Hamilton vs. Verstappen: The Final Battle of the Year

Hamilton vs. Verstappen: The Final Battle of the Year
Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN Kimi Raikkonen in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit. Dec. 10, 2021. Photo Credit: Alfa Romeo Media - Antonin Vincent / DPPI.

The 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship will be decided on Sunday at the newly modified Yas Marina Circuit, where Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will be fighting for glory.

The Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will not just set the stage for the title-deciding race this weekend but also will bring to an end the longest-ever Formula One season in history, encompassing 22 rounds.

And for the first time since 1974, title contenders Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen arrive at the last race on equal terms, 369.5 points to be exact.

The conversation remains wide open, will Hamilton achieve an unprecedented eighth Formula One world title, or will Verstappen claim his maiden championship at the pinnacle of motorsport?

Either way, history continues to be written; one fierce rivalry, one last dance, one trophy, on Sunday, it will be all or nothing.

THEIR SEASON IN REVIEW

In retrospect, these are the numbers and facts that have led both drivers to be the protagonists of one of the most competitive Formula One seasons in recent times.

The Briton began his campaign in style, winning the season opener in Bahrain.

Across the year, the 36-year-old would also cross the finish line in first place in Portugal, Spain, Great Britain, Russia, Brazil, Qatar, and most recently in Saudi Arabia, summing up eight victories.

For his part, the Dutchman stepped into the first spot of the podium for the first time in 2021 on Italian soil at the Emilia Romagna GP following to take the win in Monaco, France, Styria, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, United States, and Mexico.

All in all, the 24-year-old clinched nine victories, 8-second places, nine place at Hungary, and 3 DNF.

Verstappen’s slight advantage means that if he is tied on points with Hamilton at the end of the race in Abu Dhabi, he will be crowned champion.

But in a hypothetical scenario where the Dutch finishes outside of the points and Hamilton in tenth place, it will be the seven-time world champion to emerge victorious.

On Friday, the Red Bull Racing Honda driver topped the charts in the first free practice session held at the revamped Yas Marina circuit, setting the fastest lap, 1:25.009, running 23 laps.

Under the floodlights, Hamilton kicked off FP2 with a flying lap, moving on to ending the day on top, 1:23.691, ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon by a gap of 0.343s, and teammate Valtteri Bottas third overall.

The Reb Bulls finished fourth with Verstappen and fifth with Sergio Perez, setting the quickest times on longer runs.

As the drivers begin to familiarize themselves with the circuit - modified for the first time since its debut to the Formula One calendar back in 2009, let’s get an in-depth look into the changes introduced ahead of the title showdown.

REVISITING YAS MARINA

The new configuration features modifications on three key sectors of the track, aiming to provide more overtaking opportunities for drivers, estimated to run 14 seconds faster than last year.

The improved layout sees the north hairpin (Turn 7) becoming the new Turn 5 following the removal of a chicane, widening the hairpin.

Moreover, four technical ninety-degree corners (Turns 11-14) have been replaced by a long banked turn, allowing side-by-side racing on entry.

Finally, the hotel section (beginning at Turn 17) is now a faster-flowing section of the track, as the corners have been modified, promoting faster and closer competition.

Overall, the layout will be faster, featuring 16 corners instead of 21, spanning 5.281km (3.282 miles) - shortened by 273 meters, resulting in a race distance of 58 laps.

According to the promoters, the modifications took into consideration the new technical regulations that will come into effect from 2022 onwards.

The new regulations bid farewell to the Pirelli 13-inch tyres, running for the last time at the pinnacle of motorsport this weekend; next season, the series welcomes the new 18-inch tyres.

Mario Isola Head of F1 and car racing, commented: “This weekend will mark a pivotal moment in Formula 1 history with the definitive farewell to the 13-inch tyres that have been part of the pinnacle of the sport for decades. Pirelli has played a starring role in that era, just as it has done since the inaugural championship back in 1950. We’re proud of everything that has been achieved over the years.

Further adding: “Now, thanks to the biggest rule change in decades, we take on this latest revolution with brand new tyres that are more similar to those used on the road by everyday motorists. This means that we have the best chance to transfer the technology derived from Formula 1 into our road car product. It’s time to say thanks to 13-inch tyres for all the emotions they have given us, as we look forward to a new era with the 18-inch tyres.”

FIGURES

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has served as host for 12 Formula One events, of which nine of them have staged the final round of the season.

Mercedes reigned in Yas Marina, winning the Grand Prix on six consecutive occasions between 2014 and 2019.

Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel was the first driver to win at the circuit in 2009 with Red Bull, while Verstappen won last year’s race for the team.

The Middle East track also serves as a home for post-season testing; on Tuesday and Wednesday, the teams will test the new 18-inch compounds - dedicating a day for the young driver’s test using the 13-inch tyres.

In addition, Formula One announced a contract extension through to 2030 with race promoter Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management (ADMM) on Thursday.

Stefano Domenicali, President, and CEO of Formula 1 said: “We are delighted to confirm that we will be racing in Abu Dhabi until 2030 under this new agreement. We are hugely looking forward to the season finale this weekend when more Formula 1 history will be made.

The promoter, ADMM, always creates an incredible show for the final race of every F1 season, and combined with the changes made to improve the racing on the Yas Marina Circuit, we are excited for many years of racing in Abu Dhabi, that is ahead of us.”

On a further note, after two decades competing at the highest level in the sport, 2007 F1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen says goodbye to the series that saw him build a remarkable career, earning 21 wins, over 100 podiums, and 18 pole positions.

On Sunday, the most experienced driver in Formula One history will start his 349th Grand Prix leaving a legacy to millions of fans that will continue to follow the 42-year-old Finn in the journey he chooses to take.

The Abu Dhabi GP will also mark Raikkonen’s teammate Antonio Giovinazzi’s last race in the series, as the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN driver switches to Formula E for 2022.

Both cars will sport messages from the team to the two drivers with wording placed on the horizontal arm of the Milan Cross.

According to the Hinwil-based team, the Finn’s car will feature the message “Dear Kimi, we will leave you alone now,” a tongue-in-cheek tribute to one of the classic team radio messages.

Meanwhile, Antonio’s car will feature a message in Italian that reads, “Grazie di tutto, Antonio” - thanks for everything, Antonio, in tribute to the driver’s contribution.

Cecilia demartini
Sports Pundit staff writer @ceci_2812
Cecilia is a writer and journalist, passionate about motorsport and tennis.Her articles are published in newspapers and international online publications.

Comment on This Article

0 comments
Reply to
Loading