The Dutchman later remarked on how it felt to go toe-to-toe with a seven-time champion during this 22-race season.
In Abu Dhabi, Formula One champion Max Verstappen praised rival Lewis Hamilton as a “amazing” driver after defeating the seven-time champion in a season-long battle. Verstappen won the pole, then lost it and regained it in a last-lap shootout after a late Safety Car was called in Abu Dhabi.
Mercedes, which won a record eighth constructors’ title on Sunday at Yas Marina with Hamilton second and Valtteri Bottas sixth, protested the result but had those protests dismissed – after which the Silver Arrows filed an intention to appeal the decision. The Dutchman later remarked on how it felt to go toe-to-toe with a seven-time champion during 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.
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“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,” he added.
After Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull’s second F1 champion added that he and Hamilton had set a “very high” standard this season. “I think in general, the quality has been very high, I think set by myself and Lewis of course,” Verstappen said.
“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,” he added.
“Of course, in general, I think we have really enjoyed it,” Verstappen said of his ferocious rivalry with Hamilton, which has seen the pair go wheel-to-wheel in such epics as Bahrain, Imola, Saudi Arabia, and here in Abu Dhabi. Of course, we had our moments, but I think that’s part of the game in a championship game.
“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,” he concluded.