Max Verstappen exclusive in Abu Dhabi: reflecting on the ‘miracle’ of winning the F1 title and liking Lewis Hamilton

As Formula 1 returns to Abu Dhabi, Red Bull's Max Verstappen recalled what was perhaps the most dramatic end of the season ever last year, when he passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to win his first world title.

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As Formula 1 returns to Abu Dhabi, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen recalled what was perhaps the most dramatic end of the season ever last year, when he passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to win his first world title.

As Formula 1 returns to Abu Dhabi, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen recalled what was perhaps the most dramatic end of the season ever last year, when he passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to win his first world title.

Max Verstappen has opened up SkySports F1 on the extraordinary drama and emotion of his ‘miraculous’ title win on the last lap at last year’s Abu Dhabi GP and admitted he sympathizes with Lewis Hamilton on how their ‘magnificent’ championship fight ended.

The exclusive interview – which can be seen from 11:30am today during Sky Sports F1’s preparation for the Abu Dhabi GP 2022, with the lights going out at 13:00 – sees Verstappen progress through the championship final in detail, from resignation with defeat to the ecstasy of a last lap overtake and a first world title.

Verstappen also reveals how he felt about Hamilton amid the controversial ending, with the Dutchman only being given the opportunity to stop the dominant Mercedes driver from claiming a historic eighth crown due to a misapplication of the rules by FIA race director Michael Masi.

“Of course everything looked great [for Lewis]’ says Verstappen SkySports F1 David Croft from the scene of the dispute, the Yas Marina racetrack. “And things like that happen… it’s tough.

“You know, there was always a winner and a loser. If you’re on the losing side, it’s going to get bad no matter what. And it doesn’t matter how you lose either, if you lose. And that it’s just awful when you’re so close, isn’t it?”

Relive some of the most intense tussles at the track between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen over the past year

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Relive some of the most intense tussles at the track between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen over the past year

Relive some of the most intense tussles at the track between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen over the past year

Verstappen adds: “The only thing I said to myself at the time was that he has seven world championships [referencing the 2008 Brazilian GP]. So I hope he was able to understand at least a little bit the difference in emotions.

“But yeah I felt for him and especially you know we had our moments when we got together this year but I’ve always respected him and I think we had a great fight.

“And finally we had two teams fighting for a championship. I really hope that one day we will appreciate that.”

Verstappen and Hamilton had contrasting seasons in 2022, with Verstappen claiming his second crown with four races to go. Hamilton, meanwhile, goes into today’s race looking to avoid the first season of his career without a single race win.

Verstappen on Abu Dhabi drama: accepting defeat

“The first few times I definitely got goosebumps,” Verstappen tells Crofty as he recalls looking back on what is surely one of the most remarkable conclusions of a sports season.

In an exclusive Sky Sports F1 interview, he reviews it again.

He said he had already accepted a loss to Hamilton, who led 57 of the 58 laps after overtaking pole-sitting Red Bull.

Ride with Max Verstappen on board as the Dutchman edged his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez to pole in Abu Dhabi

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Ride with Max Verstappen on board as the Dutchman edged his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez to pole in Abu Dhabi

Ride with Max Verstappen on board as the Dutchman edged his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez to pole in Abu Dhabi

“We just didn’t have the pace they had,” he admits. “And yes, it didn’t look good. We also tried another strategy, but it wasn’t contagious enough to close that gap.

“At the time I thought, OK, we might not win it, but I’ll still remember that year as an amazing season. I mean, what we’ve done as a team, you know, to overcome that deficit that we’ve had to, I think we can be really proud of.

“But I also said to myself: ‘I will still give everything, every lap to the end.'”

Even the always upbeat team boss Christian Horner appeared to be in the same boat as he spoke to Sky Sports F1 from the pit wall. “Christian even mentioned it on TV, right?” says Verstappen. “We need a miracle now. And we got it.”

Verstappen on controversial Abu Dhabi rules

Cue Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers with eight laps to go, meaning a safety car – and the closing of the field that wiped out Hamilton’s huge lead – seemed inevitable.

“This guy has to move as fast as possible,” Verstappen recalls thoughtfully. “We have to race. Yes, sure – that was my only chance.”

After Williams announced Nicholas Latifi would be leaving the team, take a look at perhaps his most infamous moment in Formula One - the crash in Abu Dhabi that led to last-lap world title drama between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton

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After Williams announced Nicholas Latifi would be leaving the team, take a look at perhaps his most infamous moment in Formula One – the crash in Abu Dhabi that led to last-lap world title drama between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton

After Williams announced Nicholas Latifi would be leaving the team, take a look at perhaps his most infamous moment in Formula One – the crash in Abu Dhabi that led to last-lap world title drama between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton

Red Bull put Verstappen on soft tires while Mercedes kept Hamilton out, believing the race would not be restarted due to F1 regulations on safety car restarts and laps.

The drivers were first told that the lapped cars would not be allowed to lap themselves before Masi decided a lap later that only the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton could do so. The race was then given the green light for a final lap – much to Mercedes’ surprise – with the FIA ​​claiming F1 stakeholders agreed they did not want the championship to end behind the safety car.

Witness the incredible conclusion to the Abu Dhabi GP aboard the cars of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton and listen to team radios including Hamilton saying the race was 'rigged'.

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Witness the incredible conclusion to the Abu Dhabi GP aboard the cars of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton and listen to team radios including Hamilton saying the race was ‘rigged’.

Witness the incredible conclusion to the Abu Dhabi GP aboard the cars of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton and listen to team radios including Hamilton saying the race was ‘rigged’.

“I think it’s always difficult to please everyone,” says Verstappen. “Because we raced here, then in Monza [in 2022], we dont have. And then people complain too. So what’s right, not race or race?

“It’s always the one who loses that it’s wrong, not the one who benefits. Thats how it works.

“Just crossing the finish line under the safety car always feels a bit sad.”

Verstappen on the last lap: the cramp, the overtaking, the celebration

Verstappen then recalls going into that final lap with the most inopportune problems.

“I’m nervous, there were a lot of nerves,” says Verstappen. “It was the most important round of my career up to that point… it’s going to be a world championship or not.

“And the worst thing that happened was that I crossed the line [for the final lap]and I got a cramp in my right leg.

Max Verstappen overtakes Lewis Hamilton on final lap in Abu Dhabi to win 2021 F1 Championship!

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Max Verstappen overtakes Lewis Hamilton on final lap in Abu Dhabi to win 2021 F1 Championship!

Max Verstappen overtakes Lewis Hamilton on final lap in Abu Dhabi to win 2021 F1 Championship!

“It was the most nervous lap of your life and then struggling with a cramp struggling to keep full throttle. I couldn’t control my leg! It was awful.”

Verstappen, on his fresh tires, surprised Hamilton and others with a brave turn five overtake.

“My father didn’t expect it, Christian didn’t expect it, nobody expected me to do that there because they thought it was such a long run on the two straights.”

Verstappen, struggling with his cramped right leg, held Hamilton back on those straights and crossed the finish line as the fourth youngest Formula 1 world champion.

“It was the biggest emotional outburst of my life,” he says. “People went crazy, people cried.”

He will do his first lap of the race from pole position today at Yas Marina.

Watch all the action live on Sky Sports F1, with set-up at 11:30am ahead of the 1pm race start.



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