‘I’ve achieved everything’ – Verstappen says further F1 success will be ‘a bonus’ after claiming maiden title
After sealing his first Formula 1 title amid late drama on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, Max Verstappen looked back on an “insane” race and remarked that he never lost hope even when he was losing ground to rival Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi.
Verstappen won out a title decider over rival Lewis Hamilton under the lights at Yas Marina while Mercedes clinched a record eighth consecutive constructors’ championship on a historic day. The Dutchman lost the lead at the start but, in a crucial one-lap shootout after a late Safety Car, regained it at the expense of Lewis Hamilton.
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“Yes, [it was] pretty crazy. Especially how the whole race went. It was a bit of a rollercoaster of course from not really having a chance of winning to the last lap when everything comes together where you have to go for it and we did,” said Verstappen after winning his first title.
“Incredible, and insane, insane emotions as well – I lost my voice, sorry – so I think a few people in the garage as well. I haven’t seen my engineer, I’ll probably hug him to death.”
He added that he never gave up hope of winning the race and the title, even when it seemed at points that Hamilton was set for an easy victory, saying: “Well, I mean, of course it didn’t look great, but I always said to myself I’m going to push until the end, I’m not going to make it look like it’s too easy out there and I think that also kept me within that range where they couldn’t do a free stop under the Safety Car or whatever. In a way I was just trying to push myself till the end.”
The Dutchman however revealed the intense pain he felt towards the end of the race, as his right leg was cramping in the pivotal moment that saw him clinch victory.
“I had a massive cramp in my calf, so in my throttle leg, so all the time in the straights when I was going flat out and when I actually went for the move I had a massive cramp,” he explained. “I was actually happy in Turn 5 there was a braking zone so I could come off throttle!
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“Then I was of course in front and then the whole straight, you have this massive cramp in your muscle, it’s just like clamping on and getting worse and worse. I’ve had it before but it’s not a nice feeling, but a chance like this you just have to fight through it.”
Verstappen also credited his team mate Sergio Perez for helping him win the title, alluding to an epic scrap that saw Perez cost Hamilton valuable time on Laps 20 and 21 (below) to help his team mate make up ground to the Mercedes driver.
During the race, the Dutchman dubbed Perez a “legend” for his staunch defence, and afterwards he said: “Insane… because of Checo today I won the championship as well.
“I think without Checo I wouldn’t be sitting here for now, because then they would have had a pit gap with the Safety Car and stuff, so definitely, Checo was driving incredibly today.”
Now, the 24-year-old – F1’s fourth-youngest world champion – says he has achieved “everything” in F1 as he looks forward to defending his title in F1’s new era.
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“Of course, I will continue driving but of course, in terms of achievements I have achieved everything in Formula 1 now. So, everything that comes next is just a bonus,” he said.