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today is Aug 09, 2022

The controversial conclusion to the 2021 Formula 1 season should not detract from the close championship fight the series enjoyed, according to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

For the first time in nine years, two drivers from rival teams arrived at the final race with a chance to win the title. The pair went into the season finale tied on points which has only previously happened once in F1 history, in 1974.

Mercedes and their drivers had swept both titles in the seven years preceding last season. Lewis Hamilton took six drivers’ titles during that time.

However he faced stiff competition from Max Verstappen throughout 2021. The Red Bull driver eventually prevailed in a title fight which went down to the final lap.

“I think sport is all about competition and when you’ve got serial winners it becomes less attractive,” Horner told WION. “So I think the fact that there was a big rivalry between the teams, between the two drivers, every grand prix there was very little to choose between the two of them, it was a fantastic year. The best year I think Formula 1 has had as a sport for probably 30 or 40 years.”

The final laps of the season sparked controversy when the race was hurriedly restarted as Hamilton led Verstappen behind the Safety Car. FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi took the unprecedented decision to only allow the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to rejoin the lead lap, while leaving the others in place.

Horner said it was inevitable Masi would try to restart the race and Mercedes left Hamilton vulnerable by not pitting him to change tyres when the Safety Car period began – a move which would have dropped him behind Verstappen and, had the race not been restarted, cost him victory and the championship.

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“If you look at the season as a whole, we’ve had a lot of bad luck,” said Horner. “We got a little bit fortunate with the incident at the end of the race.

“The Safety Car was the inevitable response to that and I think tactically we made the right call. We pitted Max, Mercedes left Lewis out, and he was then going to be very exposed at the restart.

“And of course when the race did get restarted, which is always going to be the intention of the race director, Max had to go for it, had one lap to make the pass, he did it and managed to convert the championship. So it was an amazing feeling, and an amazing end to an incredible year.”

The handling of the final restart prompted a furious response from Mercedes, who launched two protests immediately after the race, both of which were unsuccessful. The team considered submitting a further appeal, but backed away from the move after the FIA agreed to examine the disputed conclusion to the championship.

Hamilton has not spoken publicly since the race took place over six weeks ago. This has led some to speculate over whether the seven-times champion will honour his contract to drive for Mercedes in F1 again this year.

“We certainly hope that Lewis will be around this year,” said Horner. “He’s still driving at an incredible level. The two drivers last year were in a league of their own.

“But ultimately it’s his choice. It’s his career, it’s his is his decision. I’m sure he will decide to do what’s best for him, what he wants to do, and that’s none of our business.”

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2021 F1 season

  • FIA indicates Masi may not continue as F1 race director
  • 2021 F1 driver rankings #1: Max Verstappen
  • 2021 F1 driver rankings #2: Lewis Hamilton
  • 2021 F1 driver rankings #3: Lando Norris
  • 2021 F1 driver rankings #4: Charles Leclerc

Browse all 2021 F1 season articles