As Mercedes were busy lodging protests and appeals in the wake of Max Verstappen’s victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that saw him clinch a maiden world championship title, many in the paddock were celebrating the Dutchman’s achievement that ended Lewis Hamilton’s four-year reign.
Controversial decision-making by the stewards led to the world title being decided by a one lap shootout after a safety car had come out in the closing stages of the race but Formula One legend Sir Jackie Stewart believes that shouldn’t cast a cloud over Red Bull’s victory.
“Well, whatever way it worked out, it happened and we should just be very proud of our season, it’s been a fantastic season,” the three-time world champion told Eurosport on Sunday at Yas Marina Circuit.
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“I think it’s great that we have a new world champion, because Lewis has had a wonderful run. But I think a lot of people were saying, ‘Well the Mercedes seems unbeatable’ and so forth, so I think to have what just happened tonight, I think we should all be very happy.”
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Hamilton was gunning for a record-breaking eighth world crown and entered the season finale in Abu Dhabi on level points with Verstappen.
“I think Lewis drove extremely well all season, so I don’t think there is any doubt that he will stay in the sport at least for another year, who knows, maybe more,” added Stewart, who also sees multiple world championships in Verstappen’s future.
“Red Bull and Max are very well put together and I think they’re going to be seeing considerable success in the future.”
‘This is huge for Holland’
Meanwhile, Dutch former footballer Patrick Kluivert was among the many famous faces celebrating at Red Bull Racing’s hospitality villa, and the ex-Champions League winner was beaming with pride over his compatriot’s triumph on Sunday.
“Back home it’s for sure huge; he’ll come back to Holland and I think he doesn’t even know what he really did for Holland because now he’s away, and if he comes back to Holland then he will see that his achievement is a very, very big achievement. I’m very happy I was here to see it,” Kluivert told Eurosport.
Asked to pinpoint Verstappen’s most standout qualities, Kluivert said: “Guts. Talent. Humble.”
Max Verstappen celebrates after winning the 2021 drivers' title
Image credit: Getty Images
‘New sometimes is more attractive’
Two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso, who finished in P8 on Sunday and ended his comeback season, and first with Alpine, in 10th place in the championship, said he felt sorry for Hamilton but echoed Stewart’s sentiments that seeing a fresh face clinch the world title is a good thing.
“As I said on Thursday, I had like a little bit more, 51-49 for Max and I was clear from the beginning because I thought that over the season there were a couple of more unlucky moments for Max than for Lewis,” Alonso explained to reporters after the race.
“The new sometimes is more attractive than the old in terms of a new champion. If Max wins one day four, five championships, then a new guy will come and he will be like the big attraction, I think that’s what I feel now.
“But the sport is the big winner of this year, to have two guys tied on points in the last race and fighting wheel to wheel in the last lap of the last race, this is probably something we won’t see again in our lives.”
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