Max Verstappen defends Formula 1 title

Like what he has done throughout the season, Max Verstappen is pushing his Red Bull racing car to its limits. But trying their best, no one was able to catch Lewis Hamilton, the race leader and his opponent in the winner’s Formula 1 final in Abu Dhabi.

With six laps remaining, Hamilton took an 11-second lead – an eternity in Formula 1 terms – and seemed destined to claim his record eighth world title, heading towards the line in the Mercedes, which he expertly drove towards the end of the season to erase Verstappen’s lead.

In the cockpit of his car as the laps shortened to what should have been an unfortunate sign in a promising season, Verstappen refused to remain calm, trusting the race’s ability to deliver. surprising scenarios.

“Slowly, of course it won’t happen. But I also say never stop believing until the last lap is driven and that’s really what I did,” Verstappen said Wednesday. “And then, of course, I was hoping for miracles in my head, but I was also very focused on trying to do the best I could.”

The magic has come. As Hamilton was driving, Nicholas Latifi, driving at the end of the field, crashed his Williams, throwing debris across the track and causing the safety car to be deployed. But even then, if the usual rules are followed, Verstappen’s hopes of winning one of the tightest championship games seem unlikely. The race director, to Hamilton’s chagrin, took a different tack, paving the way for the final shootout. That gave Verstappen chance to pass Hamilton.

The controversial conclusion has hung about Verstappen’s win ever since, with Mercedes signaling its intention to continue with its appeal after failing to overturn the race results hours after Verstappen took the checkered flag, won the world championship with 8 points. The deadline for Mercedes to file an appeal expires on Thursday, at the same time Verstappen will be presented with the Formula 1 trophy in Paris.

“I don’t even think about it too much because I feel like a world champion,” said Verstappen, 24, wearing a cap on his head. “It doesn’t matter what they try to do. You know, we got it on the right track. We won it with the green flag, the green light and we passed them on the track and they’ll never take that away from me either way.”

On Wednesday, a statement from the governing body of Formula 1, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, admitted that the circumstances of the end of the race created the problem.

“The circumstances surrounding the use of Safety Cars following the Nicholas Latifi incident, and the communications between the FIA ​​Race Direction team and Formula 1 teams, notably created misunderstandings and reactions. considerable response from Formula 1 teams, drivers and fans, a controversy that is currently tarnishing the Championship’s image and the well-deserved celebration of the Top Driver’s World Championship title. first won by Max Verstappen and the eighth consecutive World Championship title won by Mercedes,” the statement said.

The controversy comes at the end of a difficult season. As Hamilton came close to Verstappen’s championship lead at the end of the season, ultimately tying him on points with victory in the penultimate race of the season at the inaugural, tense Saudi Arabian Grand Prix between the two riders and their team began to be made public. Hamilton’s anger at what he deemed dangerous to be driving by his challenger was broadcast on radio during the team race. However, Verstappen said, both Hamilton and the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, congratulated him on the championship title.

“You should accept a loss no matter how painful it is,” says Verstappen. Hamilton and Mercedes have not said much since the race ended on Sunday. Hamilton was conspicuously absent from Tuesday’s post-season test at the same Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, where he was denied victory.

The intervention of the Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, may have played a key role in convincing the race director, Michael Masi, to deviate from the norm, allowing Verstappen a chance in the laps. finally to pass Hamilton. During a radio broadcast during the race, Horner could be heard asking Masi to allow the race to start again and not finish behind the safety car, which would ensure victory for Hamilton.

Hoarse from the celebratory days, Horner presented himself as an outsider in the Mercedes vs FIA dispute “This is not a Red Bull vs Mercedes dispute,” said Horner, who remarked during the race that Verstappen needed a miracle “from the racing Gods” to stand a chance of winning as Hamilton took the lead. but when you look at the 22 races, Max is without a doubt an extremely well-deserved world champion.”

However, in a post-race interview, Horner acknowledged Latifi’s role in providing Verstappen’s last chance to win, providing Latifi with his team’s lifetime supply of energy drinks. he named. That led to a new wave of criticism of Latifi in social media posts that hasn’t subsided since Sunday’s race ended.

Verstappen said the criticism was unfair, and urged Latifi, who until his time was little known, to avoid reading the posts. “If that is the case, I feel very sorry for Nicholas,” Verstappen said. “But yeah, I think it was important for him at the time to turn off your phone and don’t listen to it.”

The intriguing end-of-season climax has been watched by millions of new converts to Formula 1, capturing the sport’s attention thanks to the success of the Netflix series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” . The show, which is finishing filming for its fourth season, has been criticized by some motorists, including Verstappen, who said earlier this year he will no longer be in, taking aim at what he says is an attempt by producers. stories about non-existent competition.

He doubled down on his criticism of the show even after ensuring victory over circumstances he accepted would provide a perfect ending for the show’s writers. “I’m not a big fan of it,” Verstappen said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/15/sports/autoracing/max-verstappen-f1.html Max Verstappen defends Formula 1 title

Jake Nichol

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