Verstappen wins 2021 F1 world championship
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Xevi Pujolar, who served as Max Verstappen’s race engineer at Toro Rosso between 2015 and 2016, believes that the Red Bull driver was fully deserving of his recent Drivers’ Championship triumph in spite of the controversial manner of his decisive victory in Abu Dhabi. Verstappen became the first Dutch driver to clinch the end-of-season honours by beating Lewis Hamilton to the chequered flag at the Yas Marina Circuit earlier this month.
The 24-year-old reaped the rewards of a late safety car period that allowed him to close up to his Mercedes rival, who had established a healthy lead over the course of the race.
He was given a clear run at Hamilton when race director Michael Masi controversially allowed the five lapped cars between the two leaders to unlap themselves under the safety car.
Verstappen went on to take the lead with a brave lunge on the Brit during the one-lap shootout that followed before crossing the line to seal his maiden Drivers’ Championship title under extraordinary circumstances.
He has been lauded by many as a worthy winner in spite of the contentious nature of his victory in Abu Dhabi after leading more laps than all other drivers combined over the course of the entire year.
This is a view shared by Pujolar, who is adamant that Verstappen was forced to deal with his own fair share of bad luck on his route to F1 glory.
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“Sooner or later he would become world champion, I knew it,” Pujolar told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“If we were only looking at the Abu Dhabi race until the safety car came on, Lewis was dominating without question. But if we look at the season as a whole, Max deserved the title.
“He had a tough time in F1 in the first few years, but he deserved the top spot by showing all his improvements.
“He is the right winner for the 2021 world championship because he drove very well, making fewer mistakes.
“Both he as a driver and his team, behaving great also in the strategies. Max has faced bad luck and several penalties.”
Verstappen was hailed for his mental strength and calm demeanour during the closing stages of the season, bearing all the hallmarks of a true champion under the greatest pressure of his career to date.
Pujolar went on to reveal that his former driver’s title-winning potential was clear to see from the word go, insisting that he was always going to establish himself as one of F1’s biggest talents from the moment he climbed into the cockpit for the very first time.
“I’m not surprised, even in my time with him, Max had an amazing mental level and it has grown even more in recent years,” added Pujolar.
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“For me, that’s his strength, the ability to overcome himself, the resilience, the desire not to give up and to fight until the end, to work hard to become number one.
“Because Max only wanted one thing, to prove he was the best. He never gave up, developing a talent he already had as a base.”
Verstappen will be aiming to defend his Drivers’ Championship title from Hamilton when the new F1 season gets underway next year, with hostilities set to be renewed at the Bahrain Grand Prix in March.
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