Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen could go into the final Grand Prix of 2021 TIED on points as F1 gets set for its tightest title battle in years… their huge rivalry is just one of the reasons why you can’t miss a second of the last three races
- The 2021 F1 season is hotting up, with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to go
- Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton could go into the final race level on points
- Kimi Raikkonen is also edging closer to the end of a remarkable 19-year F1 career
- Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also new F1 tracks, which will be exciting for fans
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are currently embroiled in a title battle for the ages, with the pair fighting tooth and nail to lift the 2021 world championship trophy.
As it stands, the Red Bull star leads by 14 points but – incredibly – should Hamilton beat Verstappen 1-2 in the next two races, the pair will go into the final race of the season completely level on points.
That, though, is just one of many reasons why you can’t afford to miss a single second of the rest of the season. Here, Sportsmail delves into exactly why…
Lewis Hamilton, pictured in his new rainbow helmet in Qatar, is in a huge battle for the title
Max Verstappen (right) is currently leading the championship but there’s only 14 points in it
Let’s start with the big one, then. Seven-time world champion Hamilton against Verstappen, who is still looking for his first and is desperate to usurp his Mercedes rival.
The pair have clashed – quite literally – on multiple occasions this season and their battle for the trophy could hardly be closer as we head into the final three race weekends of 2021.
As mentioned, Verstappen leads by 14 points but it has been more than that previously, with Hamilton slowly edging his way back to the top. If Hamilton wins the next two races, with Verstappen second, then they’ll be level as we head to Abu Dhabi on December 12.
Of course, that is slightly reliant on fastest lap points, but it’s completely feasible that they take one each in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, so this really could be neck-and-neck going into the finale.
Mercedes’ Hamilton (left) and Red Bull’s Verstappen clashed – not for the first time – in Brazil
It is, quite simply, the most exciting title battle in years. To put it into perspective, Hamilton romped home by 124 points in 2020, and the year before that there were 87 points between him and his nearest rival, team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
In fact, the last time there was a really close fight was 2016, when Hamilton came out on the losing side and Nico Rosberg was crowned champion by just five points.
2007 and 2010 were, of course, ridiculously exciting battles, but it’s fair to say we’re in a golden age for the sport and these two going toe-to-toe for a few years to come sounds incredible for F1 fans, regardless of who you support.
This afternoon, it is that 1-2 on the grid, with Hamilton qualifying first and Verstappen just behind him. Let the games begin…
In Monza, things got a little bit too close, with Verstappen ending up in hospital after a crash
And the constructors are at it too…
It’s fair to say that both Mercedes chief Toto Wolff and his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner have pulled very few punches over the last few weeks.
While there is a genuine rivalry on the track with Max and Lewis, there is similar off it as the two constructors battle it out for the *other* big trophy.
Wolff and Horner, at various points, have been fuming with each other and have made continuous digs at each other, all of which has fuelled the competition.
Earlier this month, Wolff called Horner a ‘protagonist in a pantomime’, adding that ‘people have a microphone in front of them or a camera on them and they start to behave like little actors, like Hollywood.’
Horner, meanwhile, said ‘look, we all know Toto has a lot to say.’
In Brazil last weekend, Wolff’s emotions boiled over when he celebrated directly into a TV camera when Hamilton won – feeling aggrieved at the stewards’ initial decision not to punish Verstappen for their lap 48 tangle.
Sport, and particularly F1, is about stories… and plenty of what we’ve seen this season wouldn’t look out of place in Hollywood.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has shown there is no love lost between him and Christian Horner
Wolff (left) and Horner faced the media together on Friday ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix
End of the Ice(man) Age
After 19 seasons in Formula One, The Iceman Kimi Raikkonen has just three races left before he bows out at the age of 42.
One of the most popular figures in the paddock, the flying Finn will always be remembered for his dry sense of humour and incredible ability on track that saw him win the drivers’ title with Ferrari in 2007.
He is racing for Alfa Romeo this season, where he has been since 2019, and has also previously driven for McLaren and Lotus.
A quick mention for Antonio Giovinazzi too, who is also leaving Alfa as they prepare for a completely new 2022 line-up, with Bottas to be joined by rookie Guanyu Zhou.
Kimi Raikkonen is preparing for his final three races in Formula One after a 19-year career
Raikkonen, pictured in his Alfa Romeo on Friday, is a previous F1 champion with Ferrari
Ferrari vs McLaren and Alpine vs AlphaTauri
Just because there’s so much going on at the top of the standings, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to play for in the midfield. Each place in the constructors table is worth more money for the teams, and some of the placings will go right down to the wire.
After the top two of Mercedes and Red Bull, third place is still up for grabs, with Ferrari in pole position after a much-improved 2021. Success in Brazil saw them extend their advantage over McLaren, and both will be hoping that in 2022 they can close the gap even further on the big two teams.
Slightly lower down, Alpine and AlphaTauri are currently both on exactly 112 points, promising an incredibly exciting final three race weekends.
Alpine are insistent that they are concentrating more on 2022 and the new technical regulations rather than worrying about the final races of this season, but you can be sure they will have one eye on the constructors’ standings.
Over at AlphaTauri, meanwhile, they will be hoping rookie Yuki Tsunoda can step up and help the brilliant Pierre Gasly, whose seventh-placed finish in Brazil helped them up the order.
Pierre Gasly has been on fire this season and will hope to guide AlphaTauri above Alpine
Alpine, and their drivers Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, are currently joint fifth
New tracks aplenty
Both Qatar this weekend and Saudi Arabia at the start of December are new destinations for Formula One, meaning that two of the final three races of the season will take place at tracks that none of the drivers have experienced before.
That is, of course, very exciting – especially for the rookies on the grid – levelling the playing field somewhat and creating plenty of drama.
Losail this weekend is the first, before Jeddah on December 5. They are both high-speed tracks which, on paper, should play into Mercedes’ hands, therefore potentially helping out that title battle we spoke about earlier.
Essentially, there is so much excitement over the final three races of the season that you would be mad to miss a second.
Rivalries on the track and off it, final races for F1 legends, midfield teams battling it out for places… and guaranteed drama at every corner on tracks we’ve never seen before.
Losail International Circuit in Doha will play host to the first ever Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday
Jeddah is the next destination as Saudi Arabia prepares to host its first ever race as well
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