Britain’s Lewis Hamilton could become the most successful driver in F1 history if he can see off challenger Max Verstappen in an extraordinary climax to the season in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
The “Decider in the Desert” tomorrow has Dutch challenger Verstappen vying for the world championship title with Hamilton – remarkably both drivers start the race level on points after 21 races so far this year.
It would be Lewis Hamilton’s 8th world championship win after a decade of dominance for the Mercedes driver who grew up karting in Hertfordshire.
If he can finish ahead of Verstappen then Hamilton will overtake German great Michael Schumacher, who won seven F1 world titles.
Former world champion Jenson Button believes Verstappen, Red Bull’s 24-year-old star, has the self-belief to push Hamilton all the way: “I think Max goes into every race thinking I have to win this race.
“Lewis has the experience and he understands how to win a championship, that might sound silly, but it definitely does help.
“It is so so close between these two teams and these two drivers, I think it is going to be really close…Lewis has had the upper hand I think with Mercedes in the last few races so you would say they have a slight advantage.”
“This is the pinnacle of motorsport, this is possibly the biggest weekend Formula One has seen in a decade,” Button added.
The race director in Abu Dhabi has reminded Hamilton and Verstappen about the driving standards expected of them, and possible penalties, after the pair collided in last week’s race in Saudi Arabia.
FIA race director Michael Masi reiterated the rules – and potentially penalties – regarding unfair racing in his pre-event notes to all teams and officials.
Red Bull’s Verstappen officially holds the lead as he has nine wins to Hamilton’s eight so would win the championship if they finished level on points at the end of Sunday’s 58-lap race.
The duel between Hamilton and Verstappen on and off the track has provided F1 with a vintage rivalry akin to the great battles that fans have enjoyed over the years.
It’s no coincidence that the biggest surges of F1’s popularity have coincided with the great rivalries between star drivers.
There is a long and memorable list; James Hunt and Nikki Lauda, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost and then Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher are just a few that created stand out moments of sporting drama – often when championships came down to the last race of a season.
F1 bosses hope Hamilton vs Verstappen will write another high-octane chapter this weekend.