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last lap drama Mercedes fail with appeals after controversial end to F1 season as bookie pays out on Lewis Hamilton

The Red Bull driver stormed past Hamilton in the closing stages of the season-ending race at the Yas Marina Circuit having benefited from a late safety car that bunched up the pack.

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 Race winner and 2021 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Race winner and 2021 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Race winner and 2021 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Formula 1 officials rejected two protests by Mercedes against the result of the controversial title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but their legal fight is set to continue.

Max Verstappen claimed his first-ever Formula One world championship with a sensational last-lap overtake on title rival Lewis Hamilton, stormed past the Brit in the closing stages of the season-ending race at the Yas Marina Circuit having benefited from a late safety car that bunched up the pack.

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.

However, Mercedes quickly lodged an intention to appeal against the stewards’ findings, meaning the furore is likely to rumble on, although a decision must be made before the FIA prize-giving ceremony on Thursday.

Hamilton appeared to be charging to glory, easily holding Verstappen at bay in the closing laps only for a crash for the Williams of Nicholas Latifi to change the course of events.

Confusion reigned as under-fire race director Michael Masi changed his mind to allow lapped cars to pass the safety car – meaning Verstappen had a clear run at Hamilton in the final lap and on much faster tyres.

The Dutchman broke into tears as he crossed the line, professing his love for his team and sitting by his car after bringing it to a stop: “This is unbelievable guys. Can we do this for another 10 to 15 years together,” he said.

He told Sky Sports: "It’s unbelievable. I kept fighting the whole race. I had the opportunity in the last lap. It’s incredible, I’m still having a cramp. It’s insane."

Hamilton paid tribute to Verstappen and said he had given everything possible to win his eighth world title.

He told Sky Sports: “Congratulations to Max and his team. I think we did an amazing job this year.

“Everyone back at the factory and here worked so hard in this most difficult of seasons. I’m so proud of them and so grateful to be part of the journey with them.

“We gave it everything this last part of the season, we never gave up.”

Verstappen embraced Red Bull team boss Christian Horner after being informed of the final result.

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Asked if he was relieved, the driver told Sky Sports: “Very, (it was) a very stressful day.”

Horner, who had also been unable to hold back the tears when Verstappen crossed the line, was pleased to see the result stick.

“Disappointed we had to go through that,” he told Sky Sports.

“He (Verstappen) is the world champion, he’s the deserving world champion, nobody can take that from him.”

“I think it also sums up a little bit this season,” Verstappen had earlier replied when asked about the Mercedes appeals during a somewhat solemn champions’ press conference hours before his title was confirmed.

The controversial end to the race could lead to legal challenges that could rumble on for some time, with Irish bookmaker Paddy Power paying out on anyone who had a bet on Hamilton to win the title.

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