One race to rule them all.
The 2021 Formula 1 season has been all sorts of memorable: Young drivers like Lando Norris and George Russell are emerging as cornerstones for the circuit’s future, the biggest-ever calendar made way for a race nearly every Sunday and Kimi Raikkonen, unfortunately, still does not have the drink.
But in front of all the wonders that this season has had to offer, the title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen has captured the attention of racing fans around the globe. While it’s not the first time a championship has been decided on the final race, it could be the most dramatic.
Heading into the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton and Verstappen are tied atop the driver’s championship table, with the rivals holding 369.5 points each, as they’ve traded haymakers all season long. Not literally, of course, but they might as well have.
The pair have given F1 fans a tremendous amount of entertainment all season: Whether it was Mercedes and Red Bull trying to out-strategize each other or Hamilton and Verstappen colliding on track, it hasn’t all been pretty — and sometimes it’s been pretty dirty. But the race for the championship comes to an end this Sunday in Abu Dhabi.
Here’s how the memorable fight between Lewis and Max has gone down:
Lewis Hamilton vs. Max Verstappen 2021
May 9: Spain. In Barcelona, Mercedes turned a one-stop race into a two-stop race, and the strategy works: Hamilton passes Verstappen with just six laps left in the race and takes hom the win.
May 23: Monaco. After taking pole position, Charles Leclerc cannot start the race, leading to Verstappen starting from pole. He would take the win in Montecarlo, and it would prove to be a big one: For the first time in his young career, Max Verstappen holds the lead in the Formula 1 championship.
June 20: France. Turnabout is fairplay: On the second-to-last lap in the GP, Hamilton’s tire wear proves too much for a charging Max Verstappen, who overtakes Hamilton and wins the 2021 French GP. The same strategy doomed Red Bull at the Spanish Grand Prix, and it works out for them vs. Mercedes now.
July 18: The United Kingdom. The one that really sparks the drama: Hamilton and Verstappen collide on Lap 1 of the 2021 British Grand Prix, with Verstappen sent careening into the wall at Copse corner at 180 mph, with the impact coming at an astounding 51G.
There’s some question to whether or not Hamilton initiated the contact: What is certain, though, is that the stewards felt Hamilton was a bit at fault for the collision, assessing him a 10-second time penalty. Hamilton would still win the British GP, even with the penalty.
Both Verstappen and Red Bull chief Christian Horner were displeased with Hamilton’s post-race celebration, given that Verstappen had landed in the hospital for precautionary measures. It was just the start of the bad blood between the sides.
“Max has incurred a 51G accident,” Horner said after the race. “Lewis Hamilton is an eight-time world champion. He shouldn’t be making maneuvers like that. It’s unacceptable.
Sept. 12: Italy. Sorry, sir. You can’t park here.
In the second big, dramatic crash of the 2021 season, Verstappen and Hamilton collide, with Verstappen’s Red Bull nearly landing on top of Hamilton’s head in Monza.
Race stewards deemed that Verstappen was at fault for the crash and assessed him a three-place grid penalty for the next week’s race at Sochi. Hamilton made it through with just a stiff neck — but stiffer competition for the title.
Oct. 24: United States. In Free Practice 2 ahead of the United States GP, things get a bit testy between Hamilton and Verstappen again: This time, Hamilton and Verstappen go wheel-to-wheel in Texas, with Verstappen calling Hamilton a “stupid idiot” over team radio.
Verstappen would take the USGP win and lengthen his F1 championship lead.
Nov. 14: Brazil. After starting 10th, Hamilton makes the charge and challenges Verstappen for first on lap 48 of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. Verstappen, defending against Hamilton, pushes him off the track, while the Red Bull driver follows him. The stewards deemed no investigation was necessary, and Hamilton latter passes Verstappen to take the win.
A DRAMATIC RACE FOR THE WIN!
Hamilton almost gets past Verstappen, but No. 33 forces No. 44 off the track as the incident is under review from the stewards! pic.twitter.com/ghG1st15lg
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) November 14, 2021
Dec. 5: Saudi Arabia. The first-ever Saudia Arabian GP made a lasting impression.
The track itself lends itself to speed, danger and drama, and there was plenty of that over the weekend, starting in qualifying: Verstappen, looking to push Hamilton from pole position entering the penultimate race of the 2021 F1 season, was putting together an absolutely dazzling flying lap — until the final turn, when he ended up in the wall.
Mercedes would complete the front-row lockout in Jeddah, and Hamilton would get the win, but not without more drama: Hamilton and Verstappen again collided when Verstappen was instructed to give the spot back to Hamilton. Hamilton seemed unclear with the directive, while Hamilton just touched Verstappen and caused damage to his wing.
(Editor’s note: NSFW language.)
Here’s the entirety of the Lap 37 incident between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen as from Hamilton’s onboard camera. Starts with their T1 incident and you can hear the radio chatter. pic.twitter.com/L89sLwVSah
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) December 5, 2021
Stewards deemed that Verstappen’s actions warranted a 10-second time penalty: It amounted to nothing, since Verstappen finished second and Hamilton first.
After the race, Verstappen didn’t stick around for the usual podium celebration, instead leaving the Mercedes teammates to celebrate by themselves.
The race result resulted in a deadlock tie at the top of the driver’s championship table: 369.5 to 369.5.
Lewis Hamilton vs. Max Verstappen stats
Not only are the two tied in points entering the ultimate race of the 2021 season, but the numbers that have lead them to this point are eerily similar as well.
In the rare event that both racers DNF this Sunday, then the championship will go to Verstappen, as he owns one more race win over Hamilton in 2021.
Here’s how their head-to-head-numbers break down: