Max Verstappen remains undeterred by threats of a Mercedes appeal against the 2021 world championship, maintaining that it will not stop him feeling like the world champion.
Verstappen became the first Dutch champion in Formula 1 history last weekend, after a late Safety Car led to a controversial and race-altering decision by race director Michael Masi.
Masi allowed five lapped cars to pass Sir Lewis Hamilton, giving Verstappen, who had pitted for fresh tyres, a clear path to dispatch Hamilton on the final lap and earn his first title.
Mercedes protested Masi’s decisions after the race and, upon seeing their protests rejected, lodged their intention to formally appeal the result.
Commenting on the appeal and the risk of him being stripped of his F1 crown, Verstappen said: “Well, I’m fine. I don’t even think about it too much, because I do feel like the world champion, and it doesn’t matter what they try to do.”
The 24-year-old said that the threat of an appeal is not on his mind, and that his victory was a fair one.
“We won it on track, we won it when there was a green flag, green light, and we passed them on track.
“They will never be able to take that away from me anyway, but also about the possible appeal or whatever, I’m not busy with that. As a team, it can be disturbing but, for us, we have been really enjoying the last few days.”
Asked about his relationship with Mercedes, Verstappen said he will not hold the appeal over the German manufacturer, and has no interest in sparking further debate.
“I think I can be a forgiving person or whatever but, at the moment, it’s still so new from the season that it’s better not to talk about it too much.”
Verstappen also confirmed that he never lost any respect for anyone at Mercedes, citing a dinner he had sat next to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
“But, for example, I saw Toto in Monaco, before Saudi Arabia, I had dinner and he was sitting at the table next to me, and we had a chat.”
The new world champion empathises with Wolff’s unsavoury reaction to the final moments of the race in Abu Dhabi, but suggested that the Austrian should let it go.
“He’s flat out for his team and I know that my team also does everything they can but, besides that, I do think you should be accepting a loss. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts.”
He also commented that appealing a race result is not an avenue his Red Bull team would go down, saying: “I do think there that there is a bit of a difference between the teams.”
Mercedes have not publicly congratulated Verstappen on his success since they are appealing the result in a bid to get a record eighth title for Hamilton, and Verstappen is unmoved.
“Well, no, it’s not surprising, just because of how the season already panned out up until the last race.
“It’s just another bit. I mean, my view will not change. It’s pretty much the same.”