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Why Max Verstappen’s last-lap win over Lewis Hamilton at 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was so controversial

Jacob Scott

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As has been the case for the 2021 Formula 1 season, the championship-deciding race was rife with drama.

On the closing laps of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Williams driver Nicholas Latifi slid off the track and hit a wall, leading to a safety car. That safety car turned out to be the fateful event as it closed the gap between race leader Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, with Verstappen eventually taking the lead on the final lap of the final race of the season.

But the decision to restart the race while several cars were not allowed to unlap themselves garnered criticism and questions.

Here’s what happened:

MORE: Timeline of the Lewis Hamilton vs. Max Verstappen rivalry

What happened on the last lap?

FIA rules indicate that any and all lapped cars that line up behind a safety car are allowed to overtake and un-lap themselves while the safety car is out on the track. That didn’t happen on Sunday.

Of the drivers who were lapped in the race, only five were allowed to pass Lewis Hamilton under the safety car: Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. There were three more cars that had yet to unlap themselves (Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll, Mick Schumacher), but potentially should have been given the opportunity to do so, per the rules.

Only once all cars unlap themselves is when the safety car can end on the following lap. Instead, the safety car exited the circuit with more cars yet to unlap themselves. Had the cars been given the OK to unlap themselves, it would have taken one more lap and the race would have ended under a yellow flag, with Hamilton winning.

Article 39.12 of sporting regs says: “If clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message “LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE” has been sent to all teams, any cars that have been lapped by leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.” 1/

— Andrew Benson (@andrewbensonf1) December 12, 2021

Instead, the race restarted after the cars that separated Hamilton and Verstappen passed Hamilton, leading to the controversial end of the race. 

So, in layman’s terms: If all the cars had been allowed to pass and the safety car rule was followed to the letter of the law, the race would have ended under a safety car, Hamilton would have won his eighth world championship and the finish with Verstappen would have been decidedly anticlimactic. 

It seems as though race stewards would have preferred the championship be decided on one final lap of racing as opposed to under a yellow flag. While that makes for good entertainment and water-cooler talk, it isn’t within the spirit of the rules.

Race director Michael Masi made as much clear with his ambiguous message over team radio.

“Toto? It’s called a motor race, OK?,” Masi said over team coms to Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff. “We went car racing.”

For those wondering why there wasn’t a red flag: According to the Sky Sports broadcast, prior to the start, stewards decided the race was not going to be red flagged had a crash happened in the spot that Latifi crashed into, so that wasn’t an option. 

Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable. I cannot believe what we’ve just seen.

— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) December 12, 2021

Mercedes decided to file two formal protests for the seeming breach of rules following the race: One for the cars overtaking, and one for Verstappen potentially overtaking during the safety car. There is much more ambiguity over the second protest than the first.

With Mercedes and Red Bull meeting with FIA officials following the race regarding the protests, FIA had yet to release a statement on the matter at hand. Sky Sports reported that Mercedes had brought a barrister to their meeting with race stewards, so clearly, they were taking the matter very seriously, hoping to earn a favorable decision.

Drivers, analysts and fans alike were confused with the way that the race had restarted:

There were a few drivers in the TV pen after the race (Norris and Ricciardo were two) who admitted they didn’t quite know how to feel over the way it finished. They said Max fully deserved the title, but the way the restart was handled confused some #F1 #AbuDhabiGP

— Chris Medland (@ChrisMedlandF1) December 12, 2021

Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable. I cannot believe what we’ve just seen.

— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) December 12, 2021

If the stewards decided that Verstappen did in fact overtake during the safety car — something that’s very questionable — then it’s a five-second penalty and the championship could be overturned in favor of Hamilton.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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