Damon Hill accuses Red Bull of using ‘persuasive’ tactics against FIA chief Michael Masi

Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out

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Max Verstappen claimed his maiden F1 title on Sunday as he passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap after a controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Verstappen had looked to be out of the contest until Williams’ Nicholas Latifi crashed into a wall late on.

Latifi’s crash meant a safety car was deployed, which allowed Verstappen to pit for fresh tyres.

Hamilton, meanwhile, wasn’t able to put a new set of tyres on his Mercedes without losing track position so opted to stay out.

Race director Michael Masi originally told drivers that lapped cars could not un-lap themselves.

Red Bull chiefs spoke to Masi and he quickly changed his mind and reversed the decision to allow the five cars in between Hamilton and Verstappen to pass.

And that resulted in Verstappen – with his fresh tyres – being neck-and-neck with Hamilton for a one-lap sprint.

FIA make announcement after concluding Mercedes protest

Hamilton was unable to hold off his arch-rival as Verstappen stormed to victory and landed the title.

“I think these are new rules,” Hill said.

“I think it’s a new style of race directing. I think Mercedes have struggled with the decisions that have been made.

“Red Bull played rough, but they have persuaded the race director that cars should be allowed to race and it should be a robust kind of formula – and they have prevailed.”

The fall-out from the season finale looks set to continue as Mercedes have expressed an intent to appeal.

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The team had two protests rejected in the aftermath of the desert Grand Prix, but have until Thursday to lodge their first formal appeal.

Meanwhile, the victory for Verstappen could well be an indication of a changing of the guards as Hamilton loses grip on his F1 dominance.

The Briton had won six of the last seven championships, but Verstappen looks to be well-placed to dominate the sport for the next decade.

The Red Bull driver produced a string of scintillating displays this season and racked up 10 race victories.

In the summer he held a 32-point advantage but came into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix level-pegging with Hamilton after the veteran had stormed to victory in the three preceding races.

“You can’t have them both win, unfortunately,” Hill added.

“I think Max has fought valiantly. I think the right man won – if there can be such a thing.

“I feel for Lewis. He’s fought with everything he’s had and with Mercedes too. But they are up against a very formidable Red Bull team and driver.”

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