Max Verstappen had ‘massive cramp’ during F1 title-winning last lap in Abu Dhabi

The Red Bull driver collected his world championship trophy in Paris on Wednesday.

Dan Austin
Friday 17 December 2021 10:23
<p>Max Verstappen won his first world title in extraordinary circumstances (PA Wire)</p>

Max Verstappen won his first world title in extraordinary circumstances (PA Wire)

Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen has revealed he was suffering from a build-up of intense cramp in his right leg during the final lap showdown with Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Dutchman lined up directly behind the Briton for one final lap of racing after a safety car period handled with high controversy by FIA Race Director Michael Masi, and used his fresh soft tyres to overtake his rival down the inside into Turn 5 before holding on to secure his maiden title.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had earlier told Sky Sports F1 that his team needed “a miracle from the racing Gods” for Verstappen to beat Hamilton, before promising Williams driver Nicholas Latifi a lifetime’s supply of the energy drink after the Canadian caused the safety car intervention which turned the race around.

Verstappen collected his trophy at the FIA prizegiving ceremony in Paris on Wednesday evening, and offered further insight into his extraordinary victory.

“My last lap when I was fighting Lewis, I had a cramp already starting the lap and that just lasted the whole [time],” the 24-year-old said to Auto und Motor Sport.

“I’d seen Lewis have trouble warming up the hard tyres. I stayed close and with the soft tyres it was easier. I had massive cramp in my leg and was happy I was able to relieve it briefly in Turn 5.”

"Every time I was going full throttle it was terrible. So I was fighting him, then defending and I just felt my muscles coming together and it almost became like a tennis ball. It was the worst experience you can have in terms of your calf muscle just dying on you."

Amid talk that Hamilton could exit the sport in dismay at the turn of events which cost him a record-breaking eighth championship, Verstappen told the pre-gala press conference that the Briton has “no reason” to stop now and fully expects a close fight again in 2022.

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