Newly crowned Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen is unmoved by the investigation the FIA are carrying out into the closing events of the 2021 championship, insisting that he is fully deserving of his crown.
Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton headed into the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi level on points and, after the Dutchman had started on pole, the Mercedes driver sailed past him off the start before streaking off into the distance.
The seven-time world champion looked well on course for his eighth title heading into the closing stages, but a late crash for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi brought out the Safety Car.
Red Bull took the opportunity to pit their driver, while the Silver Arrows opted not to risk losing track position in fear that time constraints would prevent any further green flag running.
This left five lapped runners between the championship protagonists, and race director Michael Masi initially ruled that no lapped cars would be permitted to go through.
However, after intense discussions with Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, the Australian allowed only the aforementioned five to get their lap back ahead of the final lap.
As a result, the Dutchman was able to use his fresh rubber to pass his rival on the last lap and snatch his dramatic maiden championship.
Mercedes threatened to appeal the final championship classification but, aware they had a mountain to climb in order to overturn the result, rescinded it and settled for an FIA investigation into the closing stages of the race.
Verstappen is entirely unconcerned by whatever conclusion the governing body may come to after their analysis.
“Yeah, but they can’t do anything,” he told The Guardian newspaper when asked about the ongoing investigation.
Though the ending was contentious, the 24-year-old did win 10 races last year and scored 18 podiums.
He failed to finish in the top two on only four occasions, and as such he sees no reason why he did not fully earn his success.
“Not at all,” was his reply when asked if the controversy took the shine off his win.
“I had a very good season and I think I really deserved it.”
The Red Bull driver lost victory in Azerbaijan following a cruel puncture, before a collision with Hamilton in Silverstone sent him out of the race and into a 51G crash with the barrier.
He maintains that his fortune – good and bad – balanced out over the course of the 22 races.
“I have been really unlucky as well. People always remember the last race but, if you look at the whole season, the championship should have been decided way earlier.”
Hamilton took over a month away from social media in the aftermath of the race at the Yas Marina Circuit following his heartbreak, but Verstappen believes that missing out on a title is easier to stomach when you already have seven of them like the Mercedes driver does.
“For me, it’s difficult to picture myself in that situation, because I’m not a seven-time World Champion,” he quipped.
“If I was already a seven-time World Champion, it hurts a bit less than when I am fighting for my first, leading all the way, controlling it all the way, and then losing it on the last lap – that would be way more painful than already having seven in the bag.
“Just look back on the seven you have. I don’t think it’s so bad, is it?”
The rivals have not seen or spoken to one another since the events in December, but the 24-year-old explained that they do not really spend any time together away from the racetrack anyway.
“That’s quite normal – we live our own lives and see each other quite a lot already [when in the paddock together].”
Verstappen will race with the number one on his car this year – the number reserved for the reigning champion – and will once again line up alongside Mexican team-mate Sergio Perez.
Hamilton is set to be partnered by George Russell, who has moved up from Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas.