Red Bull ambassador and former F1 driver David Coulthard has said that Lewis Hamilton deserved to win the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but has praised Max Verstappen for getting inside the head of the seven-time World Champion.
Coulthard, speaking to ViaPlay, has branded Verstappen as a worthy winner of the 2021 crown with "a fighter's heart" but conceded that Hamilton did all he needed to do to win the crucial, final race of the season.
The two drivers ended up changing positions on the final lap of the 2021 season after Hamilton saw his commanding lead cut by a late Safety Car.
Controversy then followed when the Safety Car was abruptly ended with Mercedes expecting the race to end behind it, with FIA Race Director Michael Masi making the call to resume the race with a lap to go.
That allowed Verstappen, on fresher tyres, to breeze past Hamilton at Turn 5 and keep the British driver behind to win his maiden title.
"At that moment I knew [that Verstappen would be champion]," Coulthard said.
"He was [either] going to crash and both drivers drop out, because then Max is World Champion, or he overtakes Hamilton and is World Champion.
"I was honestly surprised at how early Verstappen launched the attack. That says a lot about his fighting spirit."
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Coulthard: Hamilton deserved win but Verstappen got in his head
Coulthard has praised Verstappen's ability to upset Hamilton and "get into" his head, something that he feels was key to his 2021 success.
The two drivers came together on track on multiple occasions over the course of the season, most notably at Silverstone, Monza and Jeddah.
It was a season comparable to 2016, when Nico Rosberg went toe-to-toe with Hamilton and fended off a late charge from his teammate during the closing rounds.
Rosberg too was that season praised for unsettling Hamilton inside his own team and getting inside his head.
"I think Max has managed to get into Hamilton's head," continued Coulthard, who was once himself embroiled in a fight for the championship against one of F1's most legendary racers, Michael Schumacher.
"Lewis is a great driver and deserved to win in Abu Dhabi. However, I also think that Verstappen deserves the title. He has a huge fighter's heart."
He added: "Wherever he sees a gap, he immediately attacks. That makes him a worthy World Champion."
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