Lewis Hamilton can sensationally lose the World Championship even if he beats rival Max Verstappen at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Brit moved level on points with Verstappen after sensationally winning the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the weekend.
Dutchman Verstappen missed out on winning the World Championship in Jeddah and will now go head-to-head with Hamilton in Abu Dhabi.
Their rivalry has been the highlight of the 2021 season and it could come to a head on Sunday.
The pair clashed several times in Saudi Arabia with Verstappen picking up a ten-second penalty.
One of the more controversial moments came when the Red Bull driver slowed down to let Hamilton pass, but the Mercedes driver drove into the back of him.
Hamilton’s victory leaves him level on points with Verstappen and in most scenarios, whoever finishes ahead of the other in Abu Dhabi will win the World Championship.
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It will be the eighth World Championship of Hamilton’s career if he wins, while Verstappen is hoping to claim his first.
However, there is one possible outcome in which Hamilton can finish ahead of Verstappen but the latter would still be crowned the best driver of the season.
The 36-year-old can finish ninth while Verstappen finishes 10th. That would put Hamilton onto 371.5 points and his rival onto 370.5.
However, Verstappen could earn another point if he registers the fastest lap of the race. With both level on points, Verstappen would be crowned World Champion because he has won more races. The Dutchman has won nine to Hamilton’s eight this season.
The foes have clashed on several occasions this season, with their tense rivalry one of the highlights of the year. Hamilton claimed that the Dutchman does not always play by the rules after a dramatic Saudi Arabia GP.
“I’ve raced a lot of drivers in 28 years,” he said. “I’ve come across a lot of different characters and there’s a few at the top which are kind of over the limit. The rules kind of don’t apply, they don’t think of the rules.
Pressed on whether he included Verstappen in that category, Hamilton continued: “He’s over the limit, for sure.
“I’ve avoided collision on so many occasions with the guy and I don’t always mind being the one that does that, because you live to fight another day. Which I did.”
Verstappen was handed a penalty for one of his clashes with Hamilton in Jeddah.
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And the 24-year-old has suggested that penalties are spoiling Formula One.
After being told that he had been awarded Driver of the Day, he said: “Luckily the fans have a clear mind about racing, because what happened today is unbelievable.
“I’m just trying to race and this sport is more about penalties than racing, so for me this is not Formula 1.
“But at least the fans enjoyed it and I gave it all today, but clearly not quick enough. But still happy with second.”