Verstappen fights back from first-lap clash to finish fourth in Abu Dhabi

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Not content with his charge from P15 to the podium in Brazil two weeks ago, Max Verstappen capped off his breakout Formula 1 season by fighting back from a first-lap clash to finish fourth in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Verstappen, 19, qualified sixth for Red Bull in Abu Dhabi, but dropped towards the back of the pack following contact with Nico Hulkenberg at the first corner.

The Dutchman managed to fight back and perfect a one-stop strategy to get into the thick of the podium fight late on, crossing the line fourth and less than 1.7 seconds shy of victory.

“It was very enjoyable,” Verstappen told NBCSN after the race.

“[I thought] let’s see where we end up now after the spin. But good pace. Managed to hold onto the super-softs for a long time.

“Not ideal to do a one stop. The overtaking, to finish fourth, was a great result. It was not plan A. We had to change it, but it worked.”

After a breakout season that has seen Verstappen claim his first F1 race win and finish the year fifth in the final standings, many are tipping the Dutchman for a title challenge in 2017.

“I’m just very happy where I am at the moment. You have to keep improving,” Verstappen said.

So is a title bid realistic? “If the car is good enough from testing, for sure,” the Dutchman added.