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Formula One world champion Max Verstappen has revealed that he has received a congratulatory message from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff – despite the controversy surrounding the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Red Bull driver Verstappen claimed his maiden world title in dramatic circumstances on Sunday after overtaking championship rival Lewis Hamilton on the final lap at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Wolff was furious with FIA race director Michael Masi’s decision to allow five drivers to unlap themselves during a safety car in the closing stages of the race, effectively allowing Verstappen to wipe out an 11 second gap between himself and race leader Hamilton.
Masi then gave the green light for the race the resume with just one lap remaining, with Verstappen – on fresher tyres – managing to overtake Hamilton.
Mercedes have lodged an intention to appeal the result and have yet to comment publicly on the race, but Verstappen says he’s received a message from Wolff.
"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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