party time | 

Max Verstappen celebrated F1 victory aboard Red Bull yacht with Ginger Spice

Former Spice Girl Geri Horner and Max Verstappen. Photo: Instagram

Former Spice Girl Geri Horner and Max Verstappen. Photo: Instagram

Tom CaryTelegraph Media Group Limited

It was a slightly bleary-eyed Max Verstappen who sat down to face the media yesterday for the first time as the official Formula One world champion.

A long night celebrating his maiden world title aboard Asya, Red Bull's hospitality yacht in Yas Marina, had clearly taken its toll, although an impromptu swim in the pool of DJ friend Martin Garrix at around 6.30am had helped to clear his head. He apologised if he seemed a little off colour.

"It was a late night and I'm still, of course, not feeling 100pc," the 24-year-old said, smiling.

There was nothing for which to apologise. Despite the keyboard warriors who have labelled him a disgrace, Verstappen did absolutely nothing wrong on Sunday night.

Like Hamilton, he drove a brilliant race and had every right to celebrate the end of an extraordinary campaign, one in which he came of age, forcing Hamilton in turn to raise his game.

The sadness is the ongoing controversy over the way the race unfolded - with Mercedes still potentially launching an appeal, although that prospect seemed to be receding last night - has taken some of the shine off it. Not that Verstappen was letting it worry him unduly.

He is as laid back off the track as he is aggressive on it. "I'm not disappointed at all," he insisted. "I think it [the controversy] just sums up the whole season in general. It's been pretty crazy and intense."

Verstappen said he had never been unduly concerned by the protests launched by Mercedes in the immediate aftermath of his win. Even as the clock ticked towards midnight, nearly five hours after the race had finished, he remained calm.

While out in the paddock television, crews mingled with celebrities, including former Holland footballers Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert, in town to support their compatriot, Verstappen remained hunkered down with his dad Jos.

"I was just very calm," he said. "Talking to people, family, people in the team, just going over things in general about the car throughout the whole season. It was a long wait, of course, but it was fine."

One of the calls was from Red Bull co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz, which Verstappen described as "very nice". "I thanked him for all the trust from the start in my Formula One career and I told him that I hope we can do this for many, many more years to come," he said.

Any remaining tension dissipated once the stewards' verdict landed. Someone in the Red Bull garage had Queen's We Are the Champions ready to go, and the sound of Freddie Mercury's vocals came wafting out into the night air.

At around 2.0am, Verstappen and his father, plus Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and wife Geri Halliwell, were spotted in a golf buggy heading over to the other side of the marina, where they boarded Asya and got stuck into the champagne at a team party.

"It was a long night," he said. "I ended up at Martin's place. It was fun. We were spending a lot of time with all the team members as well last night, celebrating all together. All the emotions, they come out. Of course, when I woke up, that was not so fun. I regretted, maybe, that final drink. But it was very nice."

Verstappen will be back in his car today for the post-season test, although he will not be able to re-enact the final laps of Sunday's Grand Prix with his sparring partner. Hamilton is missing the test, with the incoming George Russell reportedly taking the Mercedes spot on both days.

But Verstappen praised Hamilton again for the way he had reacted to the severe disappointment. "Lewis is a great sportsman in general. He came up to me and congratulated me and it must have been very tough in that last lap.

"But it also shows the respect we have for each other in general. Of course, we had our tough times throughout the season but, in the end, we respect what we were doing and we were pushing each other to the limit the whole season. So, it has been really enjoyable racing against him.

"Of course, it helps if you already have seven titles. I think that comforts him a bit! If it's the other way around, it would be more painful for me because I didn't have one."

If Verstappen was concerned by the prospect of losing the one he has, he hid it well. And to be honest, the prospect of Mercedes launching an appeal seemed remote last night.

In theory, they have another two days in which to do so, but Verstappen revealed Hamilton was not the only central figure to have congratulated him.

"Toto [Wolff] sent me a text," he said. "Congratulations on the season, and that I deserved to win it. So that was very nice of him, of course."

If even Wolff has come to terms with it - and a video which was posted and later deleted of the Austrian crowd-surfing at the Mercedes team party in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night would suggest he has - then it is as good as over.

F1's newest world champion certainly seemed over it.

"Emotions ran very high for that last lap, from both sides, from both teams. I and the team, we didn't do anything wrong."

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