Max Verstappen reveals what he told himself with five laps to go in Lewis Hamilton finale

Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out

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Max Verstappen told himself “I’m going to give my all” as his world title hopes appeared to be slipping away from him during last season’s dramatic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. With just five laps to go, it seemed inevitable that Lewis Hamilton would claim an eighth world crown, with the Mercedes man leading his rival by 11 seconds.

However, it was then that Williams driver Nicholas Latifi careered off the track, sparking a chaotic chain of events.

With a safety car deployed and the Dutchman comfortably sitting in second place, he took the gamble of pitting for fresh tyres, although that move appeared futile when race director Michael Masi ordered that lapped cars could not pass the FIA vehicle before it left the track.

However, under pressure from Red Bull boss Christian Horner, Masi then dramatically altered his instructions, allowing only the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves in order to ensure one final lap of racing.

It meant that Verstappen was able to get on the shoulder of the British driver, and on fresh tyres, performed the overtake he needed off the final lap to take the chequered flag in what proved a wild finale.

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The drama didn’t end there though, with Mercedes promptly launching two failed protests into the safety car procedure, and following a prolonged FIA enquiry, Masi was removed from his position this month.

Now, in a new documentary titled Verstappen – Lion Unleashed, the 24-year-old looks back on what transpired at the Yas Marina, and reveals his thought process moments before Latifi’s crash played into his hands.

”At that moment I tried to close the gap,” he told Viaplay, the streaming service behind the documentary.

“I knew I wouldn’t close an 11-second gap in five laps, but I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to give up now and drive slowly to the finish line. I’m going to give it my all to make it not look easy’ – I wasn’t really happy at that moment.”

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However, when he drove past Latifi’s vehicle, Verstappen suddenly had renewed hope, saying the intricate position of the car made him ‘hopeful’ of a restart.

Despite being on new tyres, the move which Verstappen executed to ultimately pass Hamilton came earlier than expected on that famous final lap, a tactic he also explains in the documentary.

”He didn’t expect me to overtake him there,” claimed Verstappen.

”We had less downforce that weekend so we had more top speed. So I wanted to be up front because without DRS I can defend.

“Even if he came alongside me he could never overtake me because of the topspeed advantage. With the grip I had I went for that corner and defended those other corners.”

Verstappen will begin his title defence in Bahrain with March 18-20 signalling the opening race weekend.

Prior to that, teams will head to the country on March 10 for three more days of pre-season testing, having taken to the track in Barcelona last week.

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