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Can Max Verstappen Win His First F1 Championship?

By Carlos Chacon

The 2021 Formula One season has been nothing but exciting. This campaign is set for a gripping conclusion after Lewis Hamilton with Max Verstappen in points after the inaugural Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. Tensions are high after the pair collided last weekend. This raises the stakes and sets up a breathtaking duel on Sunday. The final race of the season takes place at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi.

Lewis Hamilton records the most wins on the track. His team, Mercedes, also holds the most constructors’ championships in Abu Dhabi. However, Max Verstappen is the latest driver to win in Yas Marina. He also started on pole position that same race.

This showdown is history in the making. Hamilton, 36, looks for his eighth title. Meanwhile, 24-year-old Verstappen is having the best season of his career and locked in to claim his first-ever Formula One Championship title.

Looking at the odds, Max Verstappen enters the race as the slight underdog at +187. Being the most-recent champion and a solid repertoire of performances throughout the years, Lewis Hamilton remains the favorite to win at -200. Nevertheless, the margins are narrow between the two drivers.

Formula One 2021 Standings

Verstappen started the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with an eight-point lead and a chance to seal the deal if the results swung his way. Although this was a long shot considering he had to start the race at P3, while Hamilton took pole.

Several red flags and mishaps happened. There were multiple lead changes in the 50 laps, but it was Hamilton who crossed the checkered flag first. He matched Verstappen on 369.5 points after finishing first at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Verstappen held onto second place despite time penalties. We struggled to maximize his aged medium set of tires. More than that, he did not have enough space for a late change to take the extra point for the fastest lap, which went to his rival, Hamilton.

Looking beyond the title leaders, Valtteri Bottas confirmed a third-place finish this season after overtaking Esteban Ocon with just a few meters remaining in the race. Sergio Perez failed to finish the race after making contact with Charles Leclerc and eventually crashing. Bottas enters the race at +1400, while Perez is +2800 to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The battle for fifth place is tight. Both Ferrari drivers and Lando Norris are still within reach. Leclerc is tied with Lando Norris at +8000 to win this weekend’s race, while Carlos Sainz settles in +10000.

How Max Verstappen wins the 2021 Formula One Championship title

While Hamilton levels the playing field with his rival, Verstappen retains the top spot of the driver standings going into the final race of the season. The Dutchman records more victories (nine) than Hamilton, who currently has just eight wins this season. It remains a crucial factor in this title race. If both drivers retire or fail to take part in the race or score points at the very least, Red Bull will celebrate their first Drivers Championship since Sebastian Vettel in 2013.

The title is likely to go to the driver who crosses the finish line ahead of the other, there’s still a scenario where both will fail to finish the race. This was one of the storylines at the Italian Grand Prix in September when the rivals collided and scored a DNF.

Another angle to look at is the possibility of both drivers finishing outside the points. This amplifies a battle for the fastest lap that would then prove crucial for the title race.

As mentioned, the title is likely to go to the driver that finishes ahead of the other. However, there is a small chance that Hamilton could finish ahead of Verstappen and still come to nothing. If the English driver finishes in ninth, with Verstappen behind in 10th and the fastest lap of the race. In that scenario, Hamilton would score two points, while Verstappen takes a single point and another bonus point for the fastest lap.

While these outcomes are unlikely, it would be nonsensical to rule these out. Hamilton finished seventh this season at the Monaco GP. Verstappen also finished the Hungary Grand Prix in P9.

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READ MORE: 3 Best Storylines for the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix