Max Verstappen has admitted that he got “very lucky” with his victory in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but that he “deserved it” for his bad luck earlier in the campaign.
Speaking on his return to Red Bull’s factory in Milton Keynes on Wednesday, where the 24-year-old was greeted by the entire workforce who lit orange flares in his honour, Verstappen added that he was “not sweating” about the prospect of Mercedes appealing against his win.
Max Verstappen embraces Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.Credit:Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton’s team, who failed with two protests in the immediate aftermath of Verstappen’s win on Sunday, still, in theory, have until 7pm Thursday, UK time, when the FIA prize-giving gala takes place in Paris, to lodge their appeal, having registered an intention to do so.
“People say it was a lucky win,” Verstappen said. “Absolutely, the win was very lucky, but we also have been very unlucky throughout the season, otherwise the championship would have been decided way earlier, even with the dominance Mercedes had towards the end. I’m like, well, sometimes a little bit of luck in your life is nice as well.”
“I’m not sweating,” he added of a possible Mercedes appeal. “I had my moment already. It was an amazing moment with the whole team and I do think we deserve it.
“It was very painful for Lewis and I would also be hurt in the way he lost it. But in a way, still between us it’s a bit different because I was fighting for my first title and he already had seven.”
Verstappen also admitted that he and Hamilton “hated each other” at certain points in the year, but that his respect for him was immense.
“I think the little moment we had after the race already, you look each other in the eye,” he said of the moment when Hamilton came up to congratulate him. “You don’t say a lot but you do relate a lot throughout the whole season and you actually really appreciate the fight. Sometimes we did hate each other, but that’s fine, that’s the competitive spirit both of us have.”
Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, admitted he would not be truly comfortable until Verstappen had the trophy in his hands at the FIA gala dinner on Thursday night.
“I don’t think it’s official until it’s official,” he said. “But as far as we’re concerned, Max is the world champion until someone says otherwise. This is an issue between Mercedes and the FIA. Max has done absolutely nothing wrong.”
Horner also revealed that both Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Daimler chairman Ola Kallenius had texted their congratulations.
Horner read Wolff’s text message out: “It said: ‘congratulations on the drivers’ championship with Max. He’s a worthy champion and a fierce competitor. Enjoy your evening. You’ve earned it.’
“And I said to him: ‘I know it’s been an intense season but respect has always been there. Congratulations on your constructors’ championship. Remember, that’s where the money is.’”
Horner also backed race director Michael Masi to stay in his job, despite being at the centre of Sunday’s controversy. “I think it would be incredibly hard to take it off him,” he said. “He just needs more support. He needs more tools available to him. And I think probably the regulations need looking at to give him that empowerment.”
The Telegraph, London
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