Lewis Hamilton reacts to Max Verstappen defending ‘stolen’ title

Max Verstappen sealed his second world title last weekend in Japan.

Sir Lewis Hamilton congratulated Max Verstappen in the media pen after the Dutchman wrapped up his second title at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Verstappen headed into the weekend with a 104-point lead over Charles Leclerc, so a win with the fastest lap would guarantee him the championship.

Things are rarely simply in Formula 1 though, as was proven in qualifying, when Verstappen lost the back end during a slow lap and almost wiped out Lando Norris.

This earned the 25-year-old a reprimand, and he and the McLaren driver emerged from the awkward situation as good friends.

READ: Red Bull boss explains Max Verstappen’s post-race confusion

The Dutchman kept the lead from Leclerc in wet conditions on Sunday, before a long suspension period ensued following Carlos Sainz’s collision with the barrier.

The event became a sprint race after the Safety Car restart, and the reigning champion pulled a lead of almost 30 seconds from Leclerc, who came under pressure from Sergio Perez.

The 24-year-old cut the chicane and pushed Perez wide on the final lap while trying to keep his position, earning him a five-second penalty and pushing him down to third.

Full points were them awarded despite the fact that just over half the race distance had been reached, and this was because the race had ended under green flag conditions.

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It means that Verstappen beat Leclerc by 10 points, making him champion with four rounds left of the season.

In the media pen after the race, Norris congratulated his friend and quipped that he “hated” him after their incident in qualifying.

READ: Max Verstappen wins 2022 championship in bizarre circumstances

Fernando Alonso then gave the Red Bull driver a hug after he equalled the Spaniard’s record for race wins and championships, before Hamilton shook the Hasselt-born driver’s hand with a smile.

The pair, despite the intensity of their rivalry last season, remain on respectful terms, further evidenced by Hamilton’s interview with Sky Sports.

The seven-time champion said, “congrats to Max,” and vowed to come back stronger next season amid what has been a tough campaign for him and Mercedes.