“The championship should have been decided way earlier.” Max Verstappen believes he deserved to win 2021 F1 title over Lewis Hamilton

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The Formula One world champion reflects on the final-lap drama in Abu Dhabi

Max Verstappen has been quiet since stepping back from the wild drama and surreal shootout of the last lap of the Abu Dabhi Grand Prix in which he overtook Lewis Hamilton and won his first world championship in December.

The reactions from the F1 world were more or less the same, with everyone congratulating Max Verstappen for winning but at the same time expressing sympathy for Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen
“The championship should have been decided way earlier.” Max Verstappen believes he deserved to win 2021 F1 title over Lewis Hamilton 3

Max Verstappen said the following:

“I tried to be really on it with the restart. It was all working well until I crossed the line and started to feel cramp in my leg. It’s one of the most painful things that can happen because you’re going full throttle for a long time. You feel the muscle clenching and becoming like a tennis ball. Of course the adrenaline helps because, if it were to happen when you’re just walking around, you cannot move. It’s impossible. But there was no option; I had to. So I was just keeping it full throttle and I could feel my leg hurting more and more. Luckily, turn five arrived and I went for the [overtaking] move. I had like three seconds off throttle.

“You then have two very long straights and, on the second one where Lewis came back at me, I could feel my foot vibrating. I couldn’t control it because the muscle was having a spasm. My foot on the last sector was like this …”

“It was completely done. One more lap and I couldn’t have finished the race like that. The stress levels were so high in the final lap that probably your body reacts to that. But you cannot give up.” [via The Guardian]

I knew I had more grip so I was like: ‘I’m going to surprise them on that corner.’ Even my dad [Jos Verstappen, the former F1 driver] didn’t expect me to do it there. These kind of things make the difference. But two long straights were coming up.”

What does Verstappen recall of his exchange with Hamilton after the race? “I only saw him quickly, when we took our helmets off, and I think it was: ‘Congrats, man.’ I don’t even know the words any more. But it was nice of him, of course, to immediately come over.”

Verstappen’s relationship with Hamilton

Max Verstappen admits that he and Lewis sometimes “hated each other”

While fighting for the title in the 2021 season. The pair went head-to-head in a closely fought battle for the World Championship, with the rivalry occasionally resulting in some tense moments both on and off the track.

Max Verstappen talks to Lewis Hamilton
“The championship should have been decided way earlier.” Max Verstappen believes he deserved to win 2021 F1 title over Lewis Hamilton 4

Max Verstappen feels the respect between Lewis Hamilton and him remains high, despite the two of them “sometimes hating each other” during the 2021 season.

Speaking in an interview with the BBC after celebrating his maiden F1 world championship at Red Bull’s base in Milton Keynes, Verstappen said:

“Sometimes we did hate each other, but that’s fine. That’s the competitive spirit of both of us. He is an incredible driver. You look each other in the eye. You don’t say a lot, but you do relate a lot and you really appreciate the fight.” [via Racing News 365]

Their intense rivalry this season has also led to escalating tensions between them and their teams off track. It was heightened after the pair’s controversial collisions in Britain and Italy.

However, shortly after the season’s conclusion at Abu Dhabi, Lewis Hamilton offered his congratulations to Max Verstappen and Red Bull in person. Max Verstappen praised Lewis Hamilton as a “great sportsman”.

Max Verstappen feels that Lewis Hamilton’s comments about the race being “manipulated” on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, came at a time “when emotions were running high”.

The controversial safety car restart on lap 57, allowed Max Verstappen on newer soft tires to overtake Lewis Hamilton, who was on 40 laps old medium tires. Hamilton expressed his frustration at losing the win (and the championship) on the very last lap of the Grand Prix. He claimed that the race was being “manipulated” over his team radio.

“Of course, emotions have been very high across this season so I think that’s normal.” Max said

For the majority of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton had enough pace to keep Max Verstappen at bay. However, his team’s decision to protect track position at all costs put him in a difficult position when the race was interrupted by a safety car period on lap 53.

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