Max Verstappen hailed his battle with Lewis Hamilton throughout the Formula One season for "pushing each other to the limit" after the Red Bull star clinched the title on Sunday.
Verstappen secured a maiden F1 world championship in controversial fashion as he overtook Hamilton on the final lap of a decisive last race of the season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton was moments away from claiming the championship for a record eighth time after building up a healthy lead over Verstappen heading into the closing stages.
However, the British driver's advantage was wiped out on the final straight as Verstappen raced past Hamilton after a safety car was deployed with four laps remaining following Nicholas Latifi's crash.
Mercedes immediately lodged two complaints about the bizarre end to the race at the Yas Marina Circuit, but the stewards rejected the proposals – a decision the German racing team intends to appeal against.
The finale was ultimately an almost fitting way to end a topsy-turvy battle between Hamilton and Verstappen throughout the season, and the Red Bull driver looked back on his season-long contest with the Briton fondly.
"Of course, in general, I think we have really enjoyed it," Verstappen told reporters when asked about the battle between the pair.
"We had our moments, but I think in a championship battle, that's part of it. And now that the season is over, I think we can relax a little bit more about it – but it's been tense.
"The competition, almost every race we have been pushing each other to the limit, within our cars as well. And I think that is just really nice to see.
"There have been quite some tough races, just physically also because you were just pushing like hard all the time, there was no lap to rest and throughout the whole weekend – qualifying, race – it was so important to always try and be perfect.
"[That is] very hard in Formula 1 to be perfect because there is always some[thing happening], a little tiny lock-up can make the difference between P1 and P2 and in the championship that we had, that was massive, so the level of focus required was very high."
The absolute class of the field— Formula 1 (@F1) December 12, 2021
18 wins between them in 2021, and they battled until the very last lap of the season
The Verstappen-Hamilton rivalry will always be remembered#AbuDhabiGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/BsCqbA5GXm
Pressed for further comment on Hamilton, Verstappen spoke glowingly of his opponent as he also reflected on a momentous first win despite his team failing to win their respective championship.
"I have a lot of respect for Lewis but you know, I'm just very happy that I won in general because it's been a very tough season fighting against Mercedes and Lewis," he added.
"I don't want to sound arrogant or whatever to say it's a great satisfaction to win against him and I just have a lot of respect for him, as a driver and I know he's an amazing driver in terms of what he has achieved but I'm just very happy that we won it.
"I think even when you talk to the [Red Bull] team, they really wanted me to win this championship, but over the whole season we were not the quickest.
"So, then it's natural that you can't win the team championship. But we gave it our all you know, we can't be disappointed about anything because we really maximized a lot of our results.
"Like I said, we gave it our all, and of course in the team championship we came up short but we won the Drivers."
Verstappen had hinted in the past that one world title would be enough to satisfy him for the rest of his career.
Having now achieved the feat, he concluded that any further success will simply be an additional bonus.
"No, of course, I will continue driving but of course, in terms of achievements, I have achieved everything in Formula 1 now so everything that comes next is just a bonus," he continued.
"People always doubt 'ah, you know with impact or whatever'. There was also criticism.
"But I think what, again, these moments teach you is that you have to keep believing in yourself and in your own beliefs, you know, and be a strong person about it, that's always worked very well for me."