By Mark Mann-Bryans, PA
New Formula One world champion Max Verstappen is ready to relax the tension that built up with title rival Lewis Hamilton – with the crescendo coming on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.
Verstappen would overtake Hamilton on the last lap at the Yas Marina Circuit to claim his maiden F1 crown – albeit having to put the champagne on ice as a double appeal from Mercedes over the outcome took four hours to resolve.
Even now the issue is set to rumble on as Mercedes announced they had lodged a notice of intention to appeal the decision of the race stewards to stick by the classification.
Thank you everyone at @redbullracing and at @hondaracingf1 for an amazing car, you guys were amazing once again. @SChecoPerez, you were an animal today💪
To all my family and friends-thank you so much for all your support over the years. Couldn’t have done it without you!
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) December 12, 2021
Hamilton appeared to be charging to glory after beating his fellow protagonist off the line, easily holding Verstappen at bay in the closing laps only for a crash for the Williams of Nicholas Latifi to change the course of events.
Confusion reigned as under-fire race director Michael Masi changed his mind to allow lapped cars to pass the safety car, meaning Verstappen had a clear run at Hamilton on the final lap and on much faster tyres.
The Dutchman broke into tears as he crossed the line, professing his love for his team and sitting by his car after bringing it to a stop.
Mercedes immediately launched two appeals against the result, one against Verstappen for allegedly overtaking under a safety car and a second claiming a breach of rules regarding race restarts following a safety car period.
Both were dismissed after the two teams spent hours in the stewards’ office, Verstappen able to toast his title over four hours after crossing the finish line and – following a season of wheel-to-wheel racing and verbal sparring – he feels ready to ease the tension between himself and Hamilton.
“In general I think we have really enjoyed it,” Verstappen, who is set to collect his title at the FIA gala on Thursday said of his season-long battle with the Brit.
“Of course we had our moments, but I think in a championship battle, that’s part of it. 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.”
Verstappen said he would afford himself one drink to celebrate his championship.
“I was very emotional on the in-lap, that’s for sure,” he added.
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 12, 2021
“When the visor’s closed, nobody can see you, but of course, with all the celebrations it was just incredible, an incredible feeling.
“with my Dad (former F1 driver, Jos) it was very emotional. You know, growing up, working for that goal and then you’ve achieved it, that was just truly incredible.
“It’s all a bit tricky to talk but yeah, it was an incredible feeling for everyone.”