June 1, 2023

Even Max Verstappen’s father Jos nearly gave up hope for his son as the laps wound down in the 2021 Formula 1 season finale on Sunday.

Jos Verstappen was like the rest of us watching Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit to conclude the 2021 Formula 1 season.

After Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton got a much better start than championship rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull and avoided a significant penalty for going off the course and staying ahead of Verstappen on the opening lap, he set sail and looked poised to secure a record-breaking eighth world championship and a record-tying fifth in a row.
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Verstappen was only able to catch back up to Hamilton after teammate Sergio Perez stayed out for an extended period of time as the race leader on old soft tires to defend against — and hold up — Hamilton on new hard tires.
But after that, Hamilton continued to dominate the race and pulled away.

And Jos, a former Formula 1 driver himself, nearly gave up hope for his son.

Max made an extra pit stop during a virtual safety car period for new hard tires, but the gaps that he was making up on Hamilton over the next several laps weren’t going to be enough for him to catch, much less pass, the driver who had tied him atop the driver standings by winning three races in a row heading into the weekend.

But a late safety car period, caused by a crash involving Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, changed the complexion of the race with just over five laps remaining.

Verstappen came into the pits for new soft tires, while Hamilton did not.

After the lapped cars between the top two drivers were allowed to unlap themselves, the safety car period ended with just one lap remaining, and Verstappen passed Hamilton in turn five of the 16-turn, 3.281-mile (5.280-kilometer) road course on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates after the restart.

He held off two serious challenges from Hamilton throughout the remainder of the lap and won the race — and the world championship — by 2.256 seconds.

The 58th and final lap of the race was the only lap Verstappen led. Hamilton led 51 laps.

Here is what Jos had to say about the matter, admitting the fact that he began to lose faith.

“I left the pit and I went upstairs to sit quietly at my television to see the lap times, because I didn’t have the feeling it was going to happen and I didn’t want the cameras on my face all the time. I was quiet. Raymond [Vermeulen, Max’s manager] came in 20 laps before the end. And then Latifi crashed [with] five laps to go. We were hoping, we were jumping, we were happy, and you know, ‘Get this guy out of the way and let them race’.”

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While the one-lap shootout to finish the race — and the 2021 season — will be debated for decades to come, given the controversial circumstances surrounding the restart, it all proves one thing: it’s never over until it’s over.

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