Max Verstappen says he “definitely” believes the reports that Lewis Hamilton wanted Mercedes to withdraw their protest, saying his title rival is “a great sportsman in general”.

He concedes, however, he may have struggled to do the same if their fortunes had been reversed.

Hamilton lost the World title to Verstappen in contentious circumstances at the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, a race where whichever of the two protagonists finished ahead, they’d win the World title.

It was all Hamilton for 57 laps of the grand prix, the Brit pulling away from Verstappen with ease.

The result was flipped on its head on the final lap when FIA race director Michael Masi set up a one-lap shoot-out after declaring that only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen could unlap themselves behind the Safety Car.

Verstappen attacked on the final lap, taking the race win and his first-ever World title.

Mercedes protested even though website f1maximaal.nl claims that “sources from the racing world in England” told them that Hamilton “asked Wolff to withdraw the protests against Verstappen and Red Bull”.

A report claims Lewis Hamilton had asked Mercedes to withdraw their protests after the #AbuDhabiGP, but the team continued on with them.https://t.co/MXwutqi3kt #F1 pic.twitter.com/iDQOhKqjgX

— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) December 13, 2021

The protest was dismissed by the Abu Dhabi stewards with Mercedes announcing they are considering an appeal.

Asked about the Hamilton rumours and if he thought had it been up to Hamilton alone to protest or not to that there wouldn’t have been one, Verstappen told Sky Sports: “Yeah definitely, I also think so.

“Of course it helps that you already have seven titles, I think that comforts him a bit.

“I think if it is the other way around it would be more painful for me, because I didn’t have one.

“But Lewis is a great sportsman in general, he came up to me and congratulated me, and it must have been of course very tough in that last lap, but it also shows the respect we have for each other in general.

 

“Of course we had our tough times throughout the season, but in the end we respect what we were doing and we were pushing each other to the limit the whole season, so it has been really enjoyable racing against him.”

 

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