Max Verstappen will go in search of his maiden Drivers’ Championship title when he climbs into his Red Bull car for the final time this season in Abu Dhabi. The 23-year-old is currently level on points with Lewis Hamilton at the top of the standings, with this year’s battle for glory set to be decided under the lights at the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday.
Hamilton emerged as the winner in Saudi Arabia two days ago to put himself on level terms with Verstappen at the end of a bizarre race marred by a handful of controversial incidents.
The pair forced each other wide at different stages of the contest before colliding with each other in an extraordinary twist to the tale.
Verstappen slowed to let his rival pass under orders, but did not move all the way over to the right-hand side of the track.
Meanwhile, Hamilton was not informed of the situation and was left baffled by the Red Bull man’s erratic braking.
In his confusion, the seven-time champion drove into the back of Verstappen’s car but managed to take the chequered flag despite picking up damage to his front wing in the process.
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A handful of senior figures in the paddock have since expressed concerns over the likelihood of his year’s Drivers’ Championship being decided by another unsavoury incident on the final day.
With Verstappen and Hamilton going to Abu Dhabi on the same number of points, a race-ending crash involving both drivers would see the Dutchman awarded the title after winning more Grands Prix than Hamilton over the course of the campaign.
It seems as though a tactical collision may be a last-ditch option at the back of Verstappen’s mind if his previous comments on the matter are anything to go by.
He half-heartedly suggested that he would be willing to take out a championship rival back in 2019 as he rewatched the title-deciding collision between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1990.
The two legends of the sport clashed in dramatic fashion in Japan, with Senna driving into his long-term rival at the first corner after losing pole position at the very start of the race.
Both drivers were ultimately forced to retire, with Senna claiming the Drivers’ Championship after leading in the standings at the start of the weekend.
Verstappen was shown a clip of the incident two years ago and made his thoughts clear on the possibility of employing a similar tactic in the future.
He asked his then-Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly: “What would you have done in this case?”
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“Probably the same to be fair,” replied the Frenchman, before Verstappen added: “I mean, why not?”
It remains to be seen whether Verstappen will take a leaf from Senna’s book and ensure that history repeats itself when the five red lights go out in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
He has excelled in his first season with a competitive Red Bull car this year, winning nine of this season’s 21 races.
Meanwhile, Hamilton will officially become the sport’s most decorated driver if he beats Verstappen this weekend to clinch an unprecedented eighth world title.