Fernando Alonso says it is was “pure luck” that the title swung the way of Max Verstappen at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton, starting P2, had made the overtake on pole-sitter and his title rival Verstappen at the start, and after controversially using the run-off to quash Verstappen’s attempted re-pass, Hamilton settled into a superior pace out front.
Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez did his best to help, costing Hamilton a chunk of time as he fought valiantly on worn tyres to bring Verstappen back into play, bringing the gap between the title contenders down to just a couple of seconds.
Once Hamilton had cleared the Perez barricade though, normal service resumed and the title once again looked all but secured.
That was until Nicholas Latifi crashed out in the closing stages, triggering a Safety Car, which prompted Red Bull to gamble on the free pit stop and switch Verstappen onto fresh soft tyres.
It was a risk which paid off, as race director Michael Masi controversially ordered the cars separating Verstappen and Hamilton to unlap themselves, before bringing the Safety Car in for one final lap of racing.
With Hamilton still out there on worn hard tyres, Verstappen put that sizeable advantage to use by passing the Briton, and charging on to the line to confirm himself as World Champion for the first time.
Coming into the race weekend Alonso was backing Verstappen to take the title, and although he ended up being right, the two-time World Champion could not help but feel sorry for Hamilton, branding the way Verstappen won the title in Abu Dhabi as “lucky”.
But, referring back to his words before the race weekend, he stressed that Verstappen’s title triumph was not undeserved.
“Today he was lucky; without the Safety Car Lewis was World Champion and with Safety Car Max is World Champion, so it’s a pure luck thing what happened today,” said Alonso in an interview with The Australian.
“And it’s going to be a big topic I guess but if you take the 22 races as I said on Thursday, any of the two could be a World Champion. I think more than any other year, if you can split the trophy in two, this was the year to do it because both of them were outstanding.
“Sure [I feel sorry for Lewis] because Lewis was driving at another level, especially the second part of the championship. The Mercedes was a faster car, yes, but Valtteri [Bottas] was not second, it was Lewis putting that performance. So when you lose the championship because of a Safety Car in the last moment, for sure you feel a little bit sorry.”
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