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Verstappen uncovers "crucial" element of Abu Dhabi title win

Verstappen uncovers "crucial" element of Abu Dhabi title win

Verstappen uncovers "crucial" element of Abu Dhabi title win

Verstappen uncovers "crucial" element of Abu Dhabi title win
GPFans Staff

Max Verstappen has praised team-mate Sergio Perez for his "crucial" role in clinching his maiden F1 world championship last year.

The Mexican held up Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to allow Verstappen to close up to the back of the W12 and despite the Briton pulling away once moving past Perez, his opportunity to make a free pit-stop under safety car conditions had evaporated.

This became to be pivotal when Nicholas Latifi crashed out of the race late on, sparking the controversial safety car period in which Verstappen was able to pit for fresh tyres and Hamilton not, meaning a tyre offset for the one-lap sprint at the end.

Recounting his championship-winning day for Tag Heuer's The Edge podcast, Verstappen explained: "[Racing in F1] is not that complicated, you have a steering wheel, a throttle pedal and a brake pedal and I think over the years, you know what to do so I don't really think about too many things.

"I just jump in and for me, it is another race but of course with a bit more pressure, because it is fighting for a world championship.

"At the time I overtook Sainz after the pit-stop, I didn't see Lewis because he was so far ahead but I knew Checo was still out there and then at that point I realised what was going on.

"That made my race because if Checo wouldn't have done that, I wouldn't have been champion because he would have done a free pit-stop and that would have been it.

"So to completely reduce that gap was crucial to the win in the end."

When the safety car was called in at the end of the penultimate lap, Verstappen knew he would have the chance to make the overtake on Hamilton that would clinch his first title triumph.

The move came at turn five before Verstappen turned to defence into the two chicanes at the end of Yas Marina's main straights.

On his feelings during the event, Verstappen said: "It wasn't particularly exciting for me, it looked like we were losing the championship but then, of course, the crash happened, safety car came out to clear the car, and we took that as an opportunity to put new tyres on the car.

"You can make the call to pit or not for new tyres. We went for it and clearly, that does give you the opportunity as long as they restart the race.

"Then of course, they released the cars for one single lap to race and I knew it was on.

"We had a chance again to fight for the title so then it is all about getting yourself in the right position for the restart and trying to be as close as you can be to go for the move.

"I did have the fresher tyres so I was very excited when they released us, we had that one lap fight and I got in front, that was what I wanted because as soon as we were in front, it was up to me to defend. That is way better than trying to do a dive somewhere unexpectedly at the end."

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