Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out
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Max Verstappen has been lauded by Dutch media after his historic F1 world title win in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The Red Bull man pipped Lewis Hamilton in dramatic circumstances, with a closely-fought season coming down to one final lap after FIA race director Michael Masi opted to let the pair go head-to-head.
From the off, it was advantage Hamilton who benefitted from a better start and superior pace during the opening few laps.
That forced Red Bull to try every trick in the book, and Verstappen’s team-mate who was yet to pit, Sergio Perez, fought Hamilton tooth and nail to allow the Dutchman to close the gap.
After extending his lead once again, the chequered flag beckoned for Hamilton until Nicholas Latifi’s crash brought out the safety car.
With one lap remaining, Masi controversially allowed the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to pass through, and the 24-year-old took his chance to claim victory thanks, in part, to a brand new set of soft-compound tyres.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was left furious at the decision, with many onlookers confused as Masi’s call wiped out Hamilton’s healthy lead.
But Dutch media naturally opted to focus on the positives on Monday morning, with Verstappen becoming the country’s first-ever world champion.
De Volkskrant described the triumph as a ‘narrow but big win’, while De Telegraaf hailed the victor as ‘the best driver of the last 40 years’.
That could easily be perceived as a dig at Hamilton himself, with many calling him the greatest of all time thanks to his seven world titles and 103 race wins.
Algemeen Dagblad described the country’s young superstar as a ‘sensation’, adding that the Netherlands is now a nation of 17 million F1 fans.
And finally, Trouw hailed Verstappen’s victory as ‘miraculous’, claiming that fans watched on in ‘disbelief’ as he passed his title rival with less than a lap to go.
The view from the British media was a sharp contrast, encapsulated by De Telegraaf who pointed out that wounded Brits described the affair as an ’embarrassing reality show’.
Indeed, while the Red Bull team celebrated jubilantly following the race, Mercedes launched two protests regarding what unfolded in the closing stages.
One of which focused on Verstappen briefly passing Hamilton while behind the safety car, and the second regarding the decision to let lapped cars through.
Both were promptly slapped down, although the Silver Arrows, spear-headed by Toto Wolff, maintain their intention to appeal those decisions with lengthy legal proceedings possible.
Despite the tidal wave of emotions that swept Abu Dhabi on Sunday, there was a consolation prize for Mercedes who claimed the Constructors’ title for an eighth consecutive year.
And with the battle threatening to rage on behind the scenes, Hamilton remained gracious in defeat when facing the media on Sunday.
“Firstly, big congratulations to Max and to his team,” he said.
“But I’m so proud of my own team and we gave it absolutely everything. I’ve felt great in the car the last couple of months. We’ll see what happens next year.”
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