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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has been slammed by F1 fans for a petulant act on the podium after finishing second to Lewis Hamilton in a controversial Saudi Arabian GP.
Hamilton and Verstappen are even on points heading into the 22nd and final round of the F1 season in Abu Dhabi.
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Several controversial moments throughout the season have led to an increasingly bitter rivalry developing not just between Hamilton and Verstappen, but between the Mercedes and Red Bulls teams as well.
Sunday night's Saudi Arabian GP was no exception as far as generating yet more controversy between the two title rivals was concerned.
Hamilton collided with Verstappen at low speed while the Dutch driver was attempting to let the seven-time world champion past after being penalised for overtaking Hamilton off track earlier in the race.
Tensions were already high between the Mercedes and Red Bull camps leading into the race, and will no doubt be at a fever pitch after another controversial round of battle on the new Jeddah circuit.
Hamilton described Verstappen's attempts to fend him off as 'f***ing crazy' and said after the race. that the young Dutchman's aggressive driving style too frequently crossed the line unto being unsporting.
Verstappen was booed by some sections of the crowd while speaking to broadcasters after the race, but it was a petty move on the podium that earned the ire of F1 fans around the world on social media.
After the trophies were presented to the top three, Verstappen simply picked up his bottle of champagne and left the podium while the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valterri Bottas, who finished third, indulged in the customary spraying of bubbly.
Verstappen's move was slammed by commentators and fans alike, with the move described as 'pathetic' and 'childish'.
Sky Sports commentator Martin Brundle quickly picked up on Verstappen's swift exit on the live broadcast.
“He walked off the back. He does not want any part of that. He clearly feels very aggrieved that he had to give the lead back — having offered the lead back, but there was contact," Brundle observed.
On social media, fans were scathing.
— Sulaiman Folarin (@sulaiman4real) December 5, 2021
Max Verstappen - cmon man. Understandable to be disappointed but after some of today’s tactics and then to walk off the podium & not celebrate in the customary celebration - that’s just poor sportsmanship.
— Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT (@3cbPerformance) December 5, 2021
— Antonello Guerrera (@antoguerrera) December 5, 2021
There’s unsportsmanlike behaviour and then there’s Max Verstappen walking off the podium like that. #growup
— Karan Anshuman (@krnx) December 5, 2021
Max Verstappen walks off the podium and just underlines the sort of sportsman he is… #SaudiArabianGP
— Luke Gardener (@LukeGardener82) December 5, 2021
This sums up @Max33Verstappen nicely… spoilt and no class. I hope @LewisHamilton wipes the floor with him next week. #Verstappen doesn’t deserve to be world champion. #SaudiArabianGP pic.twitter.com/5ilDXLQJvo
— jack (@commentisfree_) December 5, 2021
Hamilton victory sets up F1 title showdown with rival Verstappen
In a dramatic race where the lead changed hands due to safety cars, a pit-stop and two race restarts because of crashes on the new twisting street circuit, Mercedes' Hamilton took the honours to go level on points with Red Bull's Verstappen at the top of the standings.
It sets up one of the greatest finales in the history of F1 in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi next Sunday, with Verstappen nominally ahead in the standings because of race wins.
Hamilton had tried to pass the Dutchman and after the pair touched, Verstappen was told to give his rival first place.
The 24-year-old then slowed down so much when Hamilton tried to overtake again that they came into contact another time.
Verstappen was then given a five-second penalty for the original infringement and seven-times world champion Hamilton, with a damaged front wing, went by to claim his 103rd F1 victory in a wild race.
"I've been racing a long time, but that was incredibly tough. I tried to be as tough and as sensible as I could out there, with all my experience over the years," Hamilton said.
Verstappen, booed by some of the crowd, said: "It was eventful, a lot of things happened that I don't fully agree with."
"I slowed down, I wanted to let him by, I was on the right but he didn't want to overtake and we touched."
Australian Daniel Ricciardo emerged from the drama to finish fifth in his McLaren, behind third-placed Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and fourth-placed Esteban Ocon for Alpine.
“I really had to try and keep my cool out there, which was really difficult to do,” Hamilton told Sky Sports after the race.
“I’ve raced a lot of drivers through my life, in the 28 years I’ve come across a lot of different characters and there are a few at the top who are kind of over the limit. Rules kind of don’t apply [to them], or they don’t think of the rules.
“Today I just tried to do my talking on the track, keep the car between the white lines and do it the right way. So many things were sent at us.
“We got the pole then we lost out then we got back past then he passed over the kerb. There were just so many different, crazy curveballs.
“Then he obviously brake-tested, I think, to try and get the DRS into the last corner to overtake me again back into Turn 1. I thought that I lost my wing.”
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