George Russell calls Abu Dhabi Grand Prix conclusion ‘absolutely unacceptable’

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George Russell reflected on an “absolutely unacceptable” conclusion to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after Max Verstappen claimed a controversial late victory over Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen claimed his first-ever World Championship title – and denied Hamilton his eighth – after benefiting from a late safety car that bunched up the pack to surge past his British rival on the final lap.

Mercedes immediately launched two appeals against the result, one against Verstappen for allegedly overtaking under a safety car and a second claiming a breach of rules regarding race restarts following a safety car period.

Both were dismissed after the two teams spent hours in the stewards’ office, Verstappen able to toast his title more than four hours after crossing the finish line.

British driver Russell, who is due to join Hamilton at Mercedes in 2022, said on Twitter: “Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable.

“I cannot believe what we’ve just seen.”

Emphasising his point, Russell added in another tweet: “THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!!”

Former world champion Damon Hill tweeted: “A lot of not very happy people. And a lot of very happy people.

“This is a new way of running the sport where the Race Director can make these ad hoc decisions.

“It’s been a bit too ‘guess what I’m going to do now’ I think.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, told Sky Sports: “It’s been a high stakes, intense competition.

“Toto (Wolff) and I have had our moments, but full respect to him and Mercedes. I feel like it is the right result, the (drivers’ and constructors’).

“Mercedes are such a quality team. They’ve got stronger and stronger over the years. That’s what has made this so intense – on-track, off-track, between the drivers and Toto and I, the pit crews, the strategy, the development.”

The sporting world reacted to Verstappen’s dramatic triumph, which came after the two leading protagonists had touched on the first lap.

Gary Lineker wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations to Max Verstappen on his first world championship.

“He’s not to blame for the decisions. He’s an absolutely superb driver and gave us the most incredible season.”

England captain Harry Kane felt Hamilton was hard done by with the way the race ended.

He tweeted: “I’m new to F1 and it’s been amazing to watch Lewis and Max battle it out.

“I’m no expert on it but I feel like there’s some bizarre rules that give an unfair advantage like today. Why should Hamilton be penalised for somebody else’s crash?

“He literally raced the perfect race under the highest pressure and gets the World Championship taken away from him. Seems like common sense to keep the lead that you’d raced so hard to gain. Shame it had to end like that.”

Fellow TV presenter Piers Morgan felt the Abu Dhabi result was questionable, tweeting: “I don’t know what I’ve just watched but it can’t be right. Hamilton’s been robbed, surely?

Morgan added: “Incredibly gracious reaction by ⁦@LewisHamilton – he’s such a class act on & off the track, and never gets the full respect he deserves for being one of Britain’s greatest ever sportsmen.

“As for this guy, he’s an absolute nut-job but what a brilliant racing driver. Whatever your thoughts on what happened, that final lap manoeuvre was just sensational. Congrats @Max33Verstappen – a worthy champion in the greatest ever F1 season.”

Former Arsenal and Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie was bursting with national pride over Verstappen’s victory.

Van Persie said of his fellow Dutchman: “Wow. What an incredible ending of a Formule 1 season to remember forever! Two fantastic teams going all in for the win but there can only be one winner.

“A true champion replaced by another true champion. Congrats to @Max33Verstappen. You made us proud.”

And Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil Van Dijk added: “WHAT A BOSS! @Max33Verstappen.”

Former India cricketer Sachin Tendulkar said: “What a race! Congrats to Max for becoming the World Champion for the 1st time & there will be many more.

“However, my heart goes out to Lewis. What a season he’s had too. If not for the safety car, the trophy would’ve been his. Sheer bad luck. All the best for the next season.”

India ODI captain Rohit Sharma said: “1 ball 6 required and guess what, Max Verstappen hits it. Unbelievable win.”

The world of motor racing also paid tribute to a great battle between Hamilton and Verstappen.

Former F1 world champion Mario Andretti said: “What a showdown! I love champions, records and stories that make my heart beat 300 beats a minute!

“Congratulations World Champion @Max33Verstappen. And to @LewisHamilton for an epic season and a story that surely continues.”

Former British racing driver Allan McNish tweeted: “What we have witnessed was the best F1 season I can remember.

“Two great racers that fought every lap of the season and either one would have deserved it in my view. But as my dad used to say, there can only be 1 winner, well done @Max33Verstappen.”

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