Max Verstappen says that he is not concerning himself with Mercedes’ appeal regarding the final lap controversy at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Dutchman is clear that he is the 2021 Formula 1 world champion after beating title rival Lewis Hamilton on track under racing conditions at the Yas Marina circuit.
The 24-year-old claimed his maiden title at the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi after a last lap pass on Hamilton, who had led the entire race. The Mercedes driver looked to be cruising to his record breaking eighth world title before a late Safety Car allowed Verstappen to catch up and pass him when the race resumed on the final lap.
Mercedes were incensed by FIA race director Michael Masi’s decision to overrule the initial call not to let lapped cars pass. With the backmarkers allowed to get out of the way, the second-placed Red Bull managed to get right behind Hamilton before the restart, leading to protests from Mercedes in the immediate aftermath of the race. The Silver Arrows’ protests were rejected by the race stewards, and they are now expected to appeal to an independent panel appointed by the FIA.
Verstappen, however, made it clear that he “feels like a world champion” and believes whatever the outcome of the appeal, Mercedes will not be able to take away the fact that he beat Hamilton on track thanks to Red Bull’s aggressive strategy. Christian Horner also feels Mercedes’ grievance is with the FIA rather than the Austrian team, who did not put a foot wrong in Abu Dhabi.
“I do feel like the world champion,” Verstappen said during a video call following a stellar homecoming at Red Bull’s Milton Keynes base, as quoted by the Daily Mail.
“It doesn’t matter what they try to do. We won it on track, when there was a green light and we passed them on the track. And they will never be able to take that away from me anyway. About the possible appeal, I’m not busy with that,” he added.
Horner remains confident that the result will not be overturned, but admitted that if the “unthinkable” happened, the Austrian team would challenge the decision in an appropriate manner. The Red Bull boss said that he was looking forward to Verstappen lifting the F1 Drivers’ trophy at the FIA prize giving gala in Paris on Thursday.
“If the unthinkable were to happen, we would challenge that in the appropriate manner,” Horner said. “We’re looking forward to seeing him pick up the trophy tomorrow evening as the world champion.”