Max Verstappen has opened up on the strategy he used to overtake and remain ahead of Lewis Hamilton on the final lap in Abu Dhabi. The Red Bull Racing driver not only clinched the race win, but also snatched the 2021 world title from the Mercedes driver's grasp under contentious circumstances.

Hamilton looked on course to win a record-breaking eighth world title, but a controversial call by former FIA race director Michael Masi saw Verstappen close the gap to the Briton. The Australian decided to allow just five cars between the Dutchman and Hamilton to pass before restarting the race on the final lap.

Verstappen, who was around 11 seconds behind Hamilton before the late safety car, was able to get under the Mercedes gearbox as the race restarted. With fresh tyres at his disposal, the Red Bull star was able to easily pass him going to Turn 5, but that was one place Mercedes didn't expect Verstappen to pass.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen is the first Dutchman to win the Formula One title KAMRAN JEBREILI/POOL via AFP

The 2021 f1 world champion has now explained why he chose that particular moment to pass Hamilton. Verstappen also spoke about Red Bull's confidence in defending his position despite two long straights later on in the lap.

"He (Lewis) didn't expect me to overtake him there," Verstappen said, speaking on a new documentary, as quoted by the Mirror. "We had less downforce that weekend so we had more top speed. So I wanted to be up front because without DRS I can defend."

"Even if he came alongside me he could never overtake me because of the top speed advantage," he added. "With the grip I had I went for that corner and defended those other corners."

Mercedes have no doubt that Verstappen was handed the title by Masi. While many others feel Red Bull simply took the opportunity presented to them. The Silver Arrows appealed the decision, but it was rejected by the race stewards. A later enquiry saw Masi being relieved of his duties ahead of the 2022 season.

Lewis Hamilton
Max Verstappen won an epic season-long battle with reigning champion Lewis Hamilton ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP