2021 Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen has admitted that luck smiled on him at the right time in the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi.
The Red Bull driver clinched his first world title in Formula One in 2021 after winning the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the final round of the world championship – when he was able to overtake Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the race.
Despite leading the drivers’ championship for much of the 2021 campaign, Verstappen had his fair share of bad luck with a retirement in Baku following a puncture, a spectacular crash at Silverstone when he was fighting for first place with Lewis Hamilton and another incident with the Mercedes driver forcing him to retire at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
Finally, the Dutchman’s luck ran out in the final race of the season when the FIA race director sent a safety car onto the track with five laps to go after Williams driver Nicholas Latifi crashed, allowing Verstappen to come in on fresh tyres and attack Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to take victory and the title.
“It’s always difficult to use the right words for it, but you always need a bit of luck in life, and I think so far [in Abu Dhabi] I haven’t really had much luck – otherwise I think the championship could have been decided much earlier,” Max Verstappen said in an interview with Sky Sports.
“Luck came at the right time for me and of course you always have to take the opportunity, and that’s what we did as a team.”
The Red Bull driver admitted that he knew that without the safety car his chances of winning were virtually nil, but the Dutchman never wanted to give up during the race: “Of course I could see that they [Mercedes] were very fast, and I think we tried everything. So I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do everything I can until the end, give everything, don’t make them think it’s easy.
“Then we put the tyres on [during the safety car], and maybe in hindsight you could say that if they had also put [new] tyres on, I would have stayed on track and we would have had the opposite scenario.”
In the end, Max Verstappen won his first Formula One world title at the age of 24, while the Mercedes team clinched an eighth world title in the constructors’ championship after the 2021 season.