Controversy marked the end of a stellar Formula One season. The FIA, the Stewards and Michael Masi played a huge part in determining the Drivers Championship in this unforgettable season. It started on the very first lap of the race when Lewis Hamilton took the lead after lights out and continued it into Turn 5 when he left an opening that Max Verstappen took advantage of and beat Hamilton to the apex. This caused Hamilton to run wide off the track and cut back on the track further ahead. The initial thought was Hamilton would need to give the spot back to Verstappen but the stewards quickly deemed that “no further investigation was needed”. Red Bull immediately went on the radio to the Race Director, Michael Masi, to plead their case. Masi’s reasoning for no investigation was that Verstappen “pushed” Hamilton off the track and Hamilton had then subsequently reinstated the gap to Verstappen.
The race continued on with Hamilton widing the lead over Verstappen until Lap 14 when Verstappen pitted to change his incredibly worn-out soft-compound tyre which allowed Hamilton to also pit to change his medium tyres to cover off Verstappen. Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez stayed out and took the lead of the race. Perez was able to run interference on Hamilton, which allowed Verstappen to close the gap. However, it wasn’t enough to allow Verstappen to pass Hamilton.
In the last five laps of the race, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers at Turn 14, which forced the deployment of the safety car. Verstappen took this opportunity to change his tyres for the third time in the race to put on fresh soft tyres. Mercedes made the decision to leave Hamilton on track due to the risk of losing track position. After his pit stop, Verstappen was running second behind Hamilton with five cars in between both drivers. The FIA Race Control announced that the lapped cars would not be able to overtake the leaders. This put Verstappen in a precarious position to try to maneuver through five cars to get to Hamilton and take the lead in the race with only two laps to go. One lap later, Race Control changed its mind and allowed only the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton to overtake. We now have a one lap sprint to determine the Drivers Championship. Of course, with Verstappen on less than a lap old soft tyres and Hamilton on 43 lap old hard tyres, it was easy to predict that Verstappen would beat Hamilton to the line. He did exactly that to claim his first Drivers Championship.