Analyzing Questionable F1 Abu Dhabi 2021 Finale

The F1 Finale 2021 was surely one of the most discussable and questionable events of the year and in the F1 history. Eventhough the event is quite some time ago, but with the distance and neutrality I want to analyze the data on this finale of an overall spetacular season. There is no doubt, that both of the drivers would have deserved the win.

Max Verstappen won the championship due to a late safety car phase which ended on the penultimate lap and gave him the chance to use his tyre advantage on Lewis Hamilton, who was on old hard tyres at this point. Verstappen had the chance to change his tyres under the Safety Car and got the soft tyres on his vehicle. Eventually, Verstappen overtook Hamilton and won the race and with it the championship.

Beside the criticism and the many discussions around the decisions taken by the race director Michael Masi, I want to take a look at the data and want to analyze what has happened.

Taking a look at the lap times of the first stint, it becomes clear, that Hamilton was faster on the Medium tyre in every Lap compared to Max Verstappen on his soft compound. Especially towards the end of the stint, Verstappens tyres did simply not support him anymore so that he had to box fairly early. Hamilton could pull out some tremendous lap times and could seperate himself until boxing as well. Also in the second stint – both underway with the hard tyres, see graph below – Hamilton always a bit faster than Verstappen and it seemed to be clear, that Hamilton will win the championship after having a multi second advantage on the Red Bull driver.

Red Bull took the risk and tried a 2-Stopp-Strategy and boxed early once again while Hamilton being consistently improving his lap times on his 1-Stopp-Strategy.

Then it happened, Latifi in his Williams crashed and the Safety Car came out. Verstappen was too close to the Mercedes of Hamilton so that Hamilton could not box, but Verstappen had the advantage and could come into the pits for new tyres. After a few confusing discussions between teams and the race director broadcasted publicly, the Safety Car came in right before the last lap and all the backmarkers between Verstappen and Hamilton could unlap themselves. Now the championship was decided just based on the last lap – with a huge disadvantage for Lewis since he could not change his tyres while Verstappen could. The telemetry data of the last lap for both drivers show how much they were fightig until Verstappen got the upper hand and Hamilton had to give up.

Eventually, we can hope that decisions by a race director do not influence important championships like this in the future.

I am looking forward to analyze the upcoming races in the 2022 season and hope for good and exciting racing action on track!

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