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Horner describes 'very stressful' Abu Dhabi race

Christian Horner has opened up about his feelings during the final few laps of the controversial, title-deciding 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has described the last few laps of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as 'very stressful', as he contemplated Max Verstappen losing the Driver's Championship after having led it for much of the year. But a controversially-applied Safety Car period allowed Verstappen to catch and pass Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to win the race and snatch the title from under the Briton's nose. Fans were in an uproar with the results as fans argued on social media for months as to who was right and wrong. Mercedes initially protested, then withdrew their request while Red Bulland Verstappen celebrated. Hamilton fans were greeted with silence from the seven-time World Champion as he withdrew from social media, even refusing to attend the FIA's prize-giving ceremony where Verstappen was handed his 2022 WorldDrivers Championship trophy. Speaking to the Cambridge Union , Horner spoke about the race and everything that happened that day.

It was a very stressful time for Horner

"Well, it felt pretty stressful," said Horner. "I mean, for mostof the race, I was thinking Mercedes had the upper hand, we'dqualified on pole. "But Lewis pulling it away, he had therace under control, and, strategically, they did a couple of things wherethey didn't cover us." With the race looking to be a straightforward Hamilton victory, after Mercedes had been strong in the previous races as well,Horner's thoughts turned to Verstappen, and how he would help pick him up if he lost thecrown in the final race. "I was thinking for days, we've gone through all this year, we've been so close, but to lose bothchampionships, how am I going to pick Max up? What am I going to say to theteam, how we're going to lift their spirits after a weekend like this?"

"We're going to need something from the racing gods"

But then, as the Safety Car was deployed to clear Nicholas Latifi's stricken Williams, the unexpected happened and changed the entiresituation, a situation Horner describes as a 'gift from the racing Gods'. "I think I was actually connected to the Sky F1 commentators, whichis always an interesting experience," said Horner. "They asked me how it was looking, and I said, 'Well, I think we're going to need something from the racing gods to turn this around, and then Nicholas Latifi turned up." "I didn't realise I had a direct line, so I've got to make sure I usethat again, and then suddenly everything changed, because we'd used Sergio Perez earlier in the race to make sure totry and back Lewis up to give Max a chance. "And what that did was prevent Lewis from having a free pitstop, so it put Mercedes in a dilemma - do they pit, do they stay out? "We had nothingto lose, so we pit. And then Max, with a new set of tyres on that last lap, it was all down to him."

Verstappen 'couldn't feel his braking foot'

But it wasn't as easy as Verstappen simplyhaving new tyres and sailing past the Mercedes on the final lap. In fact, theDutchman was suffering with cramp as he attempted the pass. "What he didn't tell us, he told us after the race, was that whilethey were going around behind the Safety Car, because the way the drivers sitin the car there, their feet are six inches higher than their backside," said Horner. "Sometimes the blood drains out of their legs if they're not keepingthem busy, and they can get really bad cramps. "Max got a massively bad cramp inhis left leg, and he said 'I couldn't feel my braking foot. I didn't reallymean to overtake Lewis there. But you know, I just went for the gap, and Ihoped I could feel the brakes.'" "Of course, he made it work. And then to achieve that resultagainst the odds, to achieve that World Championship was a phenomenal feeling for the whole team, for him. "After such an epic season, becauseit really went from the first race to the last race, like a heavyweight bout,it was incredibly, incredibly satisfying."

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