Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen: F1’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi GP explainer with champion to be crowned

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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s thrilling championship battle ends with an Abu Dhabi GP where the winner takes it all. Watch live on Sky Sports on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s thrilling championship battle ends with an Abu Dhabi GP where the winner takes it all. Watch live on Sky Sports on Sunday.

How does it stand in the league?

After 21 of the 22 races this season, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are tied with 369.5 points at the top of the drivers’ standings.

Verstappen officially holds the lead, however, on the Formula 1 countdown rule.

The Red Bull driver has won nine races against the Mercedes driver’s eight.

Who starts where for Sunday’s race?

Against pre-qualifying expectations it was Red Bull’s Verstappen and not Mercedes’ Hamilton who took the final pole position of the season with a performance in Q3 described as a sign of “greatness” by Sky F1 expert and former world champion Nico Rosberg.

Verstappen then starts at the top of the Sunday grid for the tenth time this season, with Hamilton in second place eight meters behind. It will be the eighth time they will start together in the front row this year; Verstappen won four of those races prior to Hamilton’s three.

Abu Dhabi GP: start in the top 10 on the grid and choice of tires

Driver Squad Starting tire
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull soft
2) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes medium
3) Lando Norris McLaren soft
4) Sergio Perez Red Bull soft
5) Carlos Sainz Ferrari soft
6) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes medium
7) Charles Leclerc Ferrari soft
8) Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri medium
9) Esteban Ocon Alpine soft
10) Daniel Ricciardo McLaren soft

A potentially crucial difference this time around is that the contenders will start the race with different tires.

Verstappen will be on the softer, more adherent but less resistant, Hamilton on the slightly slower but more durable mids. While this should theoretically give the Dutchman an advantage in terms of grip on the line, the Brit should be able to run longer and re-enter the first stint later should Mercedes choose.

When does the Sky live start and when is the race?

All preparations and the big 58-lap race are live on Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Showcase.

Sunday coverage starts at 11:30 am before the race starts at 1:00 pm.

What is at stake for each driver?

Verstappen, the 24-year-old in his seventh season on the grid, is aiming for his first F1 title. He would be the first Dutchman to become champion and only the second Red Bull driver after Sebastian Vettel.

For Hamilton, the most significant milestone in the history of the sport is up for grabs. An eighth world title would set a new all-time all-time record for the drivers’ championships, one more than Michael Schumacher.

One to go: how it ranks in title chases

Drivers’ Points
1) Max Verstappen 369.5
2) Lewis Hamilton 369.5
Builders’
1) Mercedes 587.5
2) Red Bull 559.5

Were the drivers tied for points before a final race?

Only once in the previous 71 seasons of the world championship.

It was 1974, when Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi and Swiss Clay Regazzoni were tied for the last round of that season in the United States.

But this was in a campaign of just 15 races, making it all the more remarkable that Verstappen and Hamilton are on the same level after 21 rounds.

How can Verstappen or Hamilton win the title?

To put it more simply, whoever wins the race is world champion (so far they have won 17 of the 21 races of the season between them).

To put it a little less simply, anyone who finishes up front in the top eight is also world champion.

Sky F1 schedules live on Sunday

To build Race start
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 11.30 1 pm

They can level up to points – and what happens then?

Yes, and in such a scenario Verstappen would have taken the title.

But according to the sport’s points system for the top 10 finishers of a match (25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1) there are only two ways in which a draw can now occur. points.

The first is if both drivers finish completely outside those scoring positions, that means 11th or lower (including retirement from the race).

Until 2021, this had never happened in the races that both Hamilton and Verstappen participated in, but it has happened twice this season.

The first time was in Azerbaijan in June when Verstappen suffered a tire blowout while leading and Hamilton finished 15th after falling low in order once he pressed the wrong steering wheel button during a late restart of the race. Then, of course, there was the big drama of the Italian GP in September, when the rivals ended up in the gravel trap after colliding as they fought for position.

But there is also another way they could finish on equal points.

If one were to finish the race on Sunday ninth (two points) and the other tenth with the fastest lap bonus (1 + 1), then they would be equal to 371.5 points. Again, due to the countdown, Verstappen would be the champion.

The drivers have never finished a season on equal points at the top of the championship; the closest ever goal was 0.5 points between Niki Lauda and Alain Prost in 1984.

If a driver finishes out of the top 10, he cannot score a point even if he holds the fastest lap of the race.

Could the season be decided by a collision?

Lewis Hamilton states:

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Lewis Hamilton says: “It’s great that it’s clear everyone knows what the rules are” after race director Michael Masi said point deductions will apply to F1 season showdown with Max Verstappen at Abu GP Dhabi.

Lewis Hamilton says: “It’s great that it’s clear everyone knows what the rules are” after race director Michael Masi said point deductions will apply to F1 season showdown with Max Verstappen at Abu GP Dhabi.

The question that inevitably emerged in conversations and speculations over the week given what has been the increasingly combative nature of the Verstappen-Hamilton rivalry, making some sort of collision a not entirely fictitious prospect.

After all, the dueling pair have collided with the final race effect for at least one car on two occasions this season, and with almost a similar consequence in Saudi Arabia last weekend. There were also numerous moments of contact with the wheel and off the track as they competed for positions.

In F1 there have already been accidents that are decisive for the championship, albeit not recently.

Both the 1989 and 1990 title fights between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna were resolved in this way in the penultimate round of their respective season, while Michael Schumacher reunited in the final with Damon Hill in 1994 and Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.

Trying to draw a line with such tactics, the FIA ​​stole the season’s points away from Schumacher following the controversial conclusion of this latter season and since then all final race showdowns have passed without such a controversial incident. F1 regulation on driver conduct is somewhat more comprehensive nowadays.

On Thursday, in fact, the FIA ​​race director Michael Masi reminded all the competitors in his usual pre-event notes of those rules and sporting sanctions, such as the assignment of points, allowed for unsportsmanlike behavior.

Speaking with Sky F1 on Saturday, Masi said: “As a driver you have a very good sense of good and evil, and among the protagonists of the title I think there is a pretty clear understanding of where the line is.

“It is not my decision that it be decided in the stewards room. There are two people directly involved from a championship point of view, being Max and Lewis, and it depends on then. Everyone has said, including myself, including the stewards, that the the last thing any of us want is for this to be decided in the stewards’ room or in the appeals court in the coming weeks.

“But I’m pretty confident between all of them, Mercedes and Red Bull, Max and Lewis, they want to fix things on track with an exciting race to end what has been an exciting 2021 World Championship.”

How is the Abu Dhabi track? And what has changed there?

Karun Chandhok and Damon Hill analyze the changes made to the Yas Marina circuit for the 2021 final in Abu Dhabi.

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Karun Chandhok and Damon Hill analyze the changes made to the Yas Marina circuit for the 2021 final in Abu Dhabi.

Karun Chandhok and Damon Hill analyze the changes made to the Yas Marina circuit for the 2021 final in Abu Dhabi.

The Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates joined the calendar in 2009 and has had the honor of hosting the last race of the season every year since 2014.

It will be the fourth time in those 12 years that he will stage a decisive title.

While still arguably the most spectacular-looking venue in the sport, with a 499-room hotel straddling the circuit as a unique feature, the layout generally didn’t produce thrilling racing.

The track gained infamy in the final round of 2010 when pre-event title leader Fernando Alonso spent much of the race trapped behind a significantly slower Renault than Vitaly Petrov, which allowed Vettel to cash in and claim the his first title.

The advent of the DRS the following season helped improve things and there have been some more exciting races since then, although last year’s Verstappen-dominated event proved to be particularly soporific.

Aware of this reputation, this year the circuit has been remodeled in three points of the lap to help create more overtaking and the possibility of wheel-to-wheel racing. The pilots have largely given positive reviews since Friday.

The chicane before Turn Seven has been removed and the hairpin of the current Turn Five has been widened. At the end of the second DRS zone later in the lap, four corners were passed with a fast flyover now in place (Turn Nine). Four corners around the hotel section have also been modified to improve racing.

All in all, the lap length was reduced to 5.2km from 5.5km with lap times 13 seconds faster than before. Verstappen’s pole time from Saturday of 1: 22.109 compared to his 1: 35.246 at the top of the grid in 2020.

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