Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen will clinch the 2021 Formula 1 drivers’ title. The rivals are tied on points heading into Sunday’s championship showdown in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina circuit. Verstappen leads the seven-time world champion due to winning more races this season. Hamilton won the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last week and heads into the finale with three consecutive victories.
It’s an all or nothing affair for both drivers who have been the main protagonists in one of the closest seasons yet in the sport. Tempers flared up once again between the duo in the last race at the new Corniche circuit that saw Verstappen hit with two penalties. The Dutch driver finished third but wasted no time in walking off the podium as Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas celebrated a double podium finish. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told F1.com after the race: “now it is all or nothing in Abu Dhabi; whoever wins the race wins the championship and therefore it is important to stay both feet on the ground, keep working, and hopefully bring the performance that we had on to Abu Dhabi.”
Verstappen won the GP here in 2020 but Mercedes says Red Bull’s dominance shouldn’t be used as a yardstick for this weekend’s race.
The teams head to Abu Dhabi to race at a heavily-altered Yas Marina circuit with the number of corners reduced from 21 to 16. The organisers say the alterations will encourage overtaking and hopefully make for a more entertaining race. The track changes will also result in increased speeds and loads through some corners. It also means that the drivers will have to learn the track’s changes and this adds another layer of unpredictability to the race. The race will be 58 laps long over the 5.218 km circuit to cover a distance of 306.183 km.
In terms of the tyre compounds chosen by F1’s tyre supplier Pirelli, we will see the same rubber has been nominated as in 2020: the C3 as the P Zero White hard, C4 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and C5 as the P Zero Red soft. The race will begin just before sunset and run into darkness, with track temperatures falling quite quickly. This will affect the tyre behaviour. Therefore free practice two and qualifying with both taking place at a similar time to the race on Friday and Saturday respectively.
The two teams have been neck and neck all season, and let’s hope that the season finishes with no incidents that could affect the outcome of the championship. Both drivers will want to win the title fairly with good, hard clean racing.