Dec. 12’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will decide the tightest race for the Driver’s Championship in F1 history, and two immutable aces stand tall above all the rest.
They say you’ve gotta drive to survive. But never in the 70-year history of Formula 1 auto racing has a year’s campaign come down to a breakneck finish like this.
Entering Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final event of the 2021 F1 campaign, two absolute titans are tied atop the standings for the Driver’s Championship. Seven-time champ Lewis Hamilton and formidable phenom Max Verstappen have fought each other to a standstill, rolling into Yas Island with identical totals of 369.5 points.
It’s the latest in any F1 season that the top two drivers have ever been tied. And on Sunday, an already heated rivalry reaches the sort of climax that even a Netflix original docuseries couldn’t have whipped up.
Verstappen vs. Hamilton in 2021
They’re not mirror images of each other, per se — England’s Hamilton is 36 and arguably auto racing’s all-time greatest, while Dutch rival Verstappen is just 24 and looking for his first championship — but these two competitors have matched one another nearly podium for podium all year long.
Right on cue, Verstappen managed to grab pole position for Sunday’s final, decisive showdown.
Total podiums: 16
Non-podium results: 5
Fastest laps: 6
Total podiums: 17
Non-podium results: 4
Fastest laps: 5
Current Formula 1 Driver’s Championship Standings
t-1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes): 369.5 points
t-1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull): 369.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes): 218
4. Sergio Pérez (Red Bull): 190
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari): 158
6. Lando Norris (McLaren): 154
7. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari): 149.5
8. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren): 115
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri): 100
10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine): 77
F1 Career Accomplishments
Hamilton’s been in the game much longer, having entered F1 in 2007 when Verstappen was just nine years old. He won his first championship the very next year, the first of seven to date, including the last four in a row.
The Dutch challenger has given the knighted Brit arguably the toughest challenge of his career, however. And he’s not going anywhere.
Championships: 7 (2008, ’14, ’15, ’17, ’18, ’19, ’20)
Fastest laps: 59
Fastest laps: 15
2021 F1 earnings: $41.5 million
2021 total earnings: $42.5 million
Forbes ranking: No. 27 highest-paid athlete for 2021
Key endorsements: Red Bull, Honda, Tag Heuer, AlphaTauri, CarNext
In so many ways, Sir Lewis is the one who’s set the pace — but at every turn, his young rival has shown an ability to catch up. And a year of call-and-response finally comes to a head Sunday in the UAE to cap off a Formula 1 campaign the likes of which racing fans have never seen.