’Luck’ helped Hamilton win seven titles - Verstappen
"You need a very dominant team as well"
Max Verstappen is "very deserving" of his status as reigning world champion - while his 2021 foe Lewis Hamilton benefitted from "luck" to match Michael Schumacher’s record tally of seven titles.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner responded to suggestions that the way last year’s intense championship fight ended in Abu Dhabi had brought into question whether the Dutchman fully deserves to be called world champion.
"Dietrich (Mateschitz) felt Max was very deserving," Horner insisted. "He was very proud of what he’d done and what the team had achieved."
Horner had clearly caught up with Red Bull’s 77-year-old team owner over the winter, and debriefed a title victory that came despite "so much bad luck" for Verstappen throughout the year.
"There was so much controversy but also so much bad luck that these things tend to balance themselves out," Horner said.
"Yes, we got a little bit lucky with the safety car at the end of the race, but so much bad luck had gone against us throughout the season.
"I think Max led more than 50 percent of the laps, more than every other driver combined. He had more pole positions, more race wins, and for me he was totally deserving."
As for the defeated Hamilton, he is currently under a cloud of speculation linking him with retirement - not helped by his total silence since Abu Dhabi.
"The silence is there because he simply lacks the words," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff explained.
Some have criticised that silence, but a new editorial by the German broadcaster RTL says the 37-year-old driver’s lack of words "shows his power".
"Without doing anything, F1 senses his insane importance. And maybe that’s really clever of him," it reads.
Ultimately, the Hamilton versus Verstappen, Mercedes versus Red Bull battle is expected to resume with the brand new technical rules this year.
Verstappen is not necessarily expecting to win again.
When asked about Hamilton’s tally of seven titles, the Dutchman told CarNext: "You need a bit of luck to fight for that.
"You need a very dominant team as well. You don’t always have that luck or you’re not in that era. Sometimes it doesn’t happen.
"For me, I always wanted to win one and see where you go from there. Everything that comes now is a bonus," he added.
At the same time, however, the tension between Wolff and Horner is likely to shortly resume.
"When we fought Fernando Alonso for the world championship, Stefano Domenicali was Ferrari team boss and at that time, the competition was on a - shall we say - gentleman’s level," said Horner.
"But Toto plays it differently. He’s a different kind of animal."