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After a long and arduous 21-race season, all roads have finally led to a thrilling championship decider between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Join The Roar for live scores and rolling updates of all the action from the UAE from 11:50pm (AEDT).
Events at the last grand prix in Saudi Arabia saw both drivers draw level on points coming into this finale at the Yas Marina Circuit, with the lion-like Verstappen ahead on countback of race wins.
The simple equation for either driver here – finish ahead of the other. Simple on paper, but given how and intense and complex this Formula One season has been, it would almost be remiss to dismiss one last twist during the coming 58-laps.
Since the 2020 race at Yas Marina which was won by a dominant Verstappen, the circuit has undergone some significant reprofiling – to aid with overtaking and the overall flow. The chicane at Turn 4 has been removed, with the Turn 5 hairpin made wider and Turns 11-14 have been completely remodelled into a banked left-hand hairpin.
Overall, these changes seemed to have favoured Mercedes and their car. Hamilton, a five-time victor at Yas Marina is also seeking a fourth consecutive win to secure what would be an unprecedented eighth title.
Mercedes also will need to score 17-points to clinch their eighth consecutive constructor’s championship. This rather makes it a tall order for Red Bull, who’ve not had any title win since 2013.
Verstappen took a sensational pole ahead of Hamilton, though unlike the Mercedes – starts on the soft compound tyre, while the Briton will be on the medium.
Lando Norris, despite McLaren’s chances of finishing third in the team’s standings looking slim – still split the top two from their teammates in third. Sergio Perez joins the McLaren driver on the second row, while Valtteri Bottas in his final Mercedes gig starts sixth.
Kimi Räikkönen ahead of his 350th and final grand prix will start from eighteenth as well, failing to get out of Q1 unlike teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, who’s also shifting to Formula E in 2022.
A two-stop strategy looks likely, as Pirelli have brought their softest range of tyres to the reprofiled circuit. The added loads from the higher-speeds have made rear-tyre wear greater as a result.
So who’ll emerge as the 2021 Formula One world champion? Tune in on The Roar from 11:50pm (AEDT) for live blog coverage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Lights out: 12am (AEDT)
Venue: Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi
TV: Fox Sports
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 3. Lando Norris (McLaren), 4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull), 5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), 6. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), 7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), 8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), 9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine), 10. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), 11. Fernando Alonso (Alpine), 12. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), 13. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), 14. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), 15. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), 16. Nicholas Latifi (Williams), 17. George Russell (Williams), 18. Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo), 19. Mick Schumacher (Haas), 20. Nikita Mazepin (Haas)