Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out
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Max Verstappen expects Lewis Hamilton to come back fighting next season amid sensational claims he could call time on his glistening F1 career. In the aftermath of last Sunday’s thrilling season finale at Yas Marina, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff appeared to suggest Hamilton’s time behind the wheel could be up.
The Austrian claimed Hamilton feels “disillusioned” by the events in Abu Dhabi after Mercedes retracted their appeal following a controversial finish to the race.
“It’s going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened on Sunday. I don’t think we will ever come over it, that’s not possible,” Wolff said on Thursday morning during a dramatic press call.
“And certainly not him [Hamilton] as a driver. I would very much hope the two of us and the rest of the team we can work through the events… But he will never overcome the pain and the distress that was caused on Sunday.”
Hamilton and Wolff were absent from the FIA’s prize-giving gala in Paris on Thursday night after choosing not to travel to France.
But Verstappen was there of course as he continues to celebrate his maiden world championship and the Dutchman had to face plenty of questions about the manner of his victory and his opposite number.
Yet he remains adamant he will renew rivalries with Hamilton in the new year, claiming the development of both cars could play a big part in the outcome of next term.
“Next year I’m sure he’ll do his best, at a very high level,” Verstappen said.
“It will depend on the competitiveness of our cars, they are totally changing, but personally I hope the rivalry with Lewis will continue.
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“He has been an incredible competitor. It was a real pleasure to race against him. It was very intense but I’m happy to have had a season like that.
“I’ve been dreaming of this for a long time.”
During a previous interview with Sky Sports F1, Verstappen also paid tribute to his rivalry with Hamilton, stating the tension helps bring the best from one another.
It has threatened to boil over between the pair at various points during the season – most recently in Saudi Arabia after the duo collided on the track – but Verstappen made it clear he still respects the seven-time world champion.
“I had a great fight all season with Lewis and of course we came together a few times but at the end of the day we respect each other a lot and it’s great for the sport,” he said.
“It’s tough to lose a Championship on the last lap but what was really nice was that Lewis came straight up to me after the race and congratulated me – that’s what real sportsmen do.
“The way we pushed each other to the limit in every single race as well as the team – everyone has to be perfect or at least try to be perfect.
“That brings a lot of pressure and stress for everyone which is quite extraordinary because I’ve had seasons in the past where I was on the podium but there was nothing to push for – so to have a season like this was pretty intense.”
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