Max Verstappen has entertained the possibility that Mercedes are "trying to take the shine off" his 2021 title win by pointing the finger at Michael Masi and silently protesting his Abu Dhabi decisions.
Verstappen was locked in a fierce battle with Lewis Hamilton throughout the 2021 season, snatching the title from him with a last-lap pass at the Yas Marina Circuit.
There were a number of controversial moments along the way, notably crashes at Silverstone and Monza, but neither compared to the controversy of that final race.
Mercedes responded by protesting the day's big decisions, while Hamilton fell silent for the entire winter, leaving fans worried that he may never return to the sport.
The FIA, meanwhile, removed Masi from his role while an investigation into the events of Abu Dhabi was being conducted.
Verstappen confident he was 2021's deserved champion
But for Verstappen, despite the FIA reshuffle, Mercedes fury and pending reports, he was the worthy champion of Formula 1's most dramatic of seasons.
The Red Bull driver at one stage held a 32-point lead over his rival and ended the season with more race wins and more pole positions.
"A championship is won over a whole season," Verstappen has told Dutch outlet De Telegraaf. "Not by one decision in the last race. I also think I deserved the title, absolutely.
"There may be people who have only looked at the last Grand Prix. They may think I was lucky, but normally the championship would have been decided in my favour long ago."
Verstappen: My title win still feels good
When the suggestion that Mercedes are trying to take the shine off Verstappen's title win was put to him, the Dutchman replied: "Could be, but if they know me well, they know I don't care.
"It was a crazy and epic Formula 1 season. The losing team will try to take the shine off it, but on the winning side it still feels good, I can assure you."
Verstappen will return to the track on Thursday (10 March) for Formula 1's second pre-season test of the new season in Bahrain.
A week later, the action will begin for real with the 2022 season getting underway at the Sakhir venue.
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