‘We won it on-track and they’ll never take that away from me’ – Verstappen

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen is unconcerned by the threat of a possible appeal from Mercedes over his championship-winning victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“I’m fine” said the Red Bull driver when asked about Mercedes giving notification of their intention to appeal. “I don’t even think about it too much because I do feel like the world champion and it doesn’t matter what they try to do.”

Mercedes challenged FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi’s decision to restart the race with one lap to go having only allowed enough backmarkers to un-lap themselves in order for Verstappen to have an unimpeded run at race leader Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen passed his rival on the final lap to win the race and clinch the championship.

“We won it on track,” Verstappen insisted. “We won it when there was a green flag, green lights and we passed them on track and they will never be able to take that away from me, anyway.”

“About the possible appeal or whatever, I’m not busy with that,” Verstappen added. “As a team, of course it might be disturbing, but for us, we have been really enjoying the last few days.”

Mercedes’ efforts to challenge the outcome of the race revealed a difference in attitude between them and Red Bull, said Verstappen.

Verstappen celebrated with his team in Milton Keynes
“The relationship, for me – I think I can be a forgiving person or whatever,” said Verstappen. “At the moment it’s still all so new from this season that it’s better not to talk about it too much.

“But for example, I saw Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] in Monaco before Saudi, I had a dinner and he was sitting on the table next to me and we had a chat. And he of course goes flat out for his team and I know that my team also does everything they can.

“But besides that I do think you should be accepting a loss, it doesn’t matter how much it hurts. And I do think, there, that there is a bit of a difference between the teams.”

Verstappen said he was pleased to have a chance to compete on level terms with Hamilton during 2021. “Finally, with quite equal machinery you can have a battle and you see how much you can push each other throughout the whole race.

“Being on the limit of your material and also pushing the team to the limit, you can actually really see what he is capable of because some seasons he’s had it a bit more easy and you don’t need to push throughout the whole race. So it was more about that just pushing each other to the limit in the race.”

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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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139 comments on “‘We won it on-track and they’ll never take that away from me’ – Verstappen”

  1. Were the roles reversed, would he be saying this? Your guess is as good as mine.

    1. He said they should accept a loss? Yeah like red bull would do that quietly lol.
      Winning it on track, technically yes, however I think what max should have done is accept his loss on the day and if he was a true sportsman, not tried to overtake Hamilton on the final lap, yes he would have not gained his first title, but equally he wouldnt have gained his first won that will forever be tainted.
      I think Hamilton would have won deservedly and people’s estimation of max would have sky rocketed in that case, a true sportsman.
      I think he missed a trick, blind sinded by the red bull mentality.

      1. That’s a joke after the points verstappen lost through bad luck, and hamilton would’ve done the same roles reversed.

      2. I just cant believe people still link the result of the last GP to the overall title. There was a whole season preceding it. If you then must, Lewis can have Abu, but we strip his 25 points at Silverstone and/or 18 points at Imola. And then we conveniently forget Bowling Bottas. Yes, I am also unhappy with, well.. many to most stewarding throughout the year. In average Lewis benefitted most from Masi, albeit not the last race. But its a season championship. Get over it.

        1. I can’t understand why you don’t see the difference between inconsistent stewarding and blatantly disregarding the rulebook, creating a brand new rule which favours one driver over every other driver on the track.

          1. plus conveniently forget about Monza, Brazil and Jeddah

          2. @drmouse you are the only person who see the right logic.
            There is a massive difference between luck and rule breaking, no one cares if Lewis lost through genuine bad luck, that’s racing. But this is different. And as I pointed out in a previous comment the whole season taken into account this race is the one that mattered, Had the rules been followed and max still won, everyone would congratulate him, myself, a Mercedes fan included.

          3. My point is that last race should never have been a decider in the first place. I see the difference, yet in effect, on points gained/lost, there is no difference. It matters in terms of severity and incompetence for sure. I am also incredibly unhappy with Race Control this year. Max came either 1st or 2nd in every race bar 4. Baku, Silverstone, Hungary & Monza. We can start a debate about these again and we will never align, but personally I hold Max accountable (partially) for just one. So that’s an incredibly good and consistent season, especially since his team mate was nowhere near these finishing positions. Without Race Control we could/should have wrapped it up around Mexico.

          4. Mayrton there are a lot of ifs and wishful thinking in your statements… there is only one fact though. the race director didnt follow correct procedures, made a decision to make a massive difference in the already lost situation. he artificially turned it around for max/redbul. If you cant see this fact, you dont know when a race is decided… heck you dont know what racing is about. however every other max fan feel max deserved that win with what just happened in this race, shows true colors of what the world has become of… the word justice has no meaning… if max is fine with the decision so are are his fans, just like his behavior on track, he will be a looser off track… and he will end up very much like his father! mark my word for it…

            i hope mercedes and hamilton pulls out, so clowns can have their fun in this circus

          5. @mayrton – pls answer romtrain, Jeddah likely results in a dsq and a race ban for anyone else

      3. @Kaydan

        That only makes sense in a world where Lewis drove into the pits at Silverstone, rather than take the win…

        1. cause Verstappen turned in, not respecting there is a car alongside?

          1. No kidding. im tired of the whiners blaming hamilton for silverstone. he put max in a backout or yard sale situation and max chose to make hamilton flinch. he didnt and max paid for it. i used to race bikes and we had a guy who did that stuff. he cleaned both of us out once and the next weekend he did it again to another rider with the same result. got him a smack in the mouth. he stopped doing that. One the whole max drove better this year than hamilton this year and hopefully next year we get some good clean racing and not Horners idea of clean. cheers all

        2. @aapje because he was found PARTLY to blame? Not FULLY. Know the difference between racing and rule breaking.

      4. You can’t be serious ahahahahahaha.

    2. @lems If the roles were reversed… everybody knows how it would end.

      1. @Cobray

        You would all be cheering for Lewis and Red Bull + Max would be sore losers?

        1. @stefan554433 I mean I don’t believe Max would be allowed himself to be overtaken. We would be in court for a different reason.

          I would cheer for whoever personally. Both deserved it in the end. Max through numbers and much worse luck and Lewis through being a force during the last 4 races.

          1. *have allowed can’t edit comment god damn lol

          2. @cobray

            I mean I don’t believe Max would be allowed himself to be overtaken. We would be in court for a different reason.

            Yes, he would probably defend against Lewis for 1 lap even in worn tyres and win, as guys like Max and Fernando are used to fight through the field despite machine disadvantage after so many years not having the fastest car.

    3. NO YOU DIDN’T.
      The race was won in massi’s back pocket….

  2. Except he didn’t win it on track, he was nowhere near winning it in track until the FIA intervention.

    1. @sham was he floating around in space as he won it?

      1. The lap MV lead on was not an official lap according to the rules, so he didnt win any thing, to me and lost of people around the world. Masi for some unknown reason changed the rules and replace F1 the pinicle of motorSPORT Sign with a Wacky racers sign.

        MV is nothing but a fake champion, the world knows who the real champion is.

        1. Verstappen, considering baku etc.

          1. lexusreliability?
            16th December 2021, 7:40


            Or Monza, Brazil, etc

          2. lexusreliability? Monza & Brazil, LOL.

        2. the world knows who the real champion is.

          Verstappen. He clearly won the final race and ended the season with the most championship points.
          People are free to feel otherwise, but that doesn’t make it reality.

          1. title is now tainted

          2. @amam No it isn’t. Just because you say it doesn’t make it so. Only grumpy Lewis fans say this to make Max and RBR feel worse but it won’t work :)

          3. That’s exactly how it works Arnould. If enough people say it’s tainted, then it’s tainted. It’s as simple as that. If enough people laugh when Max’s first championship is mentioned, then it’s a laughing stock. When no book of f1 history gets written without mentioning an incident, then that incident is part of the championship story. There’s no way around it, these are all social terms and we are a social species.

        3. Yes! the world knows it’s Max!!!!!

        4. @sham

          Except he didn’t win it on track, he was nowhere near winning it in track until the FIA intervention.

          Not only Max won on track but also it was the most fair outcome, the one without major interventions. The way race direction went was the real problem, allowing only five cars to unlap themselves. A 1-lap “sprint race” with a rolling start in which all cars were allowed to unlap themselves (thus completely by the book) would have been possible if Masi hadn’t wavered for a while.
          So you should drop the narrative that Hamilton and Mercedes were robbed, it’s not the case, as even if there was a mistake from Masi, had he acted quickly making a correct and pro-competition call (“Let them race” approach which teams agreed upon) of finishing the race under green lights following the standard SC procedure, the result would probably be the same, but no issues with regs would remain.

        5. “MV is nothing but a fake champion, the world knows who the real champion is.”

          Some say that he takes long walks along The Seine with one Dietrich Von Styria late into the afternoons, and that his Spotify playlist only consists of irate radio messages from self serving team principals, remixed by DJ Squire….but all we know is, he’s called The Michael Masi!

  3. This man is delusional… Yes you won it on track but you received quite a lot of help. And if one considers the whole season then I think he would have definitely not have won it at all. For instance he should have been black flagged for brake checking Sir Lewis in Saudi Arabia and wait!!! There’s Brazil, ooh Monza was a good one as well. Max is incredibly quick but lacks any amount of introspection. I hope now he has won a championship he won’t race so desperately and will win his next championship in a cleaner and fairer way, especially with no handouts from the FIA.

    1. It is a championship of 22 races.
      So did he won it on track, yes he did.
      There have been more occasions in those 22 races where things could be decided otherwise, also on Hamiltons way of driving, or Bottas for that matter, but they did not, and the overall outcome of those 22 races made Verstappen champion!
      All off you who critisise Vertappens driving, it is a freaking motorrace!
      If you do not race eachother, there is no sport to watch, only the faster car being the 1st in a row of 20!
      Think about it!

      1. Must be missing something ? The purpose of the safety car is for no individual or team to get an advantage ???? Someone explain how that happened last weekend. Everyone accepted that whilst there were up and downs, the championship should be settled on the final race with best man wins. Sorry but Lewis annihilated Max on track and would be 8 x World Champion if it wasn’t for the cheating.

        Pepsi have just launched a new drink for cheats. It’s called the Pepsi Max !!

      2. I don’t see anyone criticizing Ver DRIVING. Are you sure you are reading the same posts?
        PS Motorracing is on the track, not on Masi’s both.

      3. William T Mullenberg
        16th December 2021, 7:30

        Rules for F1 were established when wrecks killed drivers, now cars are so safe the rules should be relaxed till a couple drivers die to set new safe driving standards? I wasn’t a Hunt nor Senna Fan, Niki Lauda paid dearly for his aggression even though he didn’t blatantly show total disregard for his competitors safety. If Max causes a death will you still defend him if it isn’t his own?

      4. What would you expect? We’ve just had 8 years of action free, processional Lewis leading from start to finish years. The entitlement and arrogance is staggering

        1. If Hamilton hasn’t bottled it at Baku or if they had an actually useful teammate they would have someone between Hamilton and Verstappen at Abu Dhabi acting as a buffer. Mercedes can only blame themselves.

          1. This is revision of history while throwing some facts in the mix. Sure Baku mishandling of brakes and Bottas underperforming were costly but Lewis and Mercedes managed to overcome all of that and dominated the actual race until Masi came up with rules of his own to undo their work.

          2. Masi did what every teamprincipal asked him to do, do not finish races under red flagg!
            If this situation was reversed, Mercedes and Hamilton would have wanted the same to happen.
            And in the manner of good sportsmanship Hamilton “decided” or “asked” Mercedes to not appeal, knowing it would never be changed back and knowing it would have hurt his reputation more than he like to addmit.
            Now in this point of view, offcourse he asked Mercedes to stop appealing, it is good for his reputation.
            So now stop crying, and whipe your english snotty noses and accept being the number 2 in motorsports from now on, because, just like football, the sport is not yours.

      5. “it is a freaking motorrace!” seems to be the go to excuse these days to excuse anything Vestappen does. Motorsport, like any sport, is governed by rules and when you throw them out in a misguided attempt to ‘enhance the show’ then it’s no longer a sport.

      6. Max did not win it……he was given it……it was handed to him……I have no objection to him winning it in a fair race……That was not a fair race……Micheal Masi knew Max had new tyres and Lewis had old ones and he was allowed to draw up alongside Lewis?????……The title was snatch from Lewis in the most unfair way!

    2. he won’t race so desperately

      – he will. Now, he knows 100% he can do anything – because he is Verstappen. There are different rules for him and the others.

      1. Yep. If they can’t figure out how to transparently and consistently apply some rulebook then I’ll find some other use for my time. Which is unfortunate since I was really looking forward to seeing what the teams do with the new spec cars next year. Now that might be moot since other things will be deciding the “races”.

        Given what Max has been allowed to do to the “sport” I really hope karma kicks in and Red Bull gets it wrong next year and that #1 car can’t make it out of the back of the pack. I know, too much to hope for but I can always dream…

  4. Indeed.
    The teams collectively agreed to having races finish under green racing conditions as their preference – the FIA gives it to them and then everyone freaks out as though they didn’t want it or couldn’t see it coming.

    It’s about time we all got over it, congratulated the participants and looked forward to next year – when things will probably get even crazier.
    It could be a lot worse – actually, it has been for 8+ years already.

    1. No. Finish under green “when possible” is what was said. It wasn’t possible under the rules based on the decision to let lapped cars pass. It should have finished under yellow.

      1. It would have been possible if they hadn’t waited so long to allow lapped cars through. You’d have had the same result. What would have been your argument then?

        1. I think they couldn’t let lapped cars unlap themselves with marshals on the track. As Mercedes and all those teams that did not pit calculated, tehre was no time to follow the SC procedures and have a racing lap.

          1. And even if it was possible to deal with lapped runners earlier, that was Masi’s mistake, but there is no rule I am aware of telling him when he must allow the lapped cars through. Therefore, while possibly a mistake, it isn’t against the rules. Red Bull and Max would have had a reason to be upset, but it is very different.

            What he did was. 2 wrongs don’t make a right, and he can’t (or at least shouldn’t be able to) just make up a brand new rule to “fix” and cover up that mistake.

        2. @spafrancorchamps
          Most likely as @jcost said, allowing lapped cars to unlap probably wasn’t possible earlier. But you are right: There would be no argument in that case. That’s not what happened though.

          When Mercedes decided to not pit Hamilton, they were counting on that there wouldn’t be enough time to restart the race – or at least not enough time to do that while letting lapped cars unlap themselves. “What if the SC period had been longer” is a flawed argument, because Mercedes probably would’ve done a different strategy call in that situation.

          1. They gambled, they lost.
            They’ve gambled before too – they won some and they lost some, just like every other competitor.

            The general rule of motor racing still always applies, of course: Be on the right tyre at the right time.
            Mercedes weren’t.

          2. S: Let’s imagine a scenario in which Hamilton had pitted and Masi had followed the rules:
            – Hamilton pits for a new set of tyres.
            – Verstappen obviously doesn’t but takes the track position instead.
            – Verstappen is P1 and Hamilton is P2 behind the SC.
            – Masi orders lapped cars to unlap themselves on lap 57, but (unlike in real life) follows the rules and the race ends behind the SC.
            – Verstappen wins the race and the championship.

            In this scenario, you’d also be deriding Mercedes’ strategy, right? The fact is that in real life Mercedes did a right call in a tricky situation, but they weren’t rewarded for that, because Masi decided to go against the rules.

          3. That scenario wouldn’t have played out though, @hotbottoms.
            Race Control wouldn’t have cleared the pack just to finish under SC, they would have instead held (all) lapped cars in position and blue-flagged them out of the way on the restart.
            The race would still have been finished under green and the winner decided in exactly the same way – on the track in competition.

            I don’t agree with Mercedes’ strategy call, no. They had the car speed to pass Verstappen even if they were in 2nd place and 5 (lapped) cars behind on fresh tyres. Verstappen’s tyres would have been substantially older and on a slower car.
            That’s also disregarding the VSC they they missed pitting under earlier in the race, of course. Another bad call IMO.

            Regardless – the winner is the car that crosses the line first.

          4. S:

            Race Control wouldn’t have cleared the pack just to finish under SC, they would have instead held (all) lapped cars in position and blue-flagged them out of the way on the restart.

            Or not. That’s not what Masi did in real life. But I agree that restarting the race on lap 57 without letting lapped cars unlap would’ve been the best decision in real life also. It’s a shame that Masi didn’t do it and now we have this mess.

            They had the car speed to pass Verstappen even if they were in 2nd place and 5 (lapped) cars behind on fresh tyres. Verstappen’s tyres would have been substantially older and on a slower car.

            I sort of agree with you. But you are missing two things: 1. The race could’ve still ended behind the SC in which case their fresh tyres would’ve been useless 2. If the race had been red flagged, they could’ve changed the tyres anyway without losing track position.

            To be honest, when I saw the damage from Latifi’s car, I also thought that either the race is going to be red flagged or it is going to end behind the SC.

          5. 1 – Correct. It could have ended under SC – but it was highly unlikely, given the timing of the incident.
            2 – The race wouldn’t have been red-flagged for that particular incident. It would have needed to be much more substantial than that to justify a red flag. More debris, a second car involved, blocking the track, significant damage to the barriers, perhaps…
            But not that incident as it was in reality.

            This was the final race of the season with the championship on the line – the world was watching and there was no way they were going to squander this opportunity. They need headlines, they need commercial exposure and they need to make up for (at least) the last 2 years.

          6. S:
            I think it’s baffling how Masi’s defender keep saying that red flagging the race wasn’t possible. I agree that it would’ve been artificial and probably against the spirit of the rules – but at least it wouldn’t have been directly against the established procedures in the rules and the situation would’ve been ambiguous. Yes, it would’ve sparked controversy and debate also, but at least there wouldn’t have been grounds for protesting. How Masi handled the situation was definitely against the rules.

            How can you say that red flagging the race was impossible, if you argue that Masi’s decisi