Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Mercedes simply “f*cked up” on the day Lewis Hamilton lost the F1 World Championship to Max Verstappen at the infamous 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Tuesday (December 12) marks the second anniversary of the 2021 season finale, which ended with Hamilton being dethroned by Verstappen in highly controversial circumstances.
The failure of FIA race director Michael Masi to enforce the Safety Car rules correctly set up a one-lap shootout for the title between Hamilton, who had led the race throughout, and Verstappen, who had pitted for fresh soft tyres ahead of the restart.
Mercedes accused of letting down Lewis Hamilton at Abu Dhabi 2021
Verstappen went on to overtake Hamilton at the Turn 5 hairpin to take the race victory and with it the World Championship, with Hamilton – denied a record eighth crown – claiming the race had been “manipulated” over team radio.
Appearing on Sky’s A League Of Their Own gameshow, Horner has accused Mercedes of making a strategic error with Hamilton, who was left exposed on old hard tyres for the restart.
Asked to explain why the race is so notorious among F1 enthusiasts, Horner laughed: “I have absolutely no idea.
“Mercedes f*cked up. They left poor Lewis out there on tyres that had done pretty much most of the race and we’d pitted with Max, so he was on a fresh set of tyres. Max made the move and…”
Horner also revealed Verstappen never planned to complete the decisive pass at the hairpin, but elected to launch a move up the inside as he struggled with cramp in his left leg.
He explained: “The interesting thing is where Max passed him – it caught Lewis completely by surprise.
“After the race, Max told us he didn’t intend to overtake him there but he got cramp behind the Safety Car and he couldn’t feel his left foot properly, so he thought: ‘Oh, f*ck it, I’m going [for it] anyway.’
“And then, when they were going down the straight, he was trying to wake his left foot up to hit the brakes for the next chicane.”
Horner and Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff have endured an uneasy relationship since the 2021 season, with Wolff revealing recently that the pair have not shaken hands since the Abu Dhabi race.
Asked to pinpoint why Wolff was so furious with Masi after Hamilton was overtaken by Verstappen, Horner replied: “I think he was just having a bad hair day.
“His hair’s very important to him on the camera and I think he was just having a bad day.”
Now a three-time World Champion, Verstappen has won 44 of the 66 races held across the last three seasons.
Meanwhile, Hamilton – the most successful driver in F1 history with seven titles and more than a hundred pole positions and grand prix wins to his name – remains without a victory since the penultimate round of 2021 in Saudi Arabia.