Max Verstappen admits he had to “bite down” to push through pain barrier on final lap


Verstappen snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a thrilling finale to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, despite him struggling physically on the final lap

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Miracle of Yas Marina for Max Verstappen as he prevails in world title shoot-out

Max Verstappen admitted he had to “bite down” to push through the pain barrier and seal his maiden Formula One world championship in a dramatic final-lap shootout with Lewis Hamilton.

The 24-year-old Dutch driver trailed for the entire race after losing his pole position off the starting grid, but was handed a golden chance when Nicholas Latifi’s crash brought out the safety car with just five laps remaining.

In remarkable scenes, race steward Michael Masi then allowed the five racers between Verstappen and Hamilton to overtake the safety car to set up a thrilling finale.

And it was Verstappen who held the advantage thanks to a swift pit stop to change to fresh tyres moments earlier, before his expert manoeuvre left Hamilton in his wake.

Yet Verstappen revealed he was in so much pain during his title-clinching final lap that he could barely step on the gas.

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Max Verstappen was suffering from cramp on the crucial final lap of his Grand Prix triumph
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Image:

Getty)

The new world champion was hit by cramp as he launched a dramatic attack on Hamilton that secured his first Formula One world title.

“I thought I didn’t have the force to push any more,” said Verstappen. “I had cramp in my right leg, but this was the final lap and I had to bite down and get through the pain.”

Vertsappen’s discomfort was just ­another small twist in a remarkable last race of the season.

“It certainly did not look good for me but I just kept pushing until the very end,” he said. “Things fell for us in a way they maybe haven’t during the season. Finally, there was a bit of luck for me.”

“Throughout the whole race, I kept fighting and then there was the opportunity on the last lap. It’s incredible.”

He now says he wants to stay with the British-based Red Bull team “for life” after securing his first world title.

Verstappen was understandably emotional after his triumph, and said: “My team deserve it. My team knows I love them and I hope we can do this for 10, 15 years together.

“I don’t want to change, ever. I want to stay with them for the rest of my life, if they will have me.

“I’m so happy. I’ve dreamt of this. Our goal was to win this championship and now we have done that.”

And if Verstappen really does want to commit to Red Bull for life, Christian Horner would gladly draw up a new contract. The Red Bull team principal said: “I am so proud of Max and of the team for what we have been through this year.

“You just knew Max was not going to give it up. He had come so far this season and then to see him close it out and become world champion was an amazing feeling.

“During the last 10 laps, I was ­thinking what would I say to Max and the guys to pick them up and then out came the safety car.

Verstappen wants to stay at Red Bull “for life”

“It has been a ­high-stakes, intense competition. Toto (Wolff, Mercedes team ­principal) and I have had our moments but full respect to him and Mercedes. But I feel like it is the right result. We have won the drivers’ ­championship and they have won the constructors’. And we will all come back to try again next year.”

Presumably, Hamilton will be trying again next year although – as his team ­protested the result – he did not attend the official post-race press conference.

But he was gracious in defeat, and said: “Congratulations to Max and his team. I think we did an amazing job this year and all the people in the team have worked so hard in a ­difficult season.

“We gave it everything and never gave up – that is the most important thing.”

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