Max Verstappen said he had needed a ‘miracle’ to win the Formula One championship in Abu Dhabi last year.
The Dutchman had looked like he would fall at the season finale to Lewis Hamilton in one of the tightest F1 campaigns in years, but a controversial ending gave him his first championship.
There were plenty of recriminations and disputes in the aftermath, and even the FIA investigation admitted that the decision to restart the race in the chosen manner was against stated regulations, but did not overturn the race results.
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This year there has been little doubt over where the title was headed, with the Red Bull driver dominating after a few difficult early races.
The last race of the season is again at Abu Dhabi, and Verstappen holds pole position, with his rival Hamilton way back in fifth after Mercedes struggled in qualifying despite high hopes borne of their win in Sao Paulo last weekend.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Verstappen was given the chance to reflect on last season’s denouement.
"Of course, it was all looking great [for Lewis]," he began. "And something like that happens... it is tough.
"You know, there was always going to be one winner and one loser. If you're on the losing side, it's going to be bad no matter what. And it also doesn't matter how, if you lose, you lose. And that it's just terrible when you're so close, right?"
Verstappen continued: "The only thing I did say to myself at the time was, he has seven world championships. And he has also won one where it looked like he was losing out, and then in the last corner, he didn't [referencing the 2008 Brazilian GP]. So I hope that he could understand at least a little bit the difference in emotion.
"But yeah, I felt for him and especially, you know, we had our moments when we got together that year, but I always respected him and I think we did have a great battle.
"And also finally, we had two teams fighting for a championship. I really hope that we can appreciate that someday."
Verstappen admitted that he thought his chance had gone at the Yas Marina.
"We just didn't have that pace like they had," he said. "And yeah, it didn't look good. We tried a different strategy as well, but it wasn't catching enough, you know, to close that gap.
"At the time I was like, OK, we might not win it, but I'm still going to remember this year as an amazing season. I mean, what we have done as a team, you know, to overcome that deficit we had to them over the years, I think we can be really proud of that.
"But I also said to myself, 'I'm still going to give it everything I have, every lap until the end.'"
He referred to the change in fortunes as a ‘miracle.’
"Christian even mentioned it on the TV, right?" he explained. "We need a miracle right now. And we got it."
He added: "I think it is always hard to please everyone. Because here we did race, then in Monza [in 2022], we didn't. And then people are also complaining. So, what is right, not racing or racing?
"It is always the one who loses out will complain that it's wrong, not the one who benefits from it. That's how it works.
"To just cross the line under the Safety Car always feels like a bit of a shame, really."
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