F1 legend Mario Andretti expects Max Verstappen to benefit from the knowledge that he now has a World Championship to his name, tipping the Dutchman to become an "even better" competitor in 2022.
Verstappen claimed the title in dramatic circumstances at last month's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, passing season-long rival Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the race following a contentious Safety Car period.
Although he has repeatedly stated that winning the title will not change his life, Verstappen is likely to be feeling calmer in himself as the new season approaches, according to 1978 World Champion Andretti.
"A lot of pressure" will be off Verstappen's shoulders
Asked about Verstappen's comments, and whether the title success might change him, Andretti told RacingNews365.com: "You can say all you want, but once you accomplish your ultimate goal, a lot of pressure's off your shoulders.
"There's no better situation than being more relaxed. Sometimes, when you're in that frame of mind, you just do things even better.
"He's in a very good place. He fought so hard [for the title] and now he probably relishes to try to repeat it. That's what drives you, that's what keeps you motivated. But at least he has that one under his belt, which is huge.
"I can only express what my thoughts were on a situation like that, when you accomplish something that's your ultimate goal. When you finally do it, oh my goodness, from there on things are all better!"
Respect from the fans and fellow competitors
Andretti added that, in addition to his loyal fans, Verstappen will have gained more respect from his rivals after beating Hamilton to the crown.
"When you achieve something like that, usually the fans have a different appreciation," Andretti went on to explain, when asked if he noticed any changes in the paddock after his own title win, and whether people treated him differently.
"You could see how strong Verstappen's fan base was [last season], by showing these orange plumes [of smoke] and all that. You had grandstands full of them!
"You have justified their confidence in you, and you know that they have a special appreciation now that you've done it, so it's all good. All of those things are positive, and that's what you work for, that's what you sweat for.
"It never comes easy. That's why, when you finally do it, the right people actually appreciate it and they show it to you. Things will never be the same, they'll be better.
"There's also respect. There's a certain degree of respect that you gain, even from your own competitors, whether they show it or not."
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