Max Verstappen’s first Formula One world title panned out “way more intense” than he could have imagined but the Red Bull driver can finally enjoy his victory after Mercedes officially withdrew its appeal into how the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finished.
Speaking to CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies on Wednesday, Verstappen said he was looking forward to the moment his title victory begins to sink in.
“I think especially once you sign off a bit from the season you have a little time to relax so it will be even better,” he said.
“It’s been way more intense than I could ever imagined, with the pressure on the whole year but also the way the last race panned out.
“I think if you would have told me the night before, I probably wouldn’t have slept so yeah, really really crazy.”
Verstappen explained how, whilst the crowds were going crazy during a chaotic last lap, he tried to remain focused and was battling with cramp in his leg which made going full throttle a challenge.
He said watching the race back was an intense experience.
“The first few times it was quite emotional looking back, just the realization that you won the championship,” he said.
“Especially in that way, last lap, everything just came together, it was really intense.”
Lewis Hamilton had been on course to win a record-breaking eighth world title until Verstappen took advantage of a late safety car to overtake the Mercedes driver on the final lap and clinch his maiden crown.
Race director Michael Masi’s decision to allow racing on the last lap infuriated Mercedes, which lodged two protests on Sunday night which, after hours of talks, were rejected by officials.
The team had said it intended to appeal the decision but announced Thursday that it had decided against it.
“We have always been guided by our love of this sport and we believe that every competition should be won on merit,” Mercedes wrote in a statement on Thursday.
“In the race on Sunday many felt, us included, that the way things unfolded was not right.”
‘We congratulate you and your entire team’
It added: “We appealed in the interest of sporting fairness, and we have since been in a constructive dialogue with the FIA and Formula 1 to create clarity for the future, so that all competitors know the rules under which they are racing, and how they will be enforced.
“Thus, we welcome the decision by the FIA to install a commission to thoroughly analyse what happened in Abu Dhabi and to improve the robustness of rules, governance and decision making in Formula 1. We also welcome that they have invited the teams and drivers to take part.
“We will hold the FIA accountable for this process and we hereby withdraw our appeal.”
Despite his dramatic defeat, which saw a record-breaking achievement snatched away from him at the final moment, Hamilton had been sporting after the race and congratulated Verstappen on victory.
His Mercedes team had been markedly more quiet but praised the Dutchman and his team in Thursday’s statement.
The two teams had been at war for most of the year in one of the most competitive seasons in F1 history.
“To Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing: we would like to express our sincere respect for your achievements this season,” the statement continued.
“You made this Formula 1 Championship title fight truly epic. Max, we congratulate you and your entire team. We look forward to taking the fight to you on the track next season.”
While a world title slipped out of his hands, Hamilton celebrated being knighted on Wednesday.
The 36-year-old Brit was named in the New Year Honours list in December 2020, and received a knighthood from the Prince of Wales for his services to motorsport in an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.
Published twice a year, the honors list recognizes those who have accomplished excellence in a spectrum of pursuits, including both celebrities and non-famous faces.
“Lewis, you are the greatest racer in the history of Formula 1 and you drove your heart out for every lap of this incredible season,” Mercedes said.
“You’re a flawless sportsman on and off the track and you delivered a faultless performance.
“As a pure competitor and as a role model for millions around the world, we salute you.”
F1 will now take a break before drivers return to the track next year for what promises to be a fascinating season.
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