Verstappen backs Hamilton's 'dirty tricks' in Abu Dhabi finale

Lewis Hamilton's controversial decision to slow down and back team-mate Nico Rosberg into the chasing pack may have drawn criticism from some quarters, but was backed by Max Verstappen.

Monday, 28th November 2016, 9:39 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 4:18 pm
Max Verstappen backed Lewis Hamilton's tactics in Abu Dhabi

The Brit needed team-mate Rosberg to finish fourth or lower to secure a third consecutive title, so slowed the pace considerably to allow Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen to draw closer to the battle and put Rosberg under pressure.

Hamilton may face internal disciplining from his Mercedes paymasters, but Verstappen believes he'd have done the same with a world championship at stake.

"I think Lewis was trying to back us up, and I probably would have done the same," said Verstappen. "You have to try these things to win a championship."

Max Verstappen

Verstappen's race to fourth place in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was certainly dramatic. After a slow start, he collided with Nico Hulkenberg and spun at the first corner, leaving him at the back of the pack. But his alternative tyre strategy meant he could go long in his first stint, and while others pitted, he found himself in second, ahead of Rosberg.

One-stopping, Verstappen needed to make his tyres last, but a fast-charging Vettel made light work of him, snatching the final podium spot with five laps to go.

Although he finished the final race off the podium, Verstappen was delighted to come fourth, having emerged from the first corner stone last.

He said: “I am very pleased with my result and how that race went. After being last after turn 1, having to fight my way back and doing it all on a one-stop was the best we could do and I am happy we pulled it off.

Max Verstappen

"I knew I was going to come under attack from the two-stop guys as they obviously had more life left in the tyres, I don’t think I could have held Seb off at the end.

"When you still finish in front of guys who did an extra stop you have to be pleased with the result, especially as we also finished so close to P1.

"It was an unfortunate tap at the start which caused the spin, it was just a racing incident though and these things happen."

Verstappen finished the 2016 season fifth in the standings, with seven podium finishes and a race win - on his Red Bull debut in Spain.

He added: "It is very nice to finish the season fifth in the championship and to have had some really good results along the way.

"After qualifying I wasn’t too happy, so now we finish it on a high. It has been a special season for me this year and I am really excited to get next year underway and hopefully bring more success.”