Red Bull ‘played rough’ to help Max Verstappen win F1 title, Damon Hill claims

Mercedes protested the result of the controversial season-deciding race but their appeals were dismissed by the stewards

Jamie Braidwood
Monday 13 December 2021 15:38
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From F1 driver’s son to 2021 Champion: Here’s a look back at Max Verstappen’s journey

Former F1 world champion Damon Hill has claimed Red Bull and team boss Christian Horner were “playing rough” as they looked to put the pressure on race director Michael Masi during the closing stages of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Horner pleaded Masi to give championship contenders Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton “one more lap” following the safety car, with Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff later criticising the “unacceptable” way in which the race unfolded.

Five cars were allowed to overtake the safety car, putting Verstappen directly behind Hamilton on a fresh set of soft tyres, and Hill said Red Bull were smart in how they argued for the drivers to be allowed to race for the line.

“I think these are the new rules,” Hill told Sky Sports. “I think it’s a new style of race directing, I think that Mercedes have struggled with the decisions that have been made.

“Red Bull played rough, but they’ve persuaded the race director that cars should be allowed to race, and it should be a robust kind of formula, and they’ve prevailed.”

Hill added that Verstappen was a deserved winner of his first Formula One title after a campaign which saw him wins 10 races and record 10 pole positions.

Hamilton had closed the gap by winning three of the four final races of the season but the 1996 champion said Verstappen had been the better driver over the course of the season.

“You can’t have them both win, unfortunately, I think Max has fought valiantly. I think the right man won – if there can be such a thing,” Hill said.

“I feel for Lewis, he’s fought with everything he’s had, and with Mercedes as well. But they’re up against a very formidable Red Bull team and driver.”

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