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Fernando Alonso believes Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton both deserved to be crowned as Formula One world champion after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and has suggested the trophy be “split in two”.
The 2021 season came to an end in hugely controversial circumstances on Sunday as Red Bull’s Verstappen narrowly pipped Hamilton to the world title.
Verstappen took advantage of some questionable calls from FIA race director Michael Masi to overtake Mercedes driver Hamilton on the final lap at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Speaking after the race, two-time world champion Alonso said neither driver deserved to lose out on the world title after an enthralling season.
Speaking about Verstappen, Alpine's Alonso said: “I think he’s a champion, it was a matter of time that he won the trophy.
“I think today he was lucky – without the safety car Lewis was world champion, and with the safety car Max is world champion.
“So it’s a pure luck thing what happened today.
“It’s going to be a big topic I guess, but if you take the 22 races, as I said on Thursday, any of the two could be world champion.
“I think more than any other year if you could split the trophy in two, this was the year to do it. Because both of them were outstanding.”
According to reports, Masi is now facing the sack over his decision to allow five cars to unlap themselves during a safety car in the closing stages of the race – effectively allowing Verstappen to wipe out an 11-second gap to race leader Hamilton.
Masi then allowed the race to resume with one lap remaining, with Verstappen - on fresher tyres - managing to pass Hamilton in a straight shootout for the title.
After the race, Mercedes lodged two separate protests which were later rejected by Formula One stewards.
However, Mercedes have since lodged their intention to appeal the verdicts.
Verstappen, meanwhile, says he has received a congratulatory message from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff despite the ongoing uncertainty over the final result.
"Toto sent me a text [saying] congratulations on the season, I deserved to win it," Verstappen told Sky Sports.
"That was nice of him of course, emotions ran very high through that last lap from both sides of both teams."
Verstappen’s victory denied Hamilton a record-breaking eighth Formula One world title, with the Mercedes driver instead remaining level with Michael Schumacher on seven.
In a message heard over the Mercedes team radio during the final lap, Hamilton claimed the race was being “manipulated”.
However, Verstappen says his rival has been gracious in defeat – describing the British driver as a “great sportsman”.
"Of course it helps that you also have seven titles, I think that comforts him a bit," Verstappen added.
"I think if it was the other way around, it would have been more painful for me, because I didn't have one!"
He added of Hamilton: "Lewis has been a great sportsman in general.
"He came up to me, congratulated me and it must have been very tough in that last lap. It also shows the respect we had for each other, in general.
"Of course we had our tough times through the season but in the end we were respectful of what we were doing and we were pushing each other to the limit the whole season.
"It has been really enjoyable racing against him."
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