Lewis Hamilton’s two big mistakes highlighted in Max Verstappen title defeat

Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing

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Former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer has highlighted two Lewis Hamilton mistakes which may have ultimately been decisive in his agonising 2021 title defeat to Max Verstappen. The crown was settled in blockbuster fashion at Yas Marina earlier this month, with the Mercedes man’s defeat leaving him to regret missed chances during the course of the season. 

Three consecutive victories in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia saw Hamilton close the gap on Verstappen going into the season finale. 

That left the pair level on points after a hard-fought year, and it was not until the final lap in Abu Dhabi that the title would be decided. 

The Brit looked to have been cruising towards his eighth championship, until a contentious call by FIA race director Michael Masi effectively wiped out the gap between himself and Verstappen with one lap remaining. 

Equipped with fresher, grippier tyres, Verstappen took his opportunity to snatch the crown in thrilling fashion, leaving the Mercedes garage stunned. 

While the circumstances surrounding Verstappen’s maiden world title triumph were certainly controversial, few have claimed that the 24-year-old is not a worthy champion. 

The same goes for Palmer, who opted for the Dutchman as ‘best driver’ in his formula1.com column. 

According to the former Renault driver, Verstappen barely put a foot wrong all year, while Hamilton was left kicking himself at two crucial mistakes. 

Firstly at Imola, a slippy circuit saw the seven-time world champion slide off track and into the gravel trap. 

While he recovered to take second place, Verstappen took the chequered flag first. 

Four races down the line in Baku, Hamilton made an even costlier mistake with just two laps to go after Verstappen’s puncture ended his hope of points. 

Leading at the restart, the 36-year-old accidentally left his brake magic on which saw him lock up and miss the first corner. 

While neither driver gained or lost points relative to each other on that weekend, a foregone victory for Hamilton left him without a healthy haul of points which could have already seen him out of sight by the time Abu Dhabi came around. 

“Whatever you make of the final lap drama in Abu Dhabi, it’s tough to argue that the Dutchman isn’t a deserving champion this year,” Parmer wrote.

“He and Lewis Hamilton have been a class apart this season, and whilst they were incredibly difficult to separate, both figuratively and, so often, literally all season long, I put Verstappen as top driver this year based on the fact he barely put a foot wrong.

“Yes, sometimes he was overly robust on track, but while Hamilton slid off the road in Imola and left his brake magic on in Baku, Verstappen’s race days were fairly unblemished from a driving point of view. Were it not for bad luck in Baku and Budapest, and a collision in Silverstone, then he would have had the championship sewn up before the last lap at Yas Marina. Thankfully for us he didn’t, and the drama went down to the wire.”

After a title race fought to the wire, the Stevenage-born star will need no reminding that the margins were fine in 2021. 

Hamilton is yet to speak out since his agonising defeat, despite receiving a knighthood days after the season finale. 

Understandably, Verstappen and Red Bull have been embroiled in celebrations since the Yas Marina showstopper, not least at the FIA’s prize-giving gala last week.

Amid talk that Hamilton may not return for the 2022 season, fans will hold out hope that the Brit will come back to try and right his mistakes, which could produce another season of fireworks in the process. 

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