It did not take long for Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to go to battle in Abu Dhabi, and controversy ruled once more.
Verstappen won the battle on Saturday by taking pole for this title-decider, a winner-takes-all Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with both drivers tied on points heading into the race.
But despite having the less grippy medium rubber, Hamilton nonetheless was able to pass his rival off the line, a vital move to start his race.
Down the back straight though Verstappen made a lunging move down the inside as Hamilton left the door open.
Verstappen just about remained on the track, but Hamilton would cut over the run-off, retaining his lead.
Naturally it was expected that Hamilton would be told to give the place to Verstappen, but instead Mercedes told him to keep going.
“Verstappen sprints away, but Lewis Hamilton takes the lead! It’s happened, Lewis Hamilton has taken the advantage – Verstappen’s trying to go through on the inside, AND IT’S HAPPENED IMMEDIATELY! THIS IS AMAZING!” 🤯
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) December 12, 2021
“It was a lunge from Max, he pushed Lewis off the track,” Mercedes told Sky F1 reporter Ted Kravitz of their view on the incident.
“They didn’t touch, only because Lewis avoided the collision, he tried to turn in, couldn’t take his line, and couldn’t get around the corner so had to go off.”
The stewards investigated, but ultimately ruled that no action was necessary, arguing that Hamilton had returned the advantage he gained on-track by using the run-off.
Understandably, Red Bull and Verstappen were far from pleased, considering that last time out in Saudi Arabia, Verstappen was punished on multiple occasions for comparable incidents while battling with Hamilton.
“That is incredible,” said Verstappen when told of the news over team radio.
“What are they doing there?”
Red Bull principal Christian Horner said that the decision represented a “total lack of consistency.”