Max Verstappen revealed he battled ‘massive cramp’ on the final lap in Abu Dhabi as he admits he would not have pipped Sir Lewis Hamilton to the World Championship title if not for controversial safety car decision
- Max Verstappen controversially won the F1 World Championship on Sunday
- The Dutchman passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to pip the Brit to the title
- He has revealed that he was battling ‘massive’ cramp on the title-sealing final lap
- The 24-year-old was victorious following a controversial safety car decision
- Verstappen admitted that he would not have caught Hamilton without the call
Max Verstappen battled through cramp on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he pipped Sir Lewis Hamilton to clinch his first World Championship title.
Verstappen took to the track level on points with Hamilton in Abu Dhabi ahead of what was set to be an epic title decider but the Dutchman lost the lead off the line.
Hamilton was in control from then on but a safety car was called out on to the circuit on lap 54 with just four laps left following a crash by Williams driver Nicholas Latifi that bunched the pack up.
Max Verstappen (above) battled cramp on the final lap of Abu Dhabi GP as he won his first title
Race director Michael Masi made the controversial call to allow backmarkers to unlap themselves in between Hamilton and the Dutchman and bring the safety car in.
The decision created a straight one-lap shootout between the two title rivals, of which Verstappen was the victor due to his fresher, soft tyres, enabling him to overtake his British rival.
But Verstappen as now revealed that as he lined up Hamilton for that pass into Turn 5, he was battling cramp in his leg.
Lewis Hamilton (left) led for most of the race but the Dutchman passed him on the last lap
‘I’d seen Lewis have trouble warming up the hard tyres. I stayed close and with the soft tyres it was easier,’ he told Auto Motor und Sport.
‘I had massive cramp in my leg and was happy I was able to relieve it briefly in Turn 5. But then the straights came again.’
After the race, the Dutchman’s mother Sophie Kumpen admitted that Hamilton was the best driver on the day and Verstappen himself agrees he would not have caught the Brit without the safety car decision.
‘I wouldn’t have caught up with Lewis, even with new tyres it wasn’t easy,’ he said.
Verstappen admits he would not have pipped the Brit (left) if not for the safety car decision
Cramp was not the only thing Verstappen was battling on the final lap as he admitted he struggled to keep his emotions at bay as his father, Jos, watched him become champion.
‘My dad used to drive with me all over Europe. The World Championship title has always been the goal,’ he said.
‘Now this is happening, it’s just crazy. And especially because many of my companions from karting times, friends and my girlfriend were there.
‘I got very emotional on the in-lap – because nobody could see me there.’