Last Lap F1 Finish Demonstrates Importance Of Small Improvements

The technical development of Formula One driving technology is as elite as precision engineering gets, with even the slightest new advantage having major implications for qualifying times, overtaking success and performances in extremely close races.

If ever there was an occasion to emphasise this, it was the final race of the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi, where Max Verstappen was crowned driver’s champion after overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the very final lap.

While the circumstances – not for the first time in the season – were controversial and the outcome always likely once the lapped cars were cleared to allow Verstappen to attack with fresher tyres, the fact that such an outcome was possible, the top two having come into the final race level on points, shows just how small the margins can be.

Indeed, for Mercedes, who have dominated the last decade and had the consolation of another Constructor’s Championship, the pursuit of excellence is likely to be taken to another level as they and Hamilton try to win back the driver’s crown next year. Red Bull will be pushing hard to ensure their cars, outperformed in the later races, will give Verstappen the best chance to stay on top.

At the same time, it is never just about the cars at the front of the grid. Hamilton would have won the Abu Dhabi race and the championship were it not for the safety car having to come out after Nicholas Latifi crashed in his Williams.

Williams were once the team to beat, winning nine constructor’s titles and boasting champions like Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill. However, recent years have seen the team slide right to the bottom of the pack, failing to gain a single point in the 2020 championship after securing only one in 2019.

In the end, it was the calamity of an underperforming car that skidded off the track with no other driver near him – for the second time in the race – that made the difference, acting as a reminder that technical quality is as important for those far down the field as it is for the drivers fighting it out for the top of the podium.

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