Verstappen: 2021 intensity not healthy in the long run

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen takes a moment. Abu Dhabi December 2021

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen takes a moment after winning the 2021 Drivers' Championship title. Abu Dhabi December 2021

Involved in an intense title fight that raged from the first lap of the season to the very last, Max Verstappen concedes nobody can deal with that year in and year out.

Last season, Verstappen took on Lewis Hamilton for the Drivers’ Championship title, the duo claiming 14 1-2 results in 22 grands prix.

They were so evenly matched in a season in which they had two big crashes, Silverstone and Monza, that they went into the final race tied on points.

Verstappen took the win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a last-lap pass, one that gave him his maiden World title.

But while the Dutchman claimed several times during the campaign he was not feeling any pressure, rather that it was all on Hamilton, he admits now the intensity of the title fight took a lot out of him.

He told The Guardian: “You can’t have that drama every single year, for sure. It’s not good for me, it’s not healthy for anyone in the team – both teams.”

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko recently revealed he feared if 2021 was an indication of what is to come in Verstappen’s championship battles, it could shorten his Formula 1 career.

The 2022 season marks Verstappen’s ninth year in Formula 1 with Hamilton set to line up on the grid for his 16th season, the Briton having won seven World titles during that time.

Verstappen recalled their brief interaction after he ended Hamilton’s reign at the Yas Marina circuit.

“I only saw him quickly, when we took our helmets off, and I think it was ‘congrats, man’. I don’t even know the words anymore,” he said.

“But it was nice of him, of course, to immediately come over.”

Lewis Hamilton congratulates Max Verstappen on winning the 2021 World Championship. Abu Dhabi December 2021.

That Hamilton took the time to congratulate Verstappen even though he felt the race result, and the championship, had been manipulated by FIA race director Michael Masi speaks of the Mercedes driver’s character.

Verstappen, though, reckons losing the title like that was easier for Hamilton to deal with than it would have been if he had been robbed of his first.

“For me, it’s difficult to picture myself in that situation because I’m not a seven-time World Champion,” he explained.

“If I was already a seven-time World Champion it hurts a bit less than when I’m fighting for my first, leading all the way, controlling it all the way, then losing it on the last lap.

“That would be way more painful than already having seven in the bag.”

Told Hamilton must have felt ‘terribly hurt’ to miss out on a record-breaking eighth, the Dutchman added: “Yeah, but just look back on the seven you have. I don’t think it’s so bad, is it?”

Hamilton went silent after Abu Dhabi, only venturing back into the world of social media earlier this week when he told his supporters “I’m back”.

Verstappen says he has had no contact with his rival since that brief interaction after the season finale.

“That’s quite normal, we live our own lives and see each other quite a lot already [when racing],” he said.

The 24-year-old, like the rest of the paddock, is now waiting to hear what the FIA have to say about the controversy in Abu Dhabi.

He, however, says that does not detract from his World title.


“Not at all,” he said. “I had a very good season and I think I really deserved it.

“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.”


PlanetF1 Verdict


Verstappen: 2021 intensity not healthy in the long run

Max Verstappen says the 2021 intensity was not healthy.