By Mark Mann-Bryans, PA
Max Verstappen has revealed that Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff sent a congratulatory text message after the Red Bull driver’s dramatic Formula One title victory.
Verstappen overtook Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton on a controversial last-lap shoot-out at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday to claim his maiden F1 crown.
The Dutch racer then faced a nervy four-hour wait to have that first title ratified as Mercedes failed with a double appeal.
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
Mercedes are expected to take their protests further with continued appeals, but that did not stop team principal Wolff reaching out to Verstappen with a sporting message.
“Toto sent me a text saying ‘congratulations on the season’ and that I deserved to win it,” said Verstappen.
“So that was very nice of him of course.”
Mercedes’ ire remains focused around the incorrect deployment of the safety car after a crash late in the race, that wiped out Hamilton’s sizeable lead on Verstappen.
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) December 13, 2021
The Dutch driver then had a clear advantage for the final lap, with the two rivals on different tyres.
British star and seven-time champion Hamilton has remained gracious in defeat, immediately embracing Verstappen after the race in congratulations.
Asked for his thoughts on any continued Mercedes protests, Verstappen added: “Emotions ran very high through that last lap, from both teams, so it is what it is, we’ll see.”
Praising Hamilton’s response, Verstappen continued: “Lewis is a great sportsman in general.
“Of course it helps that he has seven titles, I think that comforts him a bit.
“If it’s the other way around, maybe it would be a bit more painful, because I didn’t have one.
“But he came up to me and congratulated me and it must have been very tough. It just shows how much respect we have for each other.
“We have been pushing each other to the limit all season. So it has been very enjoyable racing against him.”
Verstappen appears ready to ease the tension with Hamilton moving forward too, at the end of a season where the two rivals’ enmity had risen steadily.
“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.”