Max Verstappen has provided a blunt reason as to why he snubbed podium celebrations in Saudi Arabia after the Dutchman came second to title rival Lewis Hamilton. With just one race remaining, the Drivers’ Championship is balanced on a knife-edge which has led to tension both on and off the track.
Although Hamilton saw the chequered flag first on Sunday, Verstappen’s failure to win certainly was not for the want of trying.
FIA race director Michael Masi slapped the 24-year-old with two separate penalties for his role in various controversies, which saw the duo collide twice.
A last-gasp podium for Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas looks to have put the Constructors’ Championship out of reach for Red Bull, lumping extra pressure on Verstappen’s shoulders.
That much became evident during Sunday’s podium celebrations, which are usually enjoyed by all three drivers, but Verstappen had other ideas.
After the rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ played out, he promptly exited the stage to leave Hamilton and Bottas to celebrate.
When quizzed on the matter by Sky Sports, he simply said: “Because there was no champagne. It wasn’t fun.”
Clearly, the Dutchman did not want to discuss the broader issue which was his ill-feeling towards how his hard racing was viewed in Jeddah.
A number of audacious moves saw Verstappen enjoy his fair share of the lead, but Masi ordered Hamilton to be let through in the closing stages of the race after the Red Bull man maintained top spot by running wide.
It certainly was not the first time that Verstappen has kept the lead by any means necessary, with a controversial move in Brazil also sparking fierce debate.
In viewing the Dutchman’s apparent post-race anger in Saudi Arabia, former F1 driver Martin Brundle gave his interpretation of events.
“He walked off the back. He does not want any part of that,” he told Sky Sports.
“He clearly feels very aggrieved that he had to give the lead back having offered the lead back, but there was contact.”
The momentum is certainly with Hamilton and the Mercedes camp, but in what appears to be a straight shoot-out in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen actually carries in a slight advantage.
A nine-win haul for the season trumps Hamilton’s eight, meaning that if both cars fail to finish, the crown will be his.
Still, onlookers will hope for a high-stakes, winner-takes-all duel after what has been a tense battle all season, with Verstappen aiming to win his first title and Hamilton chasing number eight.