December 09, (THEWILL) – The Formula One season has come down to a single final race in Abu Dhabi, but it will have far-reaching consequences for the Mercedes AMG Petronas and Red Bull teams, as well as their drivers.
Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton are deadlocked for first place in the drivers’ standings after 21 of the 22 races this season. In the previous 71 seasons of the world championship, this had only happened once. That was in 1974, when Emerson Fittipaldi of Brazil and Clay Regazzoni of Switzerland were deadlocked going into the last round of the season in the United States.
But it was in a 15-race season, so the fact that Verstappen and Hamilton are tied after 21 rounds is all the more amazing. However, according to Formula One’s countback rule, Verstappen is the official leader. To the Mercedes driver’s eight victories, the Red Bull driver has won nine races.
Verstappen, a 24-year-old in his sixth season on the grid, is pursuing his first Formula One championship. He would be the first Dutchman to win the title, and he would be only the second Red Bull driver to do it after Sebastian Vettel.
However, the most significant feat in the sport’s history is on the line for Hamilton. A new all-time outright record for drivers’ championships would be set if he wins his eighth, one more than Formula One racing legend Michael Schumacher.
If, in the odd circumstance, it happens that both leading drivers finish the remaining race in Abu Dhabi in a tie, Verstappen would win the title.
However, there are only two possibilities for a points tie to occur under the sport’s scoring system for the top-10 finishers in a race (25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1).
The first scenario is if both drivers finish outside of those points-scoring places totally, i.e. 11th or lower (including race retirement). This has never happened in races where both Hamilton and Verstappen had competed before 2021, but it has already happened twice this season.
The first instance came in Azerbaijan in June, when Verstappen had a tyre blowout while leading and Hamilton ended 15th after knocking the wrong steering wheel button on the race’s late restart and sliding down the order.
Then there was the high drama of the Italian Grand Prix in September, when competitors collided and ended up beached in the gravel trap while racing for position, as THEWILL reported.
However, there is another way for them to finish level on points.
They would be deadlocked on 371.5 points if one finished ninth (two points) and the other 10th with the fastest lap bonus (1+1) on Sunday. Again, Verstappen would be the champion due to the countback.
Drivers have never finished a season tied for first place in the championship; the closest finish was 0.5 points in 1984, when Niki Lauda and Alain Prost finished second and third, respectively.
All of these make accurate predictions about which of the two will take the Abu Dhabi race onerous, mirroring how challenging it is to decide between the competitiveness of Mercedes and Red Bull as it has proven to be throughout the season.
In the hybrid-engine era, Yas Marina was regarded a banking Mercedes track until Red Bull and Verstappen dominated there last year, with the Dutchman winning by 15 seconds. However, Mercedes made a mistake on setup, Hamilton had just returned from COVID-19, and the title battles were long over.
Of course, the track has since been redesigned and is now substantially faster. It will be a tight finish but the team with the most drive and best execution of strategy will most likely edge it in their favour.