F1: “it has been an incredible season”, concludes Verstappen

“It’s been an incredible season, not just this race,” analyzes the Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull) after snatching his first F1 world title in extremis in the last lap of the last Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

“We had our difficult times, but it’s part of the fight for the title,” he said of his great rival, Briton Lewis Hamiltion, whose Mercedes team filed a complaint about the course of the end of the race.

Q: How to qualify this race?

A: “Troubled! At the beginning, we clearly lacked pace. I tried to follow (Lewis Hamilton, his rival for the title, in the lead, editor’s note) as long as possible but we didn’t have the pace. Already, our start was not good. It’s enough difficult, I was a little lonely, then Checo (Pérez, his teammate) did a great job trying to keep Lewis behind him (after a passage from the Briton through the pits, note) and the gap narrowed. My is Lewis passed him and he walked away again. We tried something different (changing tires) during the virtual safety car but it didn’t work, we still didn’t have the pace. Then everything went crazy at the end, with the safety car then the restart. (…) Of course, it looked complicated at times, I didn’t see an opportunity to turn the tide. But the safety car gave us a free pit stop, we took the opportunity to switch to softer tires and the last lap was just amazing. I had more grip (than Hamilton), but it still had to be done and we did it! (…) In addition, I had a huge cramp in my leg. But on the last lap, we have to bite the bullet. Then it was just mind-blowing emotions. ”

Q: Are you starting to digest these emotions?

The joy on the podium of the Dutch driver Max Verstappen, after winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and clinching his 1st world title, the 12 December 2021, ahead of the seven-time world champion, Briton Lewis Hamilton (g) and Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr (POOL / AFP – KAMRAN JEBREILI) A: “It’s coming in slowly. It’s been an incredible season, not just this race. Incredible brawls … Before starting the season, I felt that we could have better chances compared to the missed opportunities of the last few years, but to be there at the end is an incredible achievement. (…) The past is coming back to me now, especially the trips through Europe with my father (at the time of karting, editor’s note). We had a first objective: to arrive in F1, hope to win a race and hear the national anthem. But then, of course, the ultimate goal was the world title, which is very hard to get. Now that it’s happened, it’s crazy. And having my relatives, my family, my friends, my dad, my manager, my girlfriend, all here, that makes things even more special. ”

Q: Your rivalry with Lewis Hamilton was exceptional, what do you take away from that?

A: “Overall I really enjoyed her. Of course, we had our tough times, but that’s part of the title fight (…) and now that the season is over, we’re going to be able to relax a bit. It was tense as a competition. In almost every race, we pushed each other to the limit and our cars too. I think it’s really great to see. ”

Comments collected at a press conference