Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021

How the drivers and teams’ titles will be decided in Abu Dhabi

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen enter this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tied on 269.5 points, setting up a ‘winner takes it all’ showdown at Yas Marina for the final round of the 2021 Formula 1 world championship.

In the simplest terms, whichever driver wins the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, or scores more points than the other, wins the title.

If neither driver scores any points, then Verstappen holds the tie-breaker advantage, having won nine races compared to Hamilton’s eight wins. If this were to happen, Verstappen would win his first championship on countback, and it would be the first time in F1 history the top two drivers ended the year level on points.

There’s also the possibility that both drivers could finish with the same number of points if one driver finishes ninth, and the other finishes tenth and sets the fastest lap of the race. Verstappen would still win the championship in this case.

Hamilton therefore must out-score Verstappen to become world champion for a record eighth time.

It’s the first time two drivers have entered the final race tied at the top of the standings since 1974, when Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni both sat at 52 points going into the season-ending United States Grand Prix. Fittipaldi won the championship by finishing fourth, while Regazzoni finished 11th with a wounded car.

The outlook for the constructors’ championship is also relatively straightforward. But unlike the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen, Mercedes has a definitive advantage over Red Bull.

With a 28-point lead in the standings and as many as 44 points available, Mercedes will clinch their eighth consecutive constructors’ title if they score at least 17 points between Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Red Bull must have both Verstappen and Sergio Perez finishing in the top four, at minimum, to have any chance of snatching their first constructors’ title since 2013. While the odds are remote for them, there is one realistic scenario in which they could take the title.

If the RB16Bs are very competitive this weekend, and the team take a one-two finish, Mercedes would need to score points with both cars to have a chance of winning the title. Therefore if one Mercedes drops out early and the Red Bulls streak off into the lead, a constructors’ championship upset will be on the cards.

If both constructors finish the year with the same number of points, Red Bull once again holds the tiebreaker advantage: they have won 10 grands prix this season, Mercedes nine. Since the constructors’ championship was introduced in 1958, first place has never been decided on a tiebreaker at the end of the season.

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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84 comments on “How the drivers and teams’ titles will be decided in Abu Dhabi”

  1. Red Bull is probably watching Schumacher at Adelaide in 94 on repeat at this point

    1. @gardenfella72 Also Prost-Senna Suzuka 1990 & Schumacher-Villeneuve Jerez.
      They better be careful, though, as I’ve zero doubt a championship exclusion would follow for such tactics.

      1. Don’t forget Prost-Senna 89, which is the only reason why 1990 even happened.

      2. as I’ve zero doubt a championship exclusion would follow for such tactics.

        I have full doubt on a championship exclusion. So far the FIA has only come down so hard when it didn’t matter any more. Schumacher had lost the championship and then they excluded him. That’s an easy call. Had he been champion? Who knows?

        Likewise giving Max an extra 10s in Saudi Arabia had no real consequence. What they should have done is docked him one point. It would still be a winner takes all final race, except that Max would not have the benefit of winning if causes Hamilton to crash.

        1. +1 After Brazil I have zero confidence in the FIA doing anything. Max can totally torpedo Lewis by “late braking”, taking them both out and they will claim no investigation necessary. That way Max can “win” the WDC based on the extra “win” he got at the Spa non-race. Yeah, this is the way I really want to see an F1 season end. None of that stupid on-track race craft like Fernando pulled lap after lap with Lewis in Hungary. ;)

        2. Fully agree the FIA is a tootless tiger

    2. This is my biggest concern about the final race.

      Max has the ultimate tactical advantage.

      He is skilled enough to make any contact look unintentional.
      It’s not something I hope to see, or want to see nor hope that will enter Max’s mind….but… is a potential outcome. Whatever you think about either driver.

      So, it must be a scenario the FIA are prepared for.

      IF…..if….it does happen…..what should the penalty be?

      If the move is clearly intentional and ham is DNF’ed, would the result be points deduction?

      If a move is rash enough to cause a DNF for ham or both, and is caused by max, but gray enough to not say it is not intentional, what happens then?

      The FIA need to be on the ball with this or in this day an age, with so much fresh attention across so many platforms, it could cause a lot of damage to the audience it has captured over the last year.

      1. @mach1

        They can also use Perez as a wrecking ball

        1. True. Return the favour for Hungary.

        2. Perez, Hamilton and Bottas won’t stoop to Verstappen’s dirty driving level.

      2. @mach1

        I have also though about that but in my head Perez will knock out Hamilton and then Bottas will do same with Verstappen.

        1. And then that benefits Verstappen lol. I can totally see Perez being asked to torpedo Lewis behind closed doors.

      3. Pretend Verstappen takes Hamilton out, he will have a penalty like a drive through or time penalty and then he will go on to win the title, just like when Hamilton took Verstappen out at Silverston, he got a penalty and won the race. It doesn’t matter that this is the finale.

  2. RB couldn’t care less about the WCC, they will put all of their effort into stopping Hamilton, and securing the WDC for Verstappen. That could start as early as practice, but I think the games will start in qualifying.
    After the goings on in Saudi Arabia I fear it will be a dirty race.

    1. Yes and Horner was clear in a post race interview that for them WDC is more prestigious.

    2. yes
      redbull boss said as much… they want the WDC more than the WCC because thats where the prestige is.
      A DNF for Hamilton or both will get them WDC title..

  3. Yes, merely by outscoring. For Lewis, this means finishing ahead is enough as long as the position pts difference is at least two points. In this case, the FLAP bonus point couldn’t impact.
    If Max DNFs, he’d generally only need a top-10 finish or P10 at the very lowest.

  4. If Mercedes are running 1-2 with Hamilton ahead of Bottas would there be a deal for Bottas to play the number 2 role and be given the win in his last race for Mercedes with titles secured?

    1. If the gap between 2nd and 3rd (assuming Verstappen is 3rd or lower in your scenario) is big enough, I’d like to think so.

    2. Never they would do so. But possible favour bottas could get from that would be a fat bonus (like 1 million $), that would make sense for both sides. Otherwise mercedes team would look like monkeys.

    3. I never understood this. Who wants to be given a win by their superior team mate? Surely that would feel worse than losing.

      1. Hamilton still owes bottas a win in russia 2018, and people talk about schumacher and austria…

  5. I fear that the result is determined: Verstappen crashes into Hamilton, gets a DSQ for the race (not for the championship), and becomes an F1 champion. The Netherlands and other Verstappen’s fanatics will be ecstatic.

    1. i don’t know. there’s precedent for a championship disqualification

      1. There’s also precedent for heavy penalties for brake checking, but the FIA refused to do so…

        I’m really hoping the FIA don’t get put in the position where they have to decide on this. I have no faith that they will behave fairly if they do.

    2. The comments on this site get worse with every article, unbelievable.

      1. @stefan554433 Agreed. This used to be a place for dedicated, knowledgeable fans to come together to discuss the sport we all love. These days it’s little better than a YouTube comments section.

        The price you pay for increased readership I suppose…

        1. @stefan554433 @geemac

          Yes agreed 100%. I have been coming to this site for 12 years now (heck I even own an F1 Fanatic T-Shirt!). The comments section has certainly gone berserk this year, but the decline has been steady. It isnt surprising though, this is just a reflection of the world we live in.

          Sadly, none of the other websites are any better. I’ve tried to join the hysteria from time to time, for laughs, but on the whole, the partisan nature of this the general commenter is quite disheartening. I have no horse in the championship fight, hence it is sad that the discussion isn’t more balanced.

    3. That would be a crazy bet from verstappens side. He would use that as the last resort e.g. when lewis tries to pass him in the last 5-6 lap. But even in that situation FIA/stewards might have a decision that nobody knows, like excluding him from the drivers championship in total. I don’t think he is ready for that.

      Hamiltons mind is ready for the last race, he was very patient and careful in jeddah. He waited and nurtured his hard tyres until the end, he knew maxs tyres will not last until the end, that would explain why they didnt pit him during that long VSC period as that would give RBR to pit for the fresh tyres as well. But Verstappens actions changed all of that and hamilton had to overtake/pass him earlier. He still managed to save his tyres to the end and then set the fastest lap.

      Maxs actions starting from lap 36 were all desperate moves, he didnt have any answer to that situation.

      What I dont understand why RBR didnt put hard tyres like hamilton. My guess is they didnt have any good tyres left.

      1. He did have hard compounds on when he pitted under the first red flag, when he pitted again under the second red that’s when he went to mediums. It was a bad call as we saw with his Q2 tyres he had to start the race on, the were mounted when he had to change them the first time. Lewis listened and the rest is history

    4. The Netherlands and other Verstappen’s fanatics will be ecstatic

      I am Dutch and I would find this outcome truly horrible. I want to see a clear title fight and I hope that Verstappen will win cleanly on merit. If not, than I hope Hamilton wins the title.
      Don’t just assume that because I am Dutch I would be ecstatic when Verstappen crashes into Hamilton for the title.

      1. lexusreliability?
        7th December 2021, 11:03


        +1. I forgot to comment on your post the other day when you were really reflecting on your support for your fellow Dutchman. Whether or not people agree with some of the points you said is irrelevant- but its commendable that atleast there are still some people in this world who can see right from wrong regardless of whether its sport or not.

        1. Thank you. I think it is easy to forget (for all of us) that the silent majority of F1-enthusiasts are reasonable and can see right from wrong. You often just don’t hear them in these discussions and things gets polarized very easily. Unfortunately.

          1. Well said. As a brit I would take no enjoyment if Hamilton were to win by foul means. Sadly there are too many on here that are too tribal to see any wrong doing at all from their driver, and it makes having reasonable discussions very difficult.

            Here’s to a clean race on Sunday with the fastest driver winning!

          2. The thing is though, even if Verstappen wins outright on Sunday, I expect many to regard him as an illegitimate champion…buuuttt….I hope I am wrong.

            Just saying cause you know…Rosberg was an illegitimate champion as well! :)

          3. @jaymenon10

            I think if Max takes a clean win in Abu Dhabi, no one would call his championship illegitimate. At the end of the day, despite his moves in Brazil and Saudi, Lewis took the win in both races, and Max finished in the place he was meant to.

            Also, considering he’s lost far more points to bad luck this season than Lewis, if he takes the win cleanly, he’ll have deserved this title. Keeping it clean this weekend.. that’s another story though.. I just can’t see either Lewis or Max switching it back to fair racing for the last race of the season.

      2. @matthijs – what you say is really unexpected. But this is great that some people have a clear vision what racing should be. Thanks for your post.

      3. @matthijs – Respected response! there are sensible people in the world.

        Always rated Max but can’t condone his actions at times, but he has been allowed to get away with it so I still hold FIA accountable.

        Hopefully it will be a clean battle on track

        1. @icarby Thank you iCarbs! My response was not meant to show people how sensible I am, but to explain that there are much more people with nuanced opinions than you would expect from this site and other (social) media, but that you don’t hear the more nuanced opinions very often because these people are less vocal.

          But thanks for the compliment anyway, I really hope for a clean battle this weekend. Whoever comes out on top (cleanly!), he deserves the championship.

  6. RocketTankski
    7th December 2021, 9:00

    I think a more likely outcome here is half a dozen controversial incidents that all need to be looked at after the race to decide various penalties. And then a legal challenge and a counter suit.
    We’ll probably get the results around March next year.

    1. That would be in line with the rest of this heavily scripted season. Rest assured Lewis will come out on top. After all they didn’t go through all of this to not get their desired result in the end. On towards next year

      1. Absolutely right. It was so obvious they were all working to a script when Max deliberately threw it in the wall during qualifying when he saw on his dash that he was up .4s on Hamilton with only one easy corner to go. I mean, come on, no one could be that incompetent could they?
        And thank god RB helped get the script back on track by fitting the wrong tyres on Max during the red flag. A masterful stroke.

        1. I am talking about the overall season, not the circus events of the most recent festival held

          1. Which you naturally twist to fit the narrative of grievance that you have, and start the Trumpian rhetoric of proclaiming that the contest must be rigged if you think you are going to lose.

          2. So the tyres didnt change in the benefit of Mercedes? So the pitstops weren’t neutralised in favour of Mercedes? So Silverstone is a regular move after which you get penalised but somehow still can gain 25 points. So the red flags at Silverstone and Imola didn’t massively influence the championship. Hungary (which was bad luck, as Baku was but doesnt help in the perception of fairness). I guess that are all just twists. Max made 1 mistake (quali Saudi) and 3 faults (Brasil 1, Saudi 2 ..not helped by not penalising Brasil). Why twist it into so much more than that? Why does Mercedes, Lewis and all followers feel the need to down talk? Was it such a shock to see a single car keeping up after 8 years of dreadful processional racing. It just comes across as desperate. Especially when defending such a legacy.

          3. So am I. Can’t see how you can dismiss RB and Max from going along with this scripted farce given the sheer ineptitude shown by both of them throughout the season. You honestly think Max can run almost to the hotdog stand at T4 Brazil by missing his braking by that much? Or throw himself off the track at Imola at the slowest corner whilst leading the pack as the ‘safety car’? You think he is that bad a driver? He was clearly looking to get a penalty to aid Hamilton. Thankfully the stewards saw through his little games.
            And look at the pit stop farce. RB points the finger at Mercedes and Mercedes doesn’t respond. Then we find out from McLaren that it was them protesting about Ferrari, Mercedes and RB; who all use the Intelligent Guns which are supposedly full proof. Yet suddenly RB are the only ones to lose pit stop time? So either they were bypassing the fail safe nature of the gun (which we know they would never do), or they deliberately slowed.
            And don’t get me on about Silverstone. Max comes out of Brookland not only in the lead but going faster than Ham; yet just one corner later Ham is virtually alongside after Max somehow ‘attempts’ to shut the door into Stowe; fails, and then leaves himself floundering on the outside?
            Notwithstanding that I do think its sweet that you can spot that a worldwide billion dollar organisation are involved in a massive conspiracy to promote Mercedes and Hamilton that leaves themselves open to serious sanctions and criminal charges worldwide, yet still believe that RB are not a part of it.

          4. For Stowe read Copse.

          5. T4 Brasil was a fault of Max. So were the 2 excursions off track in Saudi. Silverstone was clear cut a desperate and dangerous attempt of Lewis and it set the tone. Rosberg knows. Lets not pretend we don’t know what mind games Lewis plays. And yes, I feel following this season’s events more transparency is justified from FIA side. On top of that I would love to see all financial flows between organisations and individuals within the sport. Would be interesting in many aspects. The season was just too absurd to not thoroughly review, unless you are more interested in popcorn and Netflix, then all was just fine and thrilling.

      2. Give it a break with this nonsense. If the FIA were trying to give Hamilton the title, Max would have picked up a penalty in Brazil, and would have got a much heavier penalty for brake checking in Saudi. It would have been an easy decision which most non-partisan fans would have agreed was completely justified.

  7. Lewis has to stay away from Max. Use the undercut if necessary. Don’t try and overtake on track! Max has already shown he is not afraid to take them both out with heavy contact and to hell with the consequences. His driving standards are so low right now. I do fear for what might happen on Sunday and it’s not how I want this to end. It’ll be terrible for the sport if this is decided in the Stewards room or worse a court room.

    1. Well, until Silverstone all was fine but Mercedes just couldn’t handle the prospect of losing this year. There they made a number of critical on track and off track errors that you just shouldn’t be able to get away with. No need to go whining now. No need to whine at all as they will get what they want, that much was already clear that day. Pirelli and FIA did their job to help, but it nearly even wasn’t enough still.

      1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        7th December 2021, 10:27

        Pirelli saw a problem with the tyres that didn’t stop Max winning in America and absolutely slaughtering the Mercs in Mexico.

        Do you only comment when there is a negative effect against RBR and Max?

        1. lexusreliability?
          7th December 2021, 10:34

          This character is only fixated on Max and Red Bull’s disadvantages whether they are legitimate or not. Not how Max /Red Bull have impacted their rival.

          1. Yeah, I probably should shed a light on the others side of the story since no one else here is doing that…

          2. lexusreliability?
            7th December 2021, 14:28


            Except that’s not what you’re doing.

        2. That’s because he is quite a good driver, despite having a slower car (ref: Bottas vs Perez, ref all seasons in the regulatory V6 hybrid period). Just because there is dominance on one side it doesn’t mean another can’t win any GPs. Wow, everybody really got lulled to sleep in the processional V6 hybrid era wins from Mercedes. ‘Saw a problem with the tyres’ is a good one. Toto did yes.

        3. And he keeps repeating it even when Red Bull themselves say that the tyre change made no difference – unless he thinks even the team he supports are full of liars.

          1. Why should my opinion align with RedBull. I am aligned with Peter Windsor on this. The tyres were the key to this years championship

          2. I am not a fan of RedBull at all. Like the other teams they failed a decade long to produce a car that keeps up with Bottas in a Mercedes. Furthermore I personally feel that Horner is unsuitable for the role just based on his interaction with Renault alone. What I am saying is there is no way this UK dominant sport would not get that WDC record from Schumacher. That agenda was so transparently clear ever since Silverstone and the tyre, pitstops and wings shenanigans. To think one youngster (in the total field of 18 others) outdriving his material would almost spoil that party..

      2. Problems started before Silverstone. The climax of a major impact was Silverstone. From there it was clear that mindset is starkly different between the two of them.

  8. If the racing had been clean since Mexico I think there’s far more chance that a race-ending collision where Max was at fault would have been given the standard in-race penalties, but I suspect that he’d be met with a far harsher punishment now, probably a championship point deduction or full-on exclusion.

    He’s done himself no favours over the past few weeks, and it’s a shame as otherwise he’s had the better season of the two title protagonists. Hamilton and Mercedes have finished strongly but their combined mid-season was horrendous by their standards.

    Whatever the outcome, it has been a welcome change to see drivers from two teams battling for the WDC right up until the wire. It’s been the best season for a long time, even if it has been somewhat tainted by politics and race direction at times.

  9. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    7th December 2021, 10:23

    The non event that was Spa shouldn’t count as a win.

      1. +1000! And if it had been simply cancelled with no points awarded IMO the chances of Max torpedoing, ah sorry, “late braking”, Lewis in the final race would have gone way down and we might have had an actual race rather than a nail biter waiting for a collision.

  10. Either way, the title will be somewhat tainted by:

    * The Belgian “Grand Prix”
    * Lap one at Silverstone.
    * Points in the abomination that is Sprint Qualifying.

    At least we had clean fights in IndyCar and BTCC this season.

    1. The Silverstone, Interlagos and Monza incidents I can deal with, two racers going hard. What I can’t accept is the pathetic race controlling from Masi.

    2. You forgot the Monza incident.

  11. lexusreliability?
    7th December 2021, 10:51

    I don’t really think it’s unreasonable to think that Max is watching and practicing how to crash while leaving reasonable doubt as to the intentions in Abu Dhabi. Come to think of it he has perfected that dark art so well up until now- I mean he braked with 2.4G for no reason while making it as ambiguous as possible as to where to park the car. He repeated Brazil in Saudi Arabia to a tee but this time it earned him a penalty. He weaves in the DRS zones knowing it’s a black and white flag at most. I have been saying that the guy has poor racing IQ but maybe I have been underestimating how low he is willing to go- it’s all calculated.

    1. Not sure if max will succeed in trying the Hamilton Move (c) with the same perfection Lewis showed in Silverstone.

      1. lexusreliability?
        7th December 2021, 13:11

        I’m sure he will try a Monza instead and make sure of it.

        1. max does not need to try anything…remember redbull have sister teams running.. any of them can be used to take out Hamilton..or cause a situation where FIA penalizes one of the mercs

  12. Waiting anxiously to see if Verstappen turn out to be more Senna than Hamilton.

    1. Quite honestly, I don’t think he is comparable to either. He entered at a very young age and is a great racer, with lots of F1 experience already at his young age. And yet he’s not grown up. He doesn’t command the respect to drive the way he does. Senna was tough, but he earned the respect of other drivers. I think the other drivers still think of Max a spoilt kid. He certainly behaves that way, and I am not sure he will get the respect he needs in order to be considered a great like Senna or Hamilton. Maybe he will grow up and then things might change, but at the moment it’s not the case.

    2. Well contrary to Hamltion, Verstappen never had a dominant car, let alone a dominant car over so many years…

  13. If nothing else, I’m just relieved we won’t see the title decided by those stupid late race fastest lap pitstops.

    Unless we end up with HAM/VER running 9th and 10th with a big enough gap to 11th, and too far from 8th to have any hope of more points, while still having healthy enough cars to go for it. But surely that can’t happen. Right?

    1. Nah, very unlikely, something could happen where they both drop back, but 9-10th isn’t a realistic expectation for a comeback for either driver unless they have a severely damaged car, in which case no fastest lap.

  14. What if: Max is leading. Lewis is second and has the fastest lap. It’s the last lap. He cannot overtake him. Will Lewis crash into Max? Both wouldn’t score points, execpt Lewis, 1 point for fastest lap.

    1. @philippe You have to be inside the top ten to get a point for the fastest lap, so I don’t see a crash initiated by Hamilton as a scenario.

      1. Oh yeah, forgot about the top 10.

        1. It’s not actually a bad point. If Hamilton is a close second he might as well go for a dive. If he overtakes he wins the championship. If he takes out Verstappen and himself then no loss.

  15. @philippe You have to be inside the top ten to get a point for the fastest lap, so I don’t see a crash initiated by Hamilton as a scenario.

    1. My bad, was supposed to be a reply but I messed up.

  16. this thing will be decided by a mechanical one of the cars …to me thats a best option..or a safety car incident involving one of the alpha turis

  17. I suspect a dirty block going off track by Verstappen may decide the championship, Hamilton will avoid the crash, but stay in range when Verstappen gets a time penalty. Verstappen will then try something crazy like very slow driving to back Hamilton into another driver or another brake test. The stewards penalties may well decide the championship (they are half way there already).

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