Verstappen’s secrets from Abu Dhabi 2021: “Cramp, pain, nerves, stress”

Max Verstappen has revealed new details and greater insight to the notorious F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix title drama.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 with 1st place and new World Champion, Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 with 1st place and new World…

A year ago Verstappen won his first F1 championship by pipping Lewis Hamilton to the finish in the season-finale, in part due to race director Michael Masi’s incorrect application of a Safety Car rule.

Verstappen is now a two-time champion and won the 2022 race after returning to Abu Dhabi, where he told Sky: “It has been a crazy year in general. Coming back here brings back memories from that weekend which was pretty stressful at the time.

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“When I got home, I watched it. It gave me goosebumps.

“I was nervous, very nervous. It was the most important lap of my career.

“The worst thing that happened? I crossed the line. In the middle of the straight, I got a cramp in my leg! In my calf. Trying to stay at full throttle! I couldn’t control it!”

Verstappen said about his late overtake of Hamilton which effectively won him the championship: “My instinct said: ‘I need to go for it’. I went for it. Nobody expected it - not my dad, not Christian Horner. 

“I was in the lead but had two long straights with my foot [in pain!] You are fighting for the championship and need to deal with this stuff. It was really painful.

“It was the biggest emotion of my life. I heard on the radio that people were crying.”

(L to R): second placed Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the podium with race winner and World Champion Max
(L to R): second placed Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the podium…

Hamilton was denied an all-time record eighth title due to the controversial finish.

Verstappen revealed sympathy for his great rival: “It was all looking great, then something like that happened. It is tough. 

“I said to myself at the time: ‘He has seven world championships including one which looked like he might lose out until the final corner so I hope he could understand, at least a little bit, the difference of emotion’.

“We had our moments where we got together. I always respected him. We had a great battle.”

Verstappen revealed about his F1 future: “I signed until 2028 when I will be 31. I don’t know if I will continue in F1, it depends if we are competitive. F1 is great but it’s a lot of travelling and a lot of races. Is family more important or is F1 more important?”

Hamilton and Verstappen will renew their battle next year in the sport's longest-ever season - the F1 2023 calendar has a record 24 races.

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