ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Max Verstappen won his first Formula One championship by overtaking title rival Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the race.
In an almost unbelievable end to what has been a roller-coaster season, Verstappen had one lap to pass Hamilton after a late Safety Car period snatched the victory away from the seven-time world champion and Mercedes.
Verstappen got by at Turn 3 and held Hamilton at bay later in the lap to claim his first F1 championship. In doing so, he denied Hamilton a record eighth F1 title.
After the race, Verstappen screamed on the radio: “Oh my God! Unbelievable! Yes guys!”
Verstappen, 24, had qualified on pole but lost the lead to Hamilton at Turn 1. He then tried to pass at Turn 4 on the first lap, but Hamilton went wide, keeping the lead by going over the runoff.
Verstappen and Red Bull were furious with the decision not to ask Hamilton to give the lead back, but the controversy was not finished there.
The controversy continued at the end of the race and revolved around around the timing of allowing lapped cars to overtake the Safety Car, which effectively meant Verstappen could line up right behind Hamilton on fresh tyres. Hamilton was still on the tyres he had stopped for on Lap 15.
The Safety Car came in ahead of the final lap, and Verstappen passed Hamilton in an astonishing turn of events to claim the win, and the title, he needed.