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What Max Verstappen being champion means for the future of Formula 1

<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/ellabilu/" target="_self">Ella B.</a>

Ella B.

January 1, 2022
Champagne, anger, frustration, happiness, confusion, excitement and chaos were the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Dangerous crashes and controversial appeals too. It was 7-time, soon to be 8-time, world driver champion, Lewis Hamilton’s trophy, until it wasn’t. 

On the night of Dec. 12 in the United Arab Emirates, Max Verstappen won his first world drivers championship in a thriller. The winner of the race, and also of the season, came down to the last lap. An accident by Nicholas Latifi propelled Verstappen to a controversial title win, but nonetheless, he still is champion.

Up until that moment, Lewis Hamilton was poised to break his tie with legend Michael Schumacher who also has 7 championships. Hamilton has dominated the last decade with 6 World Drivers’ Championships since 2014. For the first time since 2016, a new champion reigns, and what does that mean for Formula 1?

By no means do I think that Lewis Hamilton will not have success at the Formula 1 level again, but I think his dominance is concluding. He is a fantastic driver, with an outstanding car, but what many often forget is that he is 36, turning 37, years old. Retirement has to be somewhat in his mind as he continues to drive into his late-30s.

Formula 1 is an extremely dangerous sport, and he’s had so much success already, does that merit him a retirement or will he try for one more championship? Regardless, new, young and different drivers are going to be taking over the competition. 

When Verstappen won his title, he became the fourth-youngest to ever do so. At every stage of his racing career he dominated, and when he began Formula 1, that did not stop.

Ever since he has entered the grid, he has shattered records. First, it was being the youngest person to drive in an F1 race, next he was the youngest to win a race and so on. Recently, he became the record holder for most podium finishes in a season. Even at the highest level of racing, Verstappen continued to excel. 

He hasn’t been the only youngster to impress though. As of lately, significant attention has been put on British racer Lando Norris. At only 22 (and for most of the season he was 21) years of age, he placed 6th in the Drivers’ championship. Only 4.5 points behind the next driver, Carlos Sainz, Norris ranked above teammate and veteran Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari’s Charles Leclrec and many other prominent drivers, some of whom have won championships in the past. Lando hasn’t yet won a World Drivers’ Championship like Max, but lots have faith in him to do so sometime in his career.

There are also so many more successful young drivers like Leclerc, Pierre Gasly, George Russel and Alex Albon. There seems to be an overflowing bucket of young talent in Formula 1, but that means more than lots of fans realize. In a Formula 1 world where former champion Kimi Räikkönen just retired and legends Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, and Lewis Hamilton continue to age, there is going to be so much future room for success. 

Recently, Vettel spoke on the possibility of retirement, mentioning it had crossed his mind, but “the fire in my soul is still burning.”

Max Verstappen’s championship will mark a beginning of a new era for Formula 1, and the closing of a certainly legendary one. No longer will fans see the same names on the podium over and over. Formula 1 has been hit with a fountain of youth, and many would hope to see that talent progress into something special. 

Because the sport’s winner is so reliant on who has the best car, I don’t believe that there will be different drivers competing for podiums every race, or world drivers’ championships, but I do believe that Formula 1 is beginning to move on from some of its biggest, and most legendary names.

Most fans would hope to see these young hotshots bring more attention to the sport though, and with the increased popularity of the Netflix show, “Drive to Survive,” the sport looks like it will do just fine with these new names. Formula 1 is in good hands for its future.