Last Sunday Max Verstappen became world champion for the first time in his Formula 1 career and he wrote Dutch and international sports history. He is the very first Dutchman to become world champion in the premier class of motorsport. Robert Doornbos, together with Jan Lammers, looks back on a crazy race in Abu Dhabi.
“I didn’t like it for a while after the start because Lewis (Hamilton ed.) had gone very well,” says Doornbos in Humberto. ‘Max really had a shit start to stick to Olav Mol’s terms for a while. After that, your advantage is also gone with the tires. Lewis simply had the fastest car, but then the miracle they were all hoping for happened.’ Williams driver Nicholas Latifi drove into the wall during the closing phase of the race, requiring a safety car. This allowed Verstappen to easily join Hamilton again.
Doornbos: ‘Mercedes team boss went completely crazy’
It was a bit tense at first because the safety car raised a lot of questions. Would everything be cleared up in time for the end? Would the cars that entered between Verstappen and Hamilton leave on time? In the end everything fell in the way of the Dutchman and because he had changed to better tires during the safety car, he was able to easily overtake Hamilton. “You finally have a decision from the stewards that suits him,” says Doornbos.
“The Mercedes team boss also went completely crazy when the cars that were put on a lap were allowed to overtake,” says Doornbos. Former Formula 1 driver Lammers is also present at the program. He was surprised at the stewards’ decision when Hamilton cut the track. The Briton, it seemed, was overtaken by Verstappen, but kept leading the way because he skipped a part of the track. Max was half a car length ahead and after that corner Lewis is suddenly ten car lengths ahead. It’s just bizarre’, says Lammers.
Lammers: ‘The whole year is now justified’
Still, everything turned out well for the 24-year-old driver and Lammers also feels that this was fair: “Everything that went wrong all year is now justified if you look at it that way.” Because Verstappen went out on the soft tires under the safety car, he also had an advantage after it had left. “Mercedes could have done that too, but they missed that opportunity,” Lammers said.
Mercedes decided not to change the tires because they chose track position. ‘That is also the difference’, says Doornbos. “When you’re chasing someone, you can react to what the leader in the race is doing. Lewis was past the pit lane entrance, so it makes sense for Red Bull to say, ‘Come on! We have to take a risk.’ In the end, Red Bull’s decision paid off in a world title for Verstappen.