F1 title permutations: What do Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen need to do in Abu Dhabi?

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

Mark Mann-Bryans
Sunday 12 December 2021 08:33
Verstappen and Hamilton go into F1 season finale level on points

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.

The Brit is aiming for a record eighth drivers’ title and kept his hopes alive with a third win in three races at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Having stormed to pole position on Saturday, Hamilton came out on top in a wild race which was twice halted by red flags and saw him tangle with the Red Bull of Verstappen - who he labelled “f****** crazy” - as the pair wrestled on the track and bickered over the radio.

The upshot of this win, as well as the fastest lap, means Hamilton and Verstappen are now locked on 369.5 points with one race of the season remaining.

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 we look at how the title will be decided at Yas Marina.

So, it is as simple as winner takes all?

Max Verstappen is level on points with Lewis Hamilton heading into the season finale

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?

Hamilton and Verstappen collided in Jeddah

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.”

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.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in