Throughout the entire 2021 season, Red Bull racing team principal Christian Horner wore his heart on his sleeve but he tried to stay as calm as he possibly could under intense pressure. However, after the season finale where Max Verstappen clinched his maiden title in spectacular fashion, he admitted that it was "an emotional rollercoaster."

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday was filled with more than its fair share of controversies and drama on and off the track. The opening lap went in favour of Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton taking the lead off the line after pole sitter Verstappen had a slow star.

"It was an emotional rollercoaster. It started with a bad start, Lewis making a great start and they had a bit more pace than us today," said Horner.

In the same lap, Verstappen made an aggressive overtaking attempt but Hamilton went off the track to re-take the lead. Curiously, the race stewards allowed Hamilton to keep the place without even investigating the incident, which saw Hamilton veering way off track before rejoining in front of the Red Bull.

Red Bull accepted their fate, realising that getting the place back may not have made much of a difference after seeing how much faster the Mercedes was. Hamilton held the lead comfortably, forcing Red Bull to look for other solutions. Verstappen ended up changing his tyres during two safety car periods, hoping that fresh tyres can turn things around.

Some legendary defending from Checo Perez helped Verstappen close up the gap to Hamilton, but in the end, it was a safety car brought by Nicholas Latifi that turned the race on its head.

Mercedes decided to keep Hamilton out on old hard tyres even as Red Bull gave Verstappen a fresh set of the soft compound Pirellis. Race director Michael Masi then made the call to let the race end with green lights instead of a safety car parade, which meant that the two championship contenders were able to race to the chequered flag.

It was a massively controversial call, as only the back markers between Verstappen and Hamilton were allowed to get out of the way. The Red Bull's fresh tyres were strong enough to overtake the Mercedes midway through the final lap, and the entire world watched in astonishment as Verstappen took the chequered flag ahead of Hamilton.

Mercedes lodged two protests as expected, but both have been dismissed and pending an appeal, Verstappen is well and truly the 2021 F1 World Champion.

Horner has always been Verstappen's biggest fan, and Sunday's victory was a proud moment. "He's taken on the best in the world, the best that statistically there's ever been, he's fought tooth and nail every single Grand Prix and he's been outstanding this year," he said.

The Red Bull boss then pointed out that regardless of the controversial calls by the stewards, Mercedes only have themselves to blame for the decisions they made that cost Hamilton the victory. "They elected to do a one-stop, we went onto the two-stop and then when Latifi crashed we elected to take another set of tyres. They got the race going again and Max had to make it count, he had one lap to do it and he nailed it."

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen won the Formula One world title for the first time Photo: POOL via AFP / KAMRAN JEBREILI