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F1 Race Director Michael Masi has reiterated his desire for Sunday’s title decider between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to be decided on the track rather than in the stewards’ room.
Hamilton and Verstappen are both locked on 369.5 at the top of the rankings – making the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a winner-takes-all shootout between the pair.
The duo have traded blows, in the form of both collisions on the track and verbal ones off it, throughout the season in an enthralling title battle.
But emotions have threatened to boil over on more than one occasion between Hamilton and Verstappen, leading to Masi’s plea on the eve of their seismic showdown on the Dunes.
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“From my perspective, it’s not my decision for it to be decided in the stewards’ room,” he told Sky Sports ahead of qualifying. “There’s two people directly involved from a championship perspective, and it’s up to them.
“Everyone has said – me included and the stewards included – that the last thing any of us wants is for this to be decided in the stewards’ room, or weeks to come in the Courts of Appeal.
“I’m quite hopeful that between them all, Max and Red Bull, Lewis and Mercedes respectively, they want it decided with an exciting race to end what has been an exciting 2021 championship.”
Verstappen pipped Hamilton to pole position in qualifying to put himself in the driving seat ahead of Sunday’s race.
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The 24-year-old is on the cusp of history as he goes in search of his first-ever World title.
For Hamilton, the stakes are equally as high.
The Englishman, who has won the most F1 races in history, is currently locked on seven world titles with racing great Michael Schumacher ahead of Sunday’s season-ending clash – meaning a victory would cement Hamilton’s spot as the most decorated driver in F1 history.
Red Bull chief Christian Horner likened the duo’s rivalry to that of the Netflix smash hit Squid Game during the final press conference before the race on Friday.
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“It almost feels like Squid Game that we have ended up here on equal points.” Horner said on Friday.
“It has been tense, frustrating on occasions, we have pushed the limits, pushed each other and pushed our competitors and here we are at the final race for the showdown.
“I think that the way we have fought the way we have pushed in this campaign, no-one has come close to challenging this team in the last eight years and here we are in the final race in with a shot, a long shot in the constructors and an equal shot with drivers.”
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