Helmut Marko rubs salt in Mercedes’ wounds after Lewis Hamilton’s world title heartbreak

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen analysed by Coulthard

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Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has rubbed salt into Mercedes’ wounds by claiming the Silver Arrows made it ‘easy for us’ during Sunday’s frantic race in Abu Dhabi. Max Verstappen claimed glory after overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the final lap. Despite the Silver Arrows protesting over two issues, the 24-year-old has since been confirmed as the sport’s newest champion.

Both Hamilton and Verstappen went into Sunday’s F1 decider in Abu Dhabi level on points in the race for glory.

It was the Mercedes star who, for long periods, seemed set to win the prize after opening up a sensational lead.

However, in dramatic circumstances, Verstappen was able to overcome the deficit by overtaking on the final lap.

The Belgian-Dutch driver has now etched his name into the history books and, despite Mercedes launching two separate appeals, has been confirmed as champion.

And Red Bull advisor Marko has now upped the ante with Mercedes by criticising their methods on the day, saying they ‘slept during the safety cars’.

“No,” he responded when asked by Speedweek.com if Red Bull had already lost hope by the end of the race.  

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“The safety car came at the ideal time for us. After all the bad luck we’ve had this year, luck had to turn in our favour.

“That’s what happened. And the decision to go on soft tyres during Max’s final pit stop was a perfect move.

“Mercedes actually slept through two safety car phases. By doing that, they made it easy for us to work in that direction.”

Red Bull have been defiant ever since it emerged that Verstappen, rather than Hamilton, would be given the title.

Christian Horner took aim at Mercedes, insisting they never wanted the season’s outcome to be settled in front of the stewards.

“We never wanted to end up in front of the stewards,” he said.

“There was obviously a lot of debate before the race but, as it turned out, it was obviously very different after the race.

“But we don’t go racing with barristers, and so on. It was a shame that it ended up there, but the stewards made the right call.”

He then added: “We’ve talked about let them race.

“You know, Niki Lauda was the guy that pushed hard for it. And we’ve always talked about not finishing races under safety cars.

“The race director, in difficult circumstances, made absolutely the right call today. And, you know, strategically we got it right.”

Horner did also say Hamilton had been ‘phenomenal’ over the course of the season, while labelling his battle with Verstappen as ’tense’.

“They’ve been great competitors this year,” Horner said. “And Lewis has been a phenomenal driver.

“It’s had its moments, it has been tense. It’s been tough.

“But we’re just delighted with the outcome. And very proud of Max tonight. He has been phenomenal all year.”

Hamilton, meanwhile, sent a classy message to Verstappen in the immediate aftermath of the result.

“A big congratulations to Max and to his team,” he said.

“We did an amazing job this year. It’s been the most difficult of seasons, we gave it everything, this last part of the season, we never gave up and that’s the most important thing.

“Of course [I’ll be back]. I’ve been feeling good the past couple of months … We’ll see about next year.”

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