Newly-crowned 2021 Formula One World Champion, Max Verstappen has described his title winning season as “unbelievable”, despite a controversial finish to 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Having found himself running second for the majority of the title-deciding season finale, Verstappen benefitted from a late Safety Car as he pitted for soft tyres, amidst a controversial decision to only let lapped cars between him and Lewis Hamilton unlap themselves on the penultimate lap.
Verstappen consequently was able to make a race and title winning overtake on Hamilton into Turn Five on the final lap, which wrapped up his tenth win of the season and a first F1 driver for any Dutch driver as power unit supplier, Honda said farewell to the sport again.
The 24 year-old was also carrying cramp in his calf heading into the last lap which he described as “not very nice” as he decided that he just had “to keep it flat” to the checkered flag to secure victory.
Speaking post-race about what it felt to become champion even after his own father – Jos Verstappen walked out of Red Bull garage during early laps of the race as he ran second, Max described the title-winning feeling as “unbelievable” after “fighting” throughout the “insane” race.
Reflecting on his bond with his father post-race, Max said that his childhood goal was to become a F1 driver and achieve wins with the Dutch national anthem played out plus other podiums.
Max also commented on his emotions of being confirmed as champion after FIA rejected Mercedes’ protests post-race, as he said: “When you stand here and they tell you, you are the world champion, it is incredible especially with my Dad (Jos) and the special moment we had here.”
Verstappen also paid tribute to his fans and Red Bull as he iterated that they all “deserve” credit for pushing him to the “incredible” title through their support and pushing him to be his very best as he admitted that “sometimes miracles happen.”
Sergio Perez though was the only Red Bull member to be singled out for particular praise by Verstappen, who said; ” I also want to say a big thank you to Checo (Sergio Pérez), he was driving his heart out as well. It was great teamwork and he is an amazing teammate.”
Reflecting on his and Perez’s journey together as new teammates this season, Verstappen revealed that he thought it was “difficult” to work out how their dynamics would unfold, as he proceeded to hail the “team player” Mexican as “just an amazing human being.”
Putting to bed any rumours of a future departure for a rival team, Verstappen added; “I want to stay with them for the rest of my life. I hope they let me. I am so happy.”
Verstappen also spoke about the last lap drama as he admitted that he found it “hard to believe” he could win after struggling for pace throughout the race, yet he felt that the timings of both Virtual Safety Car and Safety Car periods helped him with “no pressure from behind.”
In the end, Verstappen won his maiden F1 title by eight points from Hamilton but hailed the seven-time champion as “an amazing driver and an amazing competitor who made it really, really hard for us and I think everyone loved to see it.”
Red Bull Team Principal, Christian Horner added that he is thankful of “the racing Gods” and Nicholas Latifi for bringing out the Safety Car, yet couldn’t resist one last moan about the stewards as he described Red Bull as “hard done by” after an opening lap clash between Verstappen and Hamilton.
Reflecting on the season and Verstappen’s title, Horner added; “It has been an insane competition and for Max to win the world championship, it is not just about here, it is about the whole year.”
Horner also praised Hamilton with “all credit” for proving “a phenomenal opponent all year and a great world champion and that’s what makes it even more valid to win this.”
Mercedes were also acknowledged as “fierce and great opponents” but Horner praised Red Bull’s strategists for their call to make a third pit stop for softs, which enabled Verstappen to win the title which left Horner screaming from Turn Five to the checkered flag of the last lap.