PARIS (Reuters) – Formula One champion Max Verstappen expects Lewis Hamilton to be back next season to battle for a record eighth title despite the Briton’s disappointment at being beaten this year on the last lap of the last race.
Speaking to reporters before the governing FIA’s gala awards night in Paris, where he will be presented with the champion’s trophy, the Red Bull driver recognised his Mercedes rival’s suffering.
Hamilton shunned the gathering, with team boss Toto Wolff also absent and indicating some uncertainty nL1N2T111T over his disillusioned driver’s future after last Sunday’s finale in Abu Dhabi.
“I don’t feel sorry but I can understand of course that it can be very painful,” said Verstappen.
“But at the end of the day that’s racing as well. You just have to just keep fighting to the end and you know that in racing anything can happen.
“He also won a championship like that. So I think he can understand as well,” added the 24-year-old, who overtook Hamilton nL1N2SX080 at Yas Marina when a sudden change to the safety car procedure gave him a chance after it seemed he had none.
Hamilton took his first title with McLaren in 2008 with a last corner move that shattered Brazilian Ferrari driver Felipe Massa’s hopes.
Asked how bad it would be if Hamilton did not come back to renew the battle next season, Verstappen doubted that would happen.
“I can understand that the first few days after a race like that you’re not happy but you should also understand this is racing,” he said. “I think he should just look back at what he has achieved already.
“That should give him a lot of comfort and should also be that drive to just keep on going because he is still trying to challenge for that eighth title and for sure he can do that again next year.
“So I don’t see any reason why to give up or stop now.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris)