‘What just happened?’ - Maylander recalls Abu Dhabi controversy

F1 Safety Car driver Bernd Maylander has recalled finding himself at the heart of the controversial finish to the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 
‘What just happened?’ - Maylander recalls Abu Dhabi controversy

Abu Dhabi played host to the most controversial and dramatic F1 title deciders in history as Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the drivers’ crown in contentious circumstances following a last-lap overtake. 

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Having dominated the race, Hamilton appeared on course to claim a record-breaking eight title in the winner-takes-all showdown until a late Safety Car period flipped the race on its head.

Only the cars running between Hamilton and Verstappen were allowed to unlap themselves in a rushed restart that enabled Verstappen - on fresh soft tyres compared to Hamilton’s much older hards - to snatch the title away from his rival. 

FIA race director Michael Masi’s incorrect application of the Safety Car rules resulted in the championship changing hands and ultimately led to him being removed from his post. 

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 leads behind the Aston Martin FIA Safety
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 leads behind the Aston Martin FIA…

Maylander, who was behind the wheel of the Safety Car, revealed he needed a private moment after the race finished to come to terms with what he had witnessed. 

"I walked through the hospitality area with my helmet on and sat down at the back of the paddock first," Maylander told Auto Motor und Sport. "I had to be on my own first to think ‘what just happened?’”

The incident denied Hamilton a record eighth title and the Briton has been unable to challenge Verstappen for the world championship since after Mercedes were caught out by a major regulation shake-up in 2022. 

Maylander also revealed Hamilton’s particular way of following the Safety Car when leading a race. 

“Lewis always hides a bit behind the car,” the 51-year-old German explained. “You always have to look into the blind spot – where is he?”

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