Max Verstappen ‘felt’ for Lewis Hamilton but ‘hoped’ he’d understand after Brazil 2008

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton congratulates Max Verstappen. Abu Dhabi December 2021.

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

Max Verstappen says he felt for Lewis Hamilton after beating him to the 2021 World title on the final lap in Abu Dhabi, but “hoped” the Briton understood given he’d also won a title on the last lap of the season.

Back in 2008 Hamilton had been racing Felipe Massa for the World title, the Ferrari driver taking the race win at a wet Interlagos circuit to grab the title. But it lasted all of 39 seconds.

Hamilton, who for a moment must have thought it was all over, overtook Timo Glock in the final corners of the very last lap to finish fifth and grabbed the points needed to beat Massa to the title.

It went from disappointment to joy in the space of a few corners for Hamilton, the McLaren driver wrapping up his first of seven World titles.

However, fighting for number eight last season in the final race of the championship in Abu Dhabi, it went from joy to disappointment for the now-Mercedes driver.

In controversial circumstances he was overtaken on the very last lap by Verstappen, the Red Bull driver securing his maiden World title.

‘I felt for him especially given the year we had’

Verstappen and Hamilton went wheel-to-wheel for the 2021 World title, the duo recording 14 1-2 results to go into the title-decider in Abu Dhabi tied on points in a winner-takes-all situation.

Hamilton led the race almost from start to finish and was cruising to both the race win and the title when Nicholas Latifi brought out a late Safety Car , with former FIA race director Michael Masi using the opportunity to set up a one-lap shoot-out for the title.

The Australian gave the go-ahead for only the cars between race leader Hamilton and second placed Verstappen to unlap themselves, as allowing all the lapped cars to do so would have resulted in the race ending under the Safety Car – so only five of eight were give permission.

With fresher tyres on his RB16B, Verstappen lunged past Hamilton at Turn Five to take the lead. Although Hamilton tried to fight back, it was impossible on his worn tyres and Verstappen claimed the race win and a maiden World title.

It was a race where everything was in Hamilton’s favour until that moment it wasn’t, Verstappen admitting he felt for his title rival.

“Everything was looking great for him, and then something like this happens,” he told Sky Sports. “It’s tough.

“The only thing I said to myself at the time was he’s won seven World Championships and he also won one of them when it looked like he was losing out and then in the last corner he didn’t.

“So I hoped he would understand it a little bit the difference in emotion.

“But yes, I felt for him especially given the year we had. There were of course moments when we got together but I always respected him, and I think we had a great battle.”

12 months to the day…

12 months on from his success, he recalled the nerves that set in as he geared up for the final lap. And with those nerves came cramp.

The Dutchman had to deal with cramp in his calf as he raced for what would either be a World title or a second-placed finish.

“Nerves, nerves,” he said. “I mean this was the most important lap of my career up until that point. It’s going to be a World Championship or not.

“And then the worst thing that happened was I crossed the line and I got a cramp in my leg, in my calf, dealing with the cramp and struggling to stay on full throttle.”

“My foot was like that,” he added shaking his foot. “I couldn’t control it.”

But he still managed to pull off a late lunge to take the lead off Hamilton.

“I just said I need to go for it. With the overspeed and the tyres I went for it,” he said.

“Nobody expected it. My dad didn’t expect it, Christian… nobody expected me to do it there but I did the move.

“I was in the lead and I had two long straights with my foot. You’re fighting for a championship and you have to deal with that stuff.”

He added: “It was the biggest emotion of my life. It was honestly crazy, you could hear it on the radio for everyone. People crying.

“That time for sure. It was the biggest moment of my career.”

Read more: Abu Dhabi, one year on: Why Formula 1 was the real loser