Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out
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A Mercedes driver has admitted he believes Max Verstappen deserved to beat Lewis Hamilton to the F1 world championship in 2021. The Dutchman eventually secure his maiden title with a last-gasp overtake in the season finale, scuppering his rival’s hopes of a historic eighth success.
In the end, the fatal blow to Hamilton’s hopes was a controversial one as a late safety car in Abu Dhabi changed the course of the title race.
It allowed Verstappen to pit for soft tyres and close up to Hamilton ready for racing if they were able to resume before they ran out of laps.
And race director Michael Masi obliged by fast-tracking the process so the last lap could be a title-deciding shootout.
Mercedes were furious, however, as they felt Masi had broken the rules by doing so and handed Verstappen an unfair advantage over his rival, who had much older tyres.
In the end Hamilton did not have the grip to compete and was powerless to prevent his rival from snatching the trophy away from him.
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In the eyes of one Mercedes-employed racer, though, Verstappen was worthy of the end result and only bad luck had prevented him from having the title wrapped up sooner.
Stoffel Vandoorne is a close friend of the new champion, sharing his Belgian heritage and living close to each other in Monaco.
He revealed he was pleased to see Verstappen win the title, even though it meant heartbreak for his Mercedes colleague Hamilton.
“He told me that normally he never feels pressure, but that during the last Grand Prix he felt such intense pressure for the first time in his career,” Vandoorne told RTBF Sport.
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“He was super happy because he sacrificed so much to get there. He deserves his world title, especially considering the strides he and Red Bull have made.
“Honestly, if you look at Max’s season, there were three moments where he lost a lot of points. If that hadn’t happened, he probably would have become champion earlier.”
Vandoorne’s words echoed what Verstappen himself has said on several occasions before.
The Dutchman also believes he should have been the champion a lot sooner and was stopped from doing so by bad luck and his car, which often could not match the Mercedes for pace.
Regardless, he eventually got over the line and will defend his title when the racing action resumes from March.
Verstappen will no longer be sporting his usual number 33 when he does, though, opting to flaunt the number one car.
The F1 champion has the right to sport that number on their car and racing suit, but not everyone chooses to take up that option.
Hamilton, for example, opted to keep his iconic number 44 even when he was the reigning title-holder.
“I just want to enjoy what I’ve achieved this season with the team,” Verstappen told Formula1.com when looking ahead to the 2022 campaign.
“But I know that after one or two weeks, I need to be back in that mindset for next year when I will try to defend the title.
“But also what I am looking forward to is to drive around with number one.”
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