In Focus

Verstappen or Hamilton: the 2021 F1 title permutations explained

Rivals are level on points going into Sunday’s final race in Abu Dhabi

It all comes down to the final grand prix of the 2021 Formula 1 season. After a thrilling race in Saudi Arabia, Max Verstappen and rival Lewis Hamilton are now level on 369.5 points and the title will be decided at the season finale in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Hamilton’s victory in Jeddah saw the Mercedes driver pick up the 25 points for the win, plus an extra point for the fastest lap. Verstappen’s second-place finish in the Red Bull gave him 18 points and this means he’s also on 369.5 points with one race remaining.

The final act 

Now is the time to tune into Formula 1, “just in case you’ve been sleeping on the most spectacular season in decades”, said Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press. The producers of Netflix’s hit show Drive to Survive must be “salivating over the final script” – few would have predicted such a “salacious final act” to what has been a sensational year.

This season is only the second time in F1 history that the drivers’ championship has been tied going into the final race, said’s virtual statman Sean Kelly. The previous occasion was in 1974 when Emerson Fittipaldi beat Clay Regazzoni and Jody Scheckter.

Since F1’s inception in 1950, there have been 28 title deciders on the last race – with the previous one in 2016 when Nico Rosberg beat Hamilton. Number 29 promises to be “one of the most explosive in history”, said Marca.

If Verstappen or Hamilton are the first driver across the finish line at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit – or one driver outscores the other – they will be crowned champion…

Here we look at the permutations to how Verstappen can win his first world championship or how Hamilton can secure a record eighth. 


Max Verstappen

Getty Images

How Verstappen can win the title

Even though the title rivals are level on points, Verstappen is technically top of the drivers’ standings as he has won nine races in 2021, compared to Hamilton’s eight. Victory in Abu Dhabi will see the 24-year-old secure his maiden title. That extra win this season could prove vital for the Red Bull man…

Top ten finishes and fastest laps...

Whoever finishes ahead of each other in the top ten will become world champion – unless they finish in P9 and P10, said In the case of finishing ninth and tenth the point for the fastest lap is “still important”. 

If the fastest lap point goes to Verstappen in tenth – with Hamilton ninth – they would score the same number of points and Verstappen would be crowned champion because of his higher number of wins in 2021.

If Verstappen finishes ninth and Hamilton tenth with the fastest lap, both drivers would score two points. The rivals would be on equal points and the title would go to Verstappen based on his number of wins. “This scenario also applies the other way around”, added, if Verstappen finishes tenth with the fastest lap and Hamilton in P9.

What about DNFs?

Should both drivers fail to finish the final race in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen would win the title by virtue of his nine GP victories to Hamilton’s eight, the London Evening Standard reported.

“It’s a straight-out fight as it has been for the entire year,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “We have one shot and it’s time to take it.”


Lewis Hamilton is a seven-time Formula 1 world champion

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

How Hamilton can win the title 

Hamilton is currently on seven world championship wins – level with German icon Michael Schumacher. If the British driver is to secure a record eighth F1 championship he either has to win in Abu Dhabi or score more points than Verstappen. If Hamilton finishes ahead of Verstappen and achieves at least P8, “he will be okay”, said

The 36-year-old said Verstappen was “f***ing crazy” after some questionable tactics by the Dutchman in Jeddah, the London Evening Standard reported. Hamilton warned that he expected more of the same in Abu Dhabi this weekend. “For him, it doesn’t matter if we don’t both finish,” he said. “For me, we both need to finish but it’ll be interesting to see what happens.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “At the end it’s all going down to the wire, that’s how the sport should be and we love it!”


Abu Dhabi GP: schedule and TV 

Friday 10 December 
  • 9.30am-10.30am: free practice one (Sky Sports F1 from 9am) 
  • 1pm-2pm: free practice two (Sky Sports F1 from 12.45pm) 
Saturday 11 December 
  • 10am-11am: free practice three (Sky Sports F1 from 9.45am) 
  • 1pm-2pm: qualifying (Sky Sports F1 from 12pm) 
Sunday 12 December 
  • 12pm: Pit Lane Live (Sky Sports F1 from 11.30am)
  • 1pm-3pm: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Sky Sports F1)


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