PARIS, Dec 17 — Red Bull’s Max Verstappen collected his Formula One world champion’s trophy at a gala awards ceremony on Thursday and looked forward to fighting seven times title-holder Lewis Hamilton again next season.
His Mercedes rival, beaten this year on the last lap of the last race, did not attend the event at the Louvre museum in Paris.
“It’s my life goal achieved, so it sounds pretty decent,” said Verstappen after being welcomed on stage as champion.
“Everything that comes next is just a bonus. I’m of course going to keep pushing, I’m going to be in F1 for a few more years but this has been an incredibly tough season,” added the 24-year-old.
“It’s been an incredible battle with Lewis, one of the greatest drivers ever in Formula One. I think we really pushed each other to the limit, sometimes over the limit ... I think in the end we really respect each other.
“I can’t wait for next year to come back and for sure we’re going to try again.”
Speaking to reporters earlier, Verstappen recognised his Mercedes rival’s suffering.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, who was also absent, had indicated some uncertainty over his disillusioned driver’s future after last Sunday’s finale in Abu Dhabi.
“I don’t feel sorry but I can understand of course that it can be very painful,” said Verstappen.
“But at the end of the day that’s racing as well. You have to just keep fighting to the end and you know that in racing anything can happen.
“He also won a championship like that. So I think he can understand as well,” added the 24-year-old, who overtook Hamilton at Yas Marina when a sudden change to the safety car procedure gave him a chance after it seemed he had none.
Hamilton took his first title with McLaren in 2008 with a last corner move that shattered Brazilian Ferrari driver Felipe Massa’s hopes.
Asked how bad it would be if Hamilton did not come back to renew the battle next season, Verstappen doubted that would happen.
“I can understand that the first few days after a race like that you’re not happy but you should also understand this is racing,” he said. “I think he should just look back at what he has achieved already.
“That should give him a lot of comfort and should also be that drive to just keep on going because he is still trying to challenge for that eighth title and for sure he can do that again next year.
“So I don’t see any reason why to give up or stop now.” — Reuters