In the Driver's Seat: One of closest title battles in history ends in confusion, controversy

Max Verstappen (centre) celebrates after winning the world championship, with Lewis Hamilton (left) in second place and Carlos Sainz in third. PHOTO: REUTERS
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Lewis Hamilton went into the final race of one of the most controversial seasons of F1 believing he was fighting a Dutchman for his record eighth World Championship title. But in a race that was as contentious as anything previously seen the outcome was eventually decided on the last racing lap of the year - by a Canadian and an Australian.

It began with another near collision between Hamilton and arch-rival Max Verstappen. The latter had taken a stunning pole position, but was forced to start on the softer Pirelli tyres after flat-spotting one of his mediums. Hamilton, against expectations, grabbed the lead on his harder-compound medium tyres and got as far as Turn 6 before Verstappen dived for the inside. It was a trademark Verstappen move, insofar as it was spectacular but relied on somebody else moving over. Hamilton had to jink wide to avoid a collision and run across the corner as a result. Contentiously, the stewards decided he did not need to give the place back, as Verstappen had to for a slightly different move in Jeddah the previous week, because he had been forced to go wide rather than doing so deliberately.

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