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today is Jan 23, 2022

Max Verstappen revealed he was in agony as he performed the last-lap pass on Lewis Hamilton which clinched the world championship.

The Red Bull driver overtook his rival at turn five as the final lap began, following a late restart which was the subject of post-race controversy lasting several days, until Mercedes dropped its threat of an appeal.

Verstappen collected his championship trophy at the FIA prizegiving ceremony yesterday. The Red Bull driver, who trailed Hamilton throughout the race until the final lap, admitted his chances looked lost until its contentious resumption on the final lap.

“Throughout that whole race we didn’t have the pace,” said Verstappen. “It didn’t look like we were going to win because the last few races we were just a bit behind.

“But I never gave up. I always said to myself I’m not going to make it look easy for them. I’m just going to keep pushing and I’m going to try everything I can to at least keep the gap close. And that’s what we did.”

Red Bull “did a great job with the strategy always putting new tyres on at the right time”, said Verstappen. That left him on fresh set of soft tyres at the end of the race while Hamilton had 44-lap-old hard rubber for what turned out to be a one-lap restart.

“You do need a bit of luck sometimes,” Verstappen admitted. “When you look throughout the whole season, we had a lot of bad luck and I actually lost a lot of points already. So otherwise it would have been a completely different championship. But that’s always, you have the ‘ifs’.

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“So, going into that race and then seeing it was not happening, I wasn’t very happy at the time for 55 laps or something. But then we had one lap to go and I knew I had the better tyres on. I was like, ‘well, I have nothing to lose now.'”

However, as he restarted the race in Hamilton’s slipstream, Verstappen was struck by a sudden pain. “I started to cross the line for the last lap and I got a massive cramp in my leg,” he explained. “So I had to deal with that in my throttle leg as well.

“So when I was going to go for the move into turn five, I had a massive cramp. I was actually very happy there was a corner coming up because I could actually brake. But that was also then the move to go into the lead, which was great.”

Having got ahead of Hamilton, Verstappen had to keep him behind through the runs to turns six and seven and again to turn nine. “There were two long straights to defend and to deal with a cramp like that is not very nice,” he said.

“But I also knew that I’m fighting for a world championship here, and it’s always been my dream. So I was just biting through that moment. On TV you don’t see these kind of things but it was very painful.

“Of course to then come over the line all the emotions came out. I didn’t even know what to say. We were just screaming. I never had so many people screaming into my earpieces. I think I’m still a bit deaf.”

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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

  • Why Mercedes believe they would have won an appeal but still lost the title
  • Verstappen’s title-winning last-lap pass on Hamilton was “very painful” due to cramp
  • Wolff hopes Hamilton will continue in F1 after “pain” of title loss
  • Hamilton was “robbed” of championship win by F1 race director Masi – Wolff
  • Mercedes will not appeal Abu Dhabi GP result, Verstappen to be confirmed as champion

Browse all 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix articles