Verstappen praises 'amazing driver' Hamilton after winning title showdown against 7-time champion
In Abu Dhabi, Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen called competitor Lewis Hamilton an “amazing” driver after winning out in an astonishing season-long battle with the seven-time champion.
Verstappen took pole position, lost the lead, and regained it in a last-lap shootout after a late Safety Car was called in Abu Dhabi. Mercedes, who won a record eighth-consecutive constructors’ title on Sunday with Hamilton second and Valtteri Bottas P6 at Yas Marina, protested the outcome but had those protests dismissed – after which the Silver Arrows lodged an intention to appeal the decision.
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The Dutchman remarked afterwards on how it felt to go toe-to-toe against a seven-time champion over this 22-race season.
“I have a lot of respect for Lewis, but you know, I’m just very happy that I won in general because it’s been of course a very tough season fighting against Mercedes and Lewis. But I don’t want to sound... arrogant or whatever, to say that it’s a great satisfaction to win against him,” said Verstappen.
“I just have a lot of respect for him, and I know he’s an amazing driver in terms of what he’s achieved but I’m just very happy that we won it.”
Red Bull’s second F1 champion – after Sebastian Vettel – added that the bar had been set “very high” by himself and Hamilton this season.
“I think in general, the quality has been very high, I think set by myself and Lewis of course,” he added.
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“We have been pushing each other to the limit every single time. There have been quite some tough races physically because you were just flat-out all the time, there was no lap to rest, and you know, throughout the whole weekend – qualifying, race – it was important to always try and be perfect which is very hard in Formula 1 to always be perfect.
“A little lock-up can make the difference between P1 and P2 so in the championship we had, that was massive, and that’s why [the level] was really high.”
Reflecting on his ferocious rivalry with Hamilton that has seen the pair go wheel-to-wheel in such epics as Bahrain, Imola, Saudi Arabia and here in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen said: “Of course, in general, I think we have really enjoyed it. Of course, you know, we had our moments, but I think in a championship battle, that’s part of it.
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“And now that the season is over, I think we can relax a little bit more about it – but it’s been tense. The competition, almost every race we have been pushing each other to the limit, within our cars as well. And I think that is just really nice to see.”
And how has this titanic campaign changed Verstappen?
“New experiences,” are what the Dutchman said he had gained, adding: “and again, I learned more about myself in a positive way, luckily, but luckily you keep on improving, that’s for sure.”