Fans and critics' 'short memories' will mean people forget about the controversial ending to the dramatic 2021 Formula 1 season, according to Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
Max Verstappen secured a maiden world title in dramatic and controversial circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after he and title rival Lewis Hamilton went into the season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit tied on points.
The Dutchman passed the seven-time world champion – who had dominated for much of the race – on the final lap as a late safety car came out following a Nicholas Latifi crash, allowing Verstappen to pit and change tyres as momentum swung in his favour.
The 24-year-old made the move on the Brit early in the single lap shootout and he held on to secure the first championship of his career.
Mercedes’ fury was largely aimed at FIA race director Michael Masi after he decided to not allow cars to unlap themselves, as is tradition, only to change his mind to set up the final lap showdown between Hamilton and Verstappen.
The epic but controversial conclusion to the race and season is still aggressively disputed by fans, but Horner believes people will eventually move on.
"People in this business have such very short memories,' said Horner, quoted by GPFans . "We’ve even forgotten what happened [earlier in the year]. It was such a long racing season.
"Max is absolutely a deserving world champion. When you look at the championship as a whole, of course, the events in Abu Dhabi drew an awful lot of comment but that happens in sport.
'We had a lot of bad luck last year, we got fortunate with a safety car, we made the right strategic calls, great strategy, great teamwork and great execution by Max, and we won the race.
'Time will move on. Max is a very deserving world champion, we are incredibly proud of that, and the history books will always show he is the 2021 world champion."
Mercedes lodged protests which were dismissed by the FIA and the team opted to withdraw its official appeal on December 16, four days after the events unfolded.
The news of their withdrawal confirmed Verstappen as the 2021 world champion with Hamilton, who is tied with Michael Schumacher for the most titles in F1 history with seven world championships, has yet to break his silence on social media.
And Verstappen has backed up up Horner's comments, insisting controversy is simply part and parcel of sport.
"Even with championships won 30 years ago or whatever, there has also been controversy," Verstappen said. 'Nowadays, when people look back at the footage they enjoy it. It’s just part of the sport."
The defending champion will be one of the strong favourites for the title once again in 2022, particularly as Red Bull's car will likely suit the aerodynamic-heavy regulation changes given their technical director, Adrian Newey, is a top-tier aerodynamicist.
F1 will return in 2022 for pre-season testing on February 23 before the opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.
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