Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out
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Details of the rivalry between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have been granted extra depth by an exchange between the pair before Sunday’s showdown in Abu Dhabi which cameras failed to capture. Although points have been ferociously fought for between the title contenders all season, an element of respect remained and Hamilton shook Verstappen’s hand when the Dutchman snatched the title at Yas Marina.
The Brit was considered by many to have done well by keeping his cool after a controversial ending to a dramatic season.
FIA race director Michael Masi presented Verstappen with a golden opportunity with one lap remaining, wiping out Hamilton’s lead by allowing lapped cars separating the pair to pass through before the safety car retreated to the pits.
And the Red Bull man, on fresh soft-compound tyres, took the opportunity superbly to secure his first world title.
While Hamilton appeared gracious in defeat after the race finished, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was visibly infuriated with Masi’s decision.
Mercedes and Red Bull camps as a whole have been at each others’ throats virtually all year, with high-stakes drama becoming a feature of the 2021 season.
And with Verstappen’s Silverstone shunt landing him in hospital, as well as several other collisions during the course of the year, onlookers presumed that an intense hatred was brewing between the title protagonists.
But according to F1 journalist Tom Clarkson, who spoke to the F1 Nation podcast, an exchange in Abu Dhabi before last Thursday’s hotly-anticipated press conference suggests otherwise.
“Max arrives early, sits down and we’re having a chat,” he said.
“Three minutes later, Lewis walks in.
“He walks straight over, fist bumps him and goes, ‘how are you doing man?’, and they have a bit of a chat.
“We had a Netflix camera in there, there was even a photographer as well.
“At the end [of the press conference], I told the Netflix guy that he must have enjoyed the fist bump, and he missed it.
“Nobody knows about this fist bump except for me and about three others in the room.”
While relations appear to have been friendly in the lead-up to Sunday’s showdown, talk of an appeal from Mercedes regarding the race result threatens to sour any lingering friendship.
Sports law specialists claim that the Silver Arrows may have a case if they opt to take legal action, although others have urged them to accept the defeat and move on.
Verstappen claims that Wolff has already sent him a message of congratulations regarding his title win, adding that he deserved his maiden crown.
Whichever way it falls, fans will already be rubbing their hands together that Hamilton and Verstappen, whether friendly or not, will do battle once again in 2022.
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