Lewis Hamilton
Max Verstappen won an epic season-long battle with Lewis Hamilton in 2021 ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP

The 2023 Formula 1 season is already well underway yet there is still on ongoing debate over the 2021 Drivers' World Championship title. As of this writing, over ninety thousand people have signed a petition asking for Red Bull driver Max Verstappen to be stripped of his maiden F1 title.

It doesn't take a genius to deduce that the petition is being backed by the supporters of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who lost out on his chance to secure his eighth world title that year. It was a long-fought epic battle that had the two drivers arriving at the final race in Abu Dhabi on equal points.

The basis behind the petition

Hamilton's fans are still seething over the circumstances that led to the final results. The two drivers were neck and neck throughout most of the Grand Prix, but as they approached the closing stages, Hamilton was in front of Verstappen with a sizable gap. However, Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams, leading to a Safety Car period.

Red Bull pulled the trigger and called Verstappen into the box for a fresh set of tyres. Mercedes, on the other hand, decided to let Hamilton stay out to keep his position in front. They expected the race to finish behind the safety car because there did not appear to be enough laps left to continue racing.

However, the now infamous race director Michael Masi decided that he wanted to see some racing even if it was just in the final lap. In order to make this happen, he allowed the lapped cars between Verstappen and Hamilton to unlap themselves instead of asking all the lapped cars to make the trip around the track. This left enough time to call in the SC and resume racing for the final lap.

Despite going in for a pit stop, the SC meant that Verstappen was able to close back in on Hamilton. Because the cars between them were able to get out of the way to unlap themselves, Verstappen ended up right on Hamilton's rear wing when the green light was lit on the final lap.

Hamilton's 40-lap old tyres were no match against Verstappen's fresh tyres, and it only took the Dutchman a few corners to take the lead from the Briton. Verstappen crossed the chequered flag in front amid massive chaos in the pits as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff screamed into his headset while protesting Masi's decision.

Mercedes immediately launched a protest, but they dropped it soon after and Verstappen was awarded the trophy. Masi was later reassigned to another position within the FIA, with more changes made on the number of officials making decisions on race weekends.

The 2022 season came and went with Verstappen claiming his second consecutive title in dominant fashion. His main challenger last year, however, was Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. Hamilton was not in the picture and did not even win a single race throughout the entire season as Mercedes struggled to field a competitive car.

It seems that Verstappen is on course to dominate the ongoing campaign again, having won two out of the first three races so far. Hamilton and Mercedes teammate George Russell are again falling behind in terms of pace, but they are determined to develop the car further as the season goes on.

Meanwhile, Hamilton's fans are still busy fighting the good fight in the background in the hopes of handing him an eighth world title via this petition. A man named Patel Gordon-Bennett started the campaign, which he took to the popular website Change.org. He is seeking to secure at least 150,000 signatures.

In the description, he wrote: "I believe that justice was not served on Sunday December 12, 2021 when the FIA stewards denied Lewis Hamilton of his win of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. With less than 1 lap remaining, some lapped cars were allowed to pass the safety car, which does not comply with the rules of the F1 sport. This gave rival opponent Max Verstappen the opportunity to overtake Lewis Hamilton and win the Grand Prix. If you are an advocate of justice, honesty and fairness, please sign this petition. Leaving this decision as it stands will send a very wrong message to youngsters and future racers."

Despite garnering over 90k signatures, it seems unlikely for the FIA to overturn its decision.