Verstappen insists title triumph has not been tarnished by FIA investigation

By Sports Desk February 08, 2022

Max Verstappen insists he fully deserved his Formula One world championship triumph and does not believe the achievement has been overshadowed by the ongoing controversy around the title-deciding race.

The 24-year-old clinched his first title by pipping seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December.

Hamilton had built up a healthy lead over his Red Bull rival in the season finale, with both men having entered the race level on points, until a controversial late safety car period was followed by Verstappen overtaking the Mercedes driver on the final lap.

Mercedes were furious with how race rules were applied in a safety-car situation and challenged the result, believing Hamilton was unfairly prevented from winning the race and the championship when Verstappen passed him with only a few corners remaining.

The FIA last month announced a "detailed analysis" of the contentious ending has started, with the result of the inquiry to be released before this season's first race in Bahrain on March 20.

Regardless of the verdict reached by the sport's governing body, Verstappen does not believe the controversy detracts from his triumph.

"[The FIA] can't do anything," Verstappen told The Guardian.

Asked if he felt his maiden title triumph has been overshadowed somewhat, the Dutchman replied: "Not at all. I had a very good season and I think I really deserved it. 

"I have been really unlucky as well. People always remember the last race but, if you look at the whole season, the championship should have been decided way earlier."

Verstappen was graciously congratulated by Hamilton following his title-clinching victory in Abu Dhabi, bringing down the curtain on an eventful season that saw both drivers take it in turns to lead the standings.

A low point in the campaign for Verstappen came at the British Grand Prix in July when clashing with Hamilton on the first lap as the home favourite tried to force his way down the inside at Copse Corner.

Verstappen smashed the barriers at 180mph and therefore did not finish the race, with Hamilton finishing first and wildly celebrating his win while his title rival was being examined in hospital.

However, the Red Bull driver did not use that as extra motivation for the second half of the season.

"I don't think we work like that," he said. "It's disrespectful what happened there but we looked at what we could have done better. 

"Once we came back from the break as a team we really did a good job because we won races in the second half of the season we shouldn't have won."

While talk still rumbles on regarding the end of the 2021 season, the new campaign is now just over a month away and Verstappen has a target on his back as defending champion.

"That little pressure in the back of your mind, of having to win a world championship or trying to win it, has gone," he said. 

"It's already happened. I've done it. So when it's tough or you're having bad luck you probably will deal with it easier than normal."

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