Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out
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Max Verstappen doesn’t think Lewis Hamilton had a significant say in Mercedes’ decision to launch two protests after his Abu Dhabi Grand Prix triumph. Verstappen won the race controversially after Hamilton had led for the majority, which handed him his maiden Formula 1 world title.
The two rivals entered Abu Dhabi level on 369.5 points, with Hamilton coming off three successive wins in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The Brit was in control for most of the race, but Nicholas Latifi’s late crash was a catalyst of a catastrophic series of events in the dying stages.
During the safety car period in the closing laps, Verstappen took the opportunity to pit for fresh tyres whilst Hamilton was forced to stick with his worn-out set of hards to prevent losing track position.
FIA F1 Race Director Michael Masi made a widely-disputed U-turn, allowing lapped cars between the pair to overtake ahead of the 58th and final lap.
And Verstappen, with a major advantage, roared past Hamilton in the final lap to become the fourth-youngest F1 world champion in history, aged 24.
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Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff was furious at Masi’s decision, which ultimately cost Hamilton a record-breaking eighth world title.
And the Silver Arrows approached stewards with two protests over the outcome on Sunday – both of which were rejected.
In a press conference on Monday, Verstappen was asked whether Hamilton would’ve protested if it was down to him.
While the Dutchman sympathises with how their title battle ended, he believes the seven-time champion was ultimately acceptant of the outcome.
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He told reporters: “I also think [Hamilton accepted the result]. It also helps that he already has seven titles, so that maybe comforts him a bit.
“I think if it’s the other way round, then it would be more painful for me because I didn’t have one. Lewis is a great sportsman in general. He came up to me and congratulated me.
“It must have been very tough in that last lap, but it also shows the respect we have for each other.
“Of course we had our tough times during the season, but at the end we respect what we were doing and we were pushing each other to the limit that whole season so it’s been very enjoyable racing against him.”
Verstappen also revealed that despite his fury with how the season ended, Wolff sent congratulations and stated he deserved the title via text.
“Toto [Wolff] sent me a text [saying] congratulations on the season and I deserved to win it so that was very nice of him. Emotions ran very high through that last lap from both teams,” Verstappen added.
Mercedes had launched their intent to appeal late on Sunday night, but reports have since suggested they won’t go ahead.
In response, Red Bull boss Christian Horner had asserted that they are ready to meet Mercedes in court to maintain Verstappen’s world champion status.
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