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Drama at the death: what can we expect from Formula One’s title decider in Abu Dhabi?

The championship race is set for its most dramatic finish in years.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have gone wheel to wheel all season.
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have gone wheel to wheel all season.
Image: James Gasperotti

LEWIS HAMILTON AND Max Verstappen head to the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend locked on level points at the top of Formula One’s drivers’ championship.

While Hamilton has seven titles to his name and is looking for a record eighth crown, Verstappen is seeking a maiden championship success.

The pair have been trading places at the top of the standings all season, and here’s a look at how the title will be decided at Yas Marina.

So, it is as simple as winner takes all?

Essentially, yes. Hamilton has won the last three races and also set the fastest lap in Sunday’s enthralling Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, moving him level with Verstappen on 369.5 points. Neither driver needs to win in Abu Dhabi to claim the crown, it will purely be down to who finishes in the better position.

What would the title mean to each driver?

For Hamilton, a sixth championship in the last seven years would just cement his place as the greatest driver in the sport’s history. The Briton already boasts the most career wins, most pole positions, most podiums, most points and most grands prix laps led – adding an eighth title would move him clear into a field of one in that regard, too.

For Verstappen, breaking the Mercedes dominance would be a fine achievement for the 24-year-old, who is already the most successful Dutch driver in the history of F1 even before a potential first championship.

Will it be a clean fight?

It is hard to say. If both drivers failed to finish the race, Verstappen would be crowned world champion by virtue of winning nine races this season to Hamilton’s eight. Hamilton will no doubt be wary of an incident that would lead to the aforementioned conclusion – after the title protagonists tangled in Jeddah, the Mercedes man said of his Red Bull rival: “He’s over the limit, for sure. I’ve avoided a collision on so many occasions with the guy.”

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Has anything like that happened before?

Two occasions immediately spring to mind. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost enjoyed a storied rivalry and it came to a head at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix – Prost needing to outscore Senna in the finale at Suzuka. But neither would finish the first lap as Senna caused an accident heading into the first corner of the race which saw both cars retire and the Brazilian crowned champion. Then, in 1994, Michael Schumacher went into the last race in Adelaide one point ahead of Damon Hill and a crash ultimately took both drivers out – with Hill accusing the German of deliberately causing the incident to seal his first world title.

Is the constructors’ title on the line?

It is, but Mercedes are very much in the driving seat. Hamilton’s win in Saudi Arabia coupled with team-mate Valtteri Bottas taking third almost on the finish line has the German marque on course for an eighth successive season. They lead Red Bull by 28 points, with Sergio Perez’s retirement in Jeddah meaning Verstappen’s 18 points were all they could add to their tally.

BTL 5

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