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I deserved it, says Verstappen

NEWS STORY
08/02/2022

Two months on from the controversy of Abu Dhabi, Max Verstappen believes he fully deserved the title as he describes the physical pain of that final lap.

If Saturday evening's tweet from Lewis Hamilton, and those that followed from his team, were anything to go by, it would appear that the 2022 title fight is well and truly on.

At a time Hollywood is said to be considering a movie based on the sport, Hamilton and Max Verstappen going head-to-head once again has all the makings of a blockbuster grudge match.

Of course, other than the six words that comprised Saturday's tweet we have yet to hear from Hamilton since that fateful evening at the Yas Marina, and it remains to be seen if the seven-time world champion will be more forthcoming in the coming weeks or opt to let his driving do the talking.

Ahead of the launch of the car with which he hopes to become the eleventh driver to score back-to-back titles, Max Verstappen has finally spoken out about the final moments of that race, while insisting that he fully deserved the title.

"I had a very good season and I think I really deserved it," he tells the Guardian. "I have been really unlucky as well," he adds. "People always remember the last race but, if you look at the whole season, the championship should have been decided way earlier."

As opposed to the clashes with his nemesis at Silverstone and Monza, no doubt, the Dutchman is referring to the tyre failure whilst leading in Azerbaijan and being hit by Valtteri Bottas at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Abu Dhabi, few will ever forget that final lap, as, in the best Hollywood tradition, it all came down to a winner takes all fight to the finish.

"What was going on in my head...," says the Dutchman of that final encounter, "I was like, 'I need to overtake him. There's only one option here. I'm not going to finish second'.

"I tried to be really on it with the restart," he continues. "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 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...

"If you go back over the data you will not see a very smooth throttle input," he admits. "I was screaming on the radio but the whole lap my foot was going like that. 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.

"I knew I had more grip," he says of the move at Turn 5, "so I was like: 'I'm going to surprise them on that corner'. Even my dad didn't expect me to do it there. These kind of things make the difference. But two long straights were coming up.

"I couldn't believe it," he admits, "especially after the whole race when everything looked like it was not happening. Suddenly your emotions swing 100% the other way.

"So crazy. It's what we had worked for my whole life. It was always my dream. Once you cross the line you realise you finally have it. I jumped out of the car and all the mechanics and my dad were running towards me.

"I thought he could die," he says of his father, Jos, "because it looked like he was about to have a heart attack. He was so pale, it was incredible. His skin colour was definitely not healthy."

Asked about the exchange with Hamilton in the moments after the race, he admits: "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.

"For me it's difficult to picture myself in that situation," he says in terms of how Hamilton must have been feeling, "because I'm not a seven-time world champion.

"If I was already a seven-time world champion it hurts a bit less than when I am fighting for my first, leading all the way, controlling it all the way, and then losing it on the last lap. That would be way more painful than already having seven in the bag."

Since that moment there has been no contact between the pair.

"That's quite normal," says the Red Bull star, "we live our own lives and see each other quite a lot already (when racing)."

Asked if he was concerned when Mercedes first launched its appeal, he responds: "Not that it could be taken away from me but just it was dragging on. That whole night we were waiting and then the result came out."

The official investigation into what happened in Abu Dhabi won't be known until the eve of the season opener, nonetheless Verstappen is unconcerned. "Yeah, but they can't do anything," he says.

With that first title under his belt, the Dutch youngster admits that a little bit of pressure has been removed.

"That little pressure in the back of your mind, of having to win a world championship or trying to win it, has gone," he says. "It's already happened. I've done it. So when it's tough or you're having bad luck you probably will deal with it easier than normal."

Asked if he's targeting 7, like Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, or even 8, he relies: "Not really. If I never get to a No 7 or No 8, it's fine. You need a lot of luck to be in such a dominant position for such a long time. I just want to enjoy it and I know that, when I get to the track, I still want to win."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by F1 fan, 17/02/2022 17:37

"I strongly disagree. He is a talented driver, a bit too entitled and a bully on track. If he is thinking that he should have won it long before the final lap of the final race where he trailed Hamilton for the entire race he is wrong. A tire failure here, an aggressive move on a few occasions etc al adds up to excuses. If that is an accepted idea then Hamilton could have/should have 10 titles by now (in the kitty litter in China, crashing with Nico in Spain etc). Max and the deplorable Helmut Marko and Chrisitan Horner whine about everything until they get their way. Not a fan of the Red Bulls any more."

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2. Posted by Ras, 12/02/2022 10:20

"Given that it took intervention from the FIA to give it to him, deep down, in a place he doesn't like to go, he knows he doesn't deserve it. it will always be tainted, tarnished. not ideal for your first WDC. Horner knows it, Helmet knows it and Max knows it. "

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3. Posted by Egalitarian, 10/02/2022 2:51

"I'm surprised by this - giving how humble Max is (as Much as Christian and Helmut), I would have thought he'd say he didn't deserve it. "

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4. Posted by Egalitarian, 10/02/2022 1:59

"How many races did Max start?"

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5. Posted by kenji, 09/02/2022 23:18

"Nothing will change now apart from the infrastructure of the Control room and that should go a long way towards rectifying the problems of the past. i tend to support Max Noble's analysis and I just hope that whatever is finally changed is in no way discriminatory. What is exciting is the prospect of possibly seeing McLaren and Ferrari vying for wins. Now that would be great outcome."

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6. Posted by Spindoctor, 09/02/2022 22:46

"Time to put the Abu Dhabi fiasco to bed. Hopefully Lewis & Toto will simply get on with creating & driving a really fast car because you can be sure Newey's RBR will be fast. Ferrari are due for a bit of a renaissance so roll on Race 1!"

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7. Posted by Defiant, 09/02/2022 19:20

" I'm on the same line of thinking as ChickenFarmerF1, I do think that is what happened. However, I do agree with Max Noble too, up to a point. Sport is littered with dodgy calls and what if's and I think that most of us accept that. What Masi did was use "part of the rules" to manipulate an exciting climax.
I will also say, Masi made a dodgy call in Lewis's favour during the same race, regarding the passing off track, but overall I still think that the manipulation of the rules lowers the legitimacy of Max's first championship and that truly is a shame. Max and Lewis where equally deserving of that title.
Much is similar to 1994 in that regard. Damon and Michael both deserved the title.
Max, just like Michael in 94 drove fantastically and deserved the title. I cannot argue with that fact.
but, just like 94 the last race was decided in very controversial terms and will forever mar what would and should have been a truly fantastic finale."

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8. Posted by Max Noble, 09/02/2022 9:24

"@ChickenFarmerF1 - OK, I was not in the control room that day… Yet I strongly believe there was no malice on the part of Masi, and no evil intent to bend the race to V. Max’s favour. Rather under the pressure cooker conditions of a complex realtime decision, and a desperate desire to *not* end the season under a safety car, he “winged it”, and here we are…

Technical Knockout, Off-side, penalty awarded, not giving water at the buoy, LBW… no ball… It was out (no puff of chalk back in the day…)… Sport is so full of arbitrary rule systems, and contested decisions by the Umpire/referee/steward… You play to the day, and accept what happens… Do not get me started on the violence of the “Body Line” series and how that could ever have been considered cricket…

Whereas a neatly executed Winged Keel is to be applauded at ever opportunity…

As over-seen by the FIA on pre-agreed terms, and conditions. V. Max won the season. So here we go again… :-)

…anyway an angry Toto, and Lewis combo is best for the fans. They are going to storm out the gate like avenging angels… Bring it on!"

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9. Posted by kenji, 08/02/2022 23:46

"@ Chickenfarmer...Silverstone/Monza/Azerbaijan......Hamilton was gifted plus Mercedes failed to cover off the RB pit stop. End of story. End of ' 21.






"

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10. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 08/02/2022 20:19

"Max and Lewis were each worthy of being champions last year. But Masi manipulated things to get that result by letting the lapped cars between Max and Lewis pass, but no others. Had the others been allowed to pass the race would have finished before green flag conditions were possible. Had none of the lapped cars been allowed to pass Max would have had to pass 5 cars before getting to Lewis. Which, even if they ALL just pulled to the side on the start finish straight for Max, would have taken enough time that Max wouldn't have been able to catch Lewis until probably just before the end.

kenji and some others like to say it was Merc's fault for not pitting Lewis for fresh tyres when Max did the same. But look at it from their perspective from the time. Lewis was miles ahead and Max had no hope of catching up. The tires would last to the end no problem, so the risk of stopping wasn't worth it (see Bottas's stop in Monaco). When Latifi crashed they correctly concluded that they couldn't clear the wreckage in time to let all lapped cars through and still go green before the finish. Based on the rules they made the right call.

If Masi wanted a (fair/sporting) race to the finish line he should have red-flagged the race, cleared the Latifi wreckage, and then restarted per the the normal procedures. In which case everyone would have gone on fresh tyres (including Lewis) and Max would have had to fight to get past on the restart and if unsuccessful would have had a few laps to try again. And if Max got by on the restart Lewis would have had a few laps to try to fight back into the lead.

But that's obviously not what Masi wanted.

Regarding Max whining about how he should have clinched the championship before Abu Dhabi, well, that's racing. If Lewis had the same reliability as Rosberg in 2016 he'd have won that championship too. And there's been plenty of other drivers saying "coulda, woulda, shoulda" over the years."

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11. Posted by Beans, 08/02/2022 16:47

"Great read , I really enjoyed Max detailing the extent of the troubles he was facing at the end of the race. I don't think I have ever considered how a leg or foot cramp could hamper a driver during the race. "

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12. Posted by kenji, 08/02/2022 13:51

"@ Mossman...Thank you for your kind comments. It matters little what I post as my comments, in the main, do not always conform to that of the current 'rage' and therefore attract considerable opposition. These days independent thought is unwelcome and conformity to nationalistic popularism is all the go. Like you I have spent quite some time in the Netherlands and whilst I enjoyed my time there I also understand their raging support. I am not a follower of Verstappen, I never have been and I doubt that I ever will but he is an honest bloke, I believe, and I was glad to see him win. To take on the might of Mercedes and beat them is no meant feat. '22 will, I fervently hope, be a cracker and I really do want to see the status quo disrupted even more. We need Ferrari and McLaren in there as well.Thanks again."

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13. Posted by MossMan, 08/02/2022 11:07

"I lived in the Netherlands for many years, and knowing the Dutch character (both Max' arrogance and the fanboyism of the Dutch fans and media) was not particularly supportive of him during this season. That said, I also sense similar - though less intense - from Hamilton and the British fans and media.

But again I have to agree with kenji on this one... the interview gives an impression of someone who felt he deserved the title and pushed hard at the end to get it and was not at all rancorous or disrespectful of Hamilton - indeed he could see Hamilton's point of view, even though he thinks the appeal was pointless.

So I'm not sure what Chris Roper means, nor do I understand the downvoting of kenji. "

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14. Posted by kenji, 08/02/2022 10:23

"An honest appraisal. Well done Max."

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15. Posted by Chris Roper, 08/02/2022 10:06

"I guess MAX has not decided to start the season off on a clean slate.

I was, some what na´vely, hoping that the two of them would put last year behind them and have a good clean fight on the Track this year to prove it.

I just hope that Hamilton will not rise to the bait and, as he like to say, "Let's his Driving talk for him on the Track"."

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