of course we had our tough times through the season but we respect what we're doing and we were pushing each other to the limit and it has been very enjoyable racing against him."

Meanwhile, a message aired via car on-board channels has surfaced with Hamilton claiming on radio message "this has been manipulated" with four corners to go when trailing Verstappen on the final lap.

Hamilton made the remark to race engineer Peter Bonnington, angered by Race Control's handling of the safety car restart with only the five lapped cars between the seven-time world champion and Verstappen permitted to be overtaken, allowing the Dutchman a clear run in the final lap.

Ex-Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has accused Mercedes of looking like bad losers in the aftermath of the controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw Lewis Hamilton pipped to the title by Max Verstappen.

An immense battle for the drivers' championship concluded in the most dramatic of circumstances on Sunday with Verstappen passing Hamilton on the final lap after the safety car had been deployed.

With the two neck-and-neck heading into the season finale, it looked as though Hamilton would retain his title having built up a healthy advantage over his rival.

However, there was a late twist when the Williams of Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers four laps from the end, with Verstappen pitting for fresh tyres as the wreckage was cleared in order to try to get a shot at Hamilton.

Such an opportunity presented itself when race director Michael Masi controversially ruled lapped cars could overtake the safety car before it headed in to leave one last lap of racing between the contenders.

It was Verstappen who proved triumphant, with Mercedes left furious with Masi, who told Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff: "We went car racing."

Amid Red Bull's celebrations, Mercedes lodged two complaints, claiming Verstappen had overtaken Hamilton before the safety car had pitted and opposing Masi's decision to allow the lapped cars to pass.

Ruling body the FIA dismissed both challenges, but Mercedes could yet appeal against the second of those.

Ecclestone said Mercedes ought to let the issue rest.

Speaking to Stats Perform, he said: "It's always been the same. The funny thing is the winners laugh and the losers have to make their own arrangements, and that's how it is. 

"It's no good being a bad loser. I'm sorry to say, the problem at the moment is Mercedes look a little bit like that, which is not what they are like and they shouldn't even make it look as if they are bad losers. 

"In the end what happened, if you really want to analyse it properly, you can say the world championship came down to one lap. It was the last lap of the race where two guys were on the track with nobody there. In fact, Lewis was a little bit lucky as he started that lap before Max, but in the mean, they were there racing each other, and Max came out in front. 

"Nobody should really, really complain. I don't know whether people did complain at the beginning where Lewis got a little bit of an advantage when he went past Max not on the track, and Max was actually on the track. I thought there was going to be some sort of a reprimand about that. 

"Nothing happened, which is okay. They should get rid of all the silly regulations in Formula One. 'Don't go over the white line, don't do this and don't do that', and when the lights go off, the guys are racing on their own, and they're racing."

Ecclestone added that he had no issue with the decision made by Masi.

"A couple of times this year I've thought that the race director was a bit stupid with one or two things he did, when he had plenty of time to think," he said.

"But in this case, I would have no complaints at all because he was there with a few seconds to make up his mind what to do and it took four hours of Mercedes' team with a lawyer to decide who was right and who was wrong. 

"It's difficult to say that the race director should take four hours to do the same thing. Even then, they haven't come back with the right decision, according to the stewards, so we'll have to wait and see. 

"You need a race director and you need one person to be in charge, and if the person isn't doing a good job over a period of six months or whatever, then get rid of him.

"But that's not the case in his case. He hasn't done a bad job throughout the year. He's made one or two which look like mistakes, but probably if you closely analyse them they probably wouldn't have been mistakes anyway."

The history books will remember Max Verstappen as the 2021 Formula One champion.

However, anyone lucky enough to take in an astonishing back-and-forth battle with Lewis Hamilton will surely never forget just how close Verstappen was run.

As the fallout from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix continues, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this thrilling title race and its epic finale.

FIGHTING TO THE LAST

With the title decided on December 12 – the final day of the season – this matched the latest ever triumph in a calendar year, 62 years to the day since Jack Brabham secured the championship at the United States GP.

Hamilton's late-season form prevented Verstappen from wrapping up victory prior to that point, instead entering the Abu Dhabi GP tied on 369.5 points.

Only once previously had the top two been level ahead of the final grand prix of a season, when Emerson Fittipaldi got the better of Clay Regazzoni in their 1974 showdown at Watkins Glen.

Fittipaldi, speaking to Stats Perform this week, said he had "never experienced so much pressure in my career" as they engaged in "a duel".

The Brazilian told of how Regazzoni tried to ram him off the track, and the possibility of Verstappen – ahead on races won – doing likewise was discussed ahead of the Abu Dhabi decider, so fine were the margins.

The standings still did not end up quite as tight as the 1984 record, which saw Niki Lauda champion by half a point ahead of Alain Prost, who won the decisive race in Portugal but crucially had his rival finish second.

However, this was the first occasion one contender had passed the other during the final lap of the season to take the title.

VERSTAPPEN EVENTUALLY VICTORIOUS

Although Verstappen was widely considered Hamilton's biggest rival in pre-season, he had never actually led the championship at the start of the year.

That changed at the Monaco Grand Prix, though, and the Dutchman – the first champion from his country, the 15th different nation to triumph – was just about able to finish off the job.

In fact, had Hamilton held on in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen would have maintained the record as the driver to have led the standings for the most raceweeks without having won a title (14). He had taken that rather unwanted honour from Carlos Reutemann after the Saudi Arabian GP but got his name on the trophy seven days later.

A 10th win of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit – to go with his 10th pole – boosted Verstappen's 2021 podium tally to 18, the most by any driver in a single year in F1 history.

Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel had each reached the steps on 17 occasions in one season, while Hamilton has done so in five different campaigns. Of course, with 22 grands prix, this was the longest season ever in F1.

HISTORIC HAMILTON WAITS ON EIGHT

The landmark Hamilton really wanted – an eighth championship to take him clear of Schumacher – evaded him, but this was another historic season for one of the sport's true greats.

While Verstappen might be on top of the world right now, he has a long, long way to go to match Hamilton's extraordinary longevity.

At the Spanish GP in May, Hamilton secured his 100th pole, the first man to that mark. He then completed a century of race wins at the Russian GP in September.

Schumacher (68 poles, 91 wins) is next behind Hamilton in both categories, with Vettel a distant second among active challengers (57 poles, 53 wins).

Hamilton matched a Schumacher achievement in 2021 by winning at least one grand prix in a 15th consecutive season, with that record surely set to fall in 2022.

The 2021 Formula One title race will be spoken about for years to come.

Max Verstappen took the championship after a quite remarkable Abu Dhabi Grand Prix victory on Sunday, sensationally passing Lewis Hamilton on the final lap.

Stats Perform reflects on the key races in a sensational season.

EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX (Apr 18)

A flying Hamilton start hinted at another year of dominance, as he won three of the first four grands prix. He also secured two poles in that run, reaching 100 for his career; at the time of his unprecedented century, the rest of the drivers on the grid had a combined 129 poles.

The first signs of a genuine title tussle came in raceweek two, when Hamilton started from pole but did not win. In the rain at Imola, the Mercedes man crashed just before a red flag for an incident involving current and future team-mates Valtteri Bottas and George Russell.

Although Hamilton recovered to finish second, he reflected on "the first time I've made a mistake in a long time" as Verstappen got off the mark.

AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX (Jun 6)

Verstappen responded to Hamilton's strong form with his own run of four wins in five races, although he also endured frustration in the one grand prix over that stretch that escaped his grasp.

The second real moment of genuine drama in this increasingly exciting battle saw Verstappen's tyre blow out as he was coasting to victory in Baku, even if team-mate Sergio Perez was the man to profit.

Red Bull found further consolation in Hamilton's result: a miserable P15. However, that pointless return was not necessarily a surprise to the defending champion, who had forecast problems after a seventh-placed finish at the previous street race in Monaco.

BRITISH GRAND PRIX (Jul 18)

This back-and-forth came to a head at Silverstone. Verstappen's first career sequence of three victories in a row had opened up a 32-point gap to Hamilton, while Mercedes were on their worst winless run (five races) of the hybrid era, but the first high-profile contact between the two contenders slowed the Dutchman's momentum.

Verstappen won the inaugural sprint race but did not last a lap of the main event, sent into the barriers by Hamilton's attempted overtake at Copse Corner.

While Hamilton went on to triumph and close to within eight points – despite a 10-second penalty – Red Bull team principal Christian Horner fumed at his "dirty driving", which he claimed cost the team £1.8million. Red Bull's appeal for a harsher punishment was rejected.

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX (Aug 29)

P2 in Hungary after Silverstone had given Hamilton a narrow lead heading into the mid-season break, but the resumption at Spa did not go at all as the Silver Arrows superstar would have planned.

Woeful conditions meant a delayed race started behind the safety car before being red-flagged after two laps and then called off, with enough of the grand prix completed to award half points – a decision described by third-placed Hamilton as "all a money scenario".

Verstappen had pipped Russell to pole and so was granted a precious victory in this season of fine margins.

ITALIAN GRAND PRIX (Sep 12)

Verstappen nudged ahead of Hamilton again prior to the Italian GP and protected that position in the race – albeit in unorthodox fashion.

Neither Verstappen nor Hamilton finished the grand prix after the Dutchman caught the kerb when looking to pass his rival and landed on top of the Mercedes, with the halo protecting its driver.

"I am so grateful I am still here," Hamilton said afterwards, with Verstappen handed a grid penalty for the next race. The Red Bull man still extended his advantage thanks to P2 in Monza's sprint race.

RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX (Sep 26) 

Events in Sochi summed up the unpredictable nature of this season, with momentum swinging to and fro throughout the weekend, kickstarted by Red Bull's call to change Verstappen's engine and have him line up at the back of the grid.

Hamilton started in fourth after a pit-lane crash in qualifying but put himself in position to steal victory when poleman Lando Norris span off three laps from the end in yet more treacherous conditions.

That meant a long-awaited 100th F1 triumph for Hamilton – in his 281st race – but secured only a marginal lead over Verstappen, who brilliantly battled back to P2.

SAO PAULO GRAND PRIX (Nov 14)

The tour of the Americas had put Verstappen firmly back in control prior to the final Brazil leg, having held off Hamilton at the last in the United States before easing to victory in Mexico. He looked on course for more joy in Sao Paulo, too.

Hamilton was already set to serve a five-place grid penalty when his qualifying time – the fastest on the grid – was struck off for a DRS infringement, meaning he had to start from 10th even after recovering from 20th to fifth in the sprint race, in which Verstappen claimed P2.

Sensationally, Hamilton roared back to win ahead of Verstappen, who escaped punishment for forcing his rival wide early in the race. These various factors counting against Hamilton "woke up the lion", Toto Wolff later claimed.

SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX (Dec 5)

With no room for error, Hamilton won again in Qatar and then continued his fine form in highly controversial circumstances in Saudi Arabia.

Hamilton started from pole after Verstappen's qualifying crash, but the spectacle was only just beginning; last Sunday saw two red flags and a succession of safety cars that meant Max could not escape Lewis after taking the lead.

Verstappen twice gave the position back to Hamilton's due to infringements, while he was further punished for an additional flashpoint that saw the Dutchman brake, triggering a collision. Hamilton dashed clear to send the title race into its final grand prix all square for only the second time ever.

ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX (Dec 12)

Even with the pair level on points heading into the deciding race, few could have imagined the championship would be settled in such dramatic fashion. Hamilton looked to be coasting to victory in the closing stages.

The Mercedes man had been ahead of pole-sitter Verstappen since passing him on the start, able to preserve that position despite Red Bull's claims of an illegal early move.

It was the Silver Arrows who were furious come the end of the race and the season, however. The race director allowed Verstappen to take on Hamilton at the last, snatching victory on the final lap of the campaign – this tying the latest date in the calendar a title has been settled.

Max Verstappen hailed his battle with Lewis Hamilton throughout the Formula One season for "pushing each other to the limit" after the Red Bull star clinched the title on Sunday.

Verstappen secured a maiden F1 world championship in controversial fashion as he overtook Hamilton on the final lap of a decisive last race of the season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton was moments away from claiming the championship for a record eighth time after building up a healthy lead over Verstappen heading into the closing stages.

However, the British driver's advantage was wiped out on the final straight as Verstappen raced past Hamilton after a safety car was deployed with four laps remaining following Nicholas Latifi's crash.

Mercedes immediately lodged two complaints about the bizarre end to the race at the Yas Marina Circuit, but the stewards rejected the proposals – a decision the German racing team intends to appeal against.

The finale was ultimately an almost fitting way to end a topsy-turvy battle between Hamilton and Verstappen throughout the season, and the Red Bull driver looked back on his season-long contest with the Briton fondly.

"Of course, in general, I think we have really enjoyed it," Verstappen told reporters when asked about the battle between the pair.

"We had our moments, but I think in a championship battle, that's part of it. And now that the season is over, I think we can relax a little bit more about it – but it's been tense. 

"The competition, almost every race we have been pushing each other to the limit, within our cars as well. And I think that is just really nice to see. 

"There have been quite some tough races, just physically also because you were just pushing like hard all the time, there was no lap to rest and throughout the whole weekend – qualifying, race – it was so important to always try and be perfect.

"[That is] very hard in Formula 1 to be perfect because there is always some[thing happening], a little tiny lock-up can make the difference between P1 and P2 and in the championship that we had, that was massive, so the level of focus required was very high."

Pressed for further comment on Hamilton, Verstappen spoke glowingly of his opponent as he also reflected on a momentous first win despite his team failing to win their respective championship.

"I have a lot of respect for Lewis but you know, I'm just very happy that I won in general because it's been a very tough season fighting against Mercedes and Lewis," he added.

 "I don't want to sound arrogant or whatever to say it's a great satisfaction to win against him and I just have a lot of respect for him, as a driver and I know he's an amazing driver in terms of what he has achieved but I'm just very happy that we won it.

"I think even when you talk to the [Red Bull] team, they really wanted me to win this championship, but over the whole season we were not the quickest. 

"So, then it's natural that you can't win the team championship. But we gave it our all you know, we can't be disappointed about anything because we really maximized a lot of our results. 

"Like I said, we gave it our all, and of course in the team championship we came up short but we won the Drivers."

Verstappen had hinted in the past that one world title would be enough to satisfy him for the rest of his career.

Having now achieved the feat, he concluded that any further success will simply be an additional bonus.

"No, of course, I will continue driving but of course, in terms of achievements, I have achieved everything in Formula 1 now so everything that comes next is just a bonus," he continued.

"People always doubt 'ah, you know with impact or whatever'. There was also criticism.

"But I think what, again, these moments teach you is that you have to keep believing in yourself and in your own beliefs, you know, and be a strong person about it, that's always worked very well for me."

Mercedes have lodged an intention to appeal against the stewards' decision to reject their protests over Max Verstappen's dramatic title-clinching Abu Dhabi Grand Prix victory.

Verstappen claimed his maiden Formula One world title in the most dramatic fashion at the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday after overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of a decisive last race of the season.

Hamilton was on the brink of being crowned champion for a record eighth time when he built a healthy lead until the safety car was deployed with four laps to go after Nicholas Latifi crashed.

Verstappen pitted to have fresh tyres fitted and had his last chance to win the race – and the championship – when race director Michael Masi ruled lapped cars in between the top two could overtake the safety car, which headed in and allowed one final lap of racing.

The Dutchman passed a stunned Hamilton, with Masi explaining to furious Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff: "We went car racing."

Mercedes launched a formal protest "against the classification established at the end of the competition" as Red Bull basked in the glory of their sensational triumph.

The Silver Arrows complained that Verstappen may have briefly edged in front of Hamilton, who had position as the lead car, behind the safety car and also protested over how rules were applied concerning when lapped cars can overtake under safety-car conditions.

While race stewards accepted Verstappen had "for a very short period of time" moved slightly ahead of Hamilton, they were satisfied that he dropped back behind the leader before the safety car period ended.

The second part of the appeal was also rejected by the stewards, but Mercedes will take the matter further.

A team statement said: "We have lodged notice of intention to appeal the decision of the stewards under Article 15 of the Sporting Code and Article 10 of the Judicial and Disciplinary Rule."

The stewards had declared that "once the message 'safety car in this lap' has been displayed, it is mandatory to withdraw the safety car at the end of that lap" and "notwithstanding Mercedes' request that the stewards remediate the matter by amending the classification to reflect the positions at the end of the penultimate lap, this is a step that the stewards believe is effectively shortening the race retrospectively, and hence not appropriate".

"Accordingly, the protest is dismissed," the stewards added.

Max Verstappen and Red Bull were celebrating after rivals Mercedes failed to overturn the result of an extraordinary final race of the Formula One season in Abu Dhabi.

Verstappen won the race and with it the championship on Sunday, passing title rival Lewis Hamilton on the last lap after a safety car deployment transformed the race.

Starting the race all square with Verstappen at the top of the standings, it seemed as though Hamilton would clinch a record eighth driver's title when he built up a healthy lead in the closing stages.

However, the British driver's advantage was wiped out when the safety car came out after Nicholas Latifi crashed with four laps remaining.

Verstappen pitted to get fresh tyres for a potential shot at passing the Mercedes man, and he got that chance when race director Michael Masi ruled lapped cars could overtake the safety car, which headed in and allowed one lap of racing between the contenders.

Verstappen beat Hamilton as Mercedes fumed, with Masi explaining to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff: "We went car racing."

As Red Bull soaked up their sensational victory, Mercedes launched a formal protest "against the classification established at the end of the competition".

They complained that Verstappen may have briefly edged in front of Hamilton, who had position as the lead car, and also protested over how rules were applied concerning when lapped cars can overtake under safety-car conditions.

While race stewards accepted Verstappen had "for a very short period of time" moved slightly ahead of Hamilton, they were satisfied that he dropped back behind the leader before the safety car period ended.

The second part of the appeal was also rejected by the stewards, who announced that news in a statement.

The stewards declared that "once the message 'safety car in this lap' has been displayed, it is mandatory to withdraw the safety car at the end of that lap" and "notwithstanding Mercedes' request that the stewards remediate the matter by amending the classification to reflect the positions at the end of the penultimate lap, this is a step that the stewards believe is effectively shortening the race retrospectively, and hence not appropriate".

"Accordingly, the protest is dismissed," the stewards added.

It remained to be seen whether further steps would be taken by Mercedes.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, quoted by the BBC, said: "We are going to go and celebrate this championship now. Thank you very much."

Mercedes have had their first protest against the result of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix dismissed by race stewards.

Max Verstappen won the race and the championship in dramatic circumstances on Sunday, passing Lewis Hamilton on the final lap after the safety car had been deployed.

Having entered the race all square with Verstappen at the top of the standings, it seemed as though Hamilton would clinch a record eighth driver's title when he built up a healthy lead in the closing stages.

However, Hamilton's advantage was wiped out by the deployment of a safety car that was sent onto the track after Nicholas Latifi crashed with four laps remaining.

Verstappen pitted to get fresh tyres for a potential shot at passing the Mercedes man, and he got that chance when race director Michael Masi belatedly ruled lapped cars could overtake the safety car, which headed in and allowed one lap of racing between the contenders.

Verstappen beat Hamilton as Mercedes fumed, with Masi explaining to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff: "We went car racing."

As Red Bull celebrated their sensational victory, Mercedes protested "against the classification established at the end of the competition".

Mercedes' protest alleged Verstappen had overtaken Hamilton before the safety car pitted and opposed the decision to allow the selection of lapped cars to pass.

While race stewards accepted Verstappen had "for a very short period of time" moved slightly ahead of Hamilton, they were satisfied that he dropped back behind the leader before the safety car period ended.

Red Bull had argued that Hamilton had never been overtaken, rather that both cars were "on and off the throttle" and that there were "a million precedents" where cars had moved alongside an opponent while under a safety car before dropping back.

No decision had yet been announced by the FIA – the sport's governing body – with regards to Mercedes' second protest.

The finale to the 2021 Formula One world championship was fitting entertainment at the end of an extraordinary season.

On the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton and crossed the line in first place to become world champion for the first time.

Hamilton had looked on course for a record eighth driver's title until the safety car came onto the track after Nicholas Latifi crashed with four laps remaining.

It led to a thrilling but controversial finish – but should it have been done differently?

What happened?

Latifi hit the barriers on lap 54 and the safety car was deployed while the track was cleared.

Given Hamilton had been approximately 12 seconds clear in the lead at the time, Red Bull opted to pit Verstappen for fresh tyres in case a late dash for the chequered flag became a possibility. Hamilton stayed out, his team having warned that bringing him in for a tyre change would have given up track position to his title rival.

Discussions were then held between the respective team principals and race director Michael Masi over how the race would be concluded.

Red Bull's Christian Horner asked why cars that had already been lapped were not being allowed to pass the safety car once it was safe, which would have cleared the track between Verstappen and Hamilton and allowed for a last-lap race for the line.

Race Control, having initially declared that lapped cars would not be released, then gave the order for the five drivers keeping Verstappen from the back of Hamilton to pass the safety car.

This meant that, once the safety car left the track, racing could resume for one final lap – giving Verstappen, on far fresher tyres, the opportunity he needed to pass Hamilton and win the race, thereby clinching the title by just eight points.

Shortly after the race, Mercedes lodged an appeal against the result, citing alleged breaches of Article 48.8 and Article 48.12 of the rulebook: the first relates to overtaking under the safety car, while the second concerns the process of releasing lapped cars.

 

Why was it controversial?

The Formula One regulations for 2021 state: "If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message 'LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE' has been sent to all competitors via the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.

"This will only apply to cars that were lapped at the time they crossed the line at the end of the lap during which they crossed the first safety car line for the second time after the safety car was deployed. Having overtaken the cars on the lead lap and the safety car these cars should then proceed around the track at an appropriate speed, without overtaking, and make every effort to take up position at the back of the line of cars behind the safety car. 

"Whilst they are overtaking, and in order to ensure this may be carried out safely, the cars on the lead lap must always stay on the racing line unless deviating from it is unavoidable. Unless the clerk of the course considers the presence of the safety car is still necessary, once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap."

The rules do not specify whether the race director may allow only some of the lapped cars to pass, and not all. This is why Michael Masi's decision to release only the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton, allowing for a final lap of racing between the title contenders, has caused such a debate.

 

What has been said?

Horner told Sky Sports: "We felt hard done by with the stewards at the beginning of the race, but they did great to get the race going again.

"We were screaming at him [Michael Masi]: 'Let them race'. That's what we've been talking about all year and this championship came down to the last lap. A great strategy call to make that pit stop, to take that set of softs, and then it was down to Max to make it happen.

"It's unheard of to leave the cars unlapped. You could see they wanted to get the race going again, and they don't need to catch up the back of the paddock. They made absolutely the right call - difficult circumstances, and they called it right."

George Russell, who will join Mercedes for the 2022 season, said on Twitter: "THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable. I cannot believe what we've just seen."

Lando Norris, the McLaren driver who was one of those allowed to pass the safety car, said: "I'm not too sure what was said from the FIA. At first, we weren't allowed to overtake, as the backmarkers, so if that influenced decisions to Mercedes and to Lewis and that's the reason they didn't do their pit-stop...

"But then the FIA suddenly changed their minds and they were allowed to let us past. That's where I'm not so sure. For it to end like that, I'm not so sure."

Damon Hill, the world champion in 1996, said on Sky Sports: "This is like running a motor race in a way we've not been used to in the past. They've kept us guessing all the time as to which way a decision is going to go. One team who is not going to be complaining about what happened is Red Bull."

Nico Rosberg, who won the 2016 title, said: "First they said you're not allowed to unlap themselves, then they changed that message once they saw it was safe to do so.

"The thing is that in the document it says 'all cars will be required to unlap themselves' and yet they only let those five cars that were between Lewis and Verstappen unlap themselves. That's where Mercedes are asking if it's okay or not. But I guess in the end Michael Masi can decide what he wants, he's the race director."

Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, said: "It definitely went Max's way only letting those five cars past but earlier in the race it sort of went Lewis' way. Michael Masi wants to get them racing, he doesn't want to decide the world championship."

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