Saudi Arabian GP 2021: How Max Verstappen can beat Lewis Hamilton to the world driver's championship

The Saudi Arabian GP 2021 could see Max Verstappen, who holds an eight-point lead, seal the Formula 1 world driver's championship.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were locked in a tight championship battle in 2021. (Image: Twitter)

It’s no secret that the 2021 Formula 1 season has seen one of the most nail-biting championship battles in ages. And the first of the last two races of the season begins this weekend, with the all-new Saudi Arabian GP.

It will doubtless be interesting to see how the drivers and teams deal with a new race so late in the season. And from what it is we know about the circuit thus far, it will be a high-speed race.

But there’s also the fact that Max Verstappen, who currently enjoys an eight-point lead over Lewis Hamilton, has the chance to seal the title this weekend.

There is every chance it might not happen this weekend – the season has been tight and the drivers are likelier to take this battle down to the wire. But there is a chance, mathematically speaking.

Here’s what Verstappen will need to do in the Saudi Arabian GP to seal his maiden driver’s championship.

A win and some hope needed

First off, Verstappen would need to win the race and claim the fastest lap point. Should he do that, he will need Hamilton to finish either sixth or lower to seal the championship.

If, in this scenario, Hamilton finishes exactly sixth, Verstappen will have a 26-point lead in the standings. Thus, even if Hamilton wins the Abu Dhabi GP and claims fastest lap and Verstappen does not finish in the points, the Dutchman will win the title by countback – he has more wins than Hamilton as things stand.

If Verstappen finishes first but doesn’t claim the fastest lap, he needs Hamilton to finish seventh or lower. Conversely, Verstappen can finish second and still win the title; that is, of course, if Hamilton finishes outside the points entirely.

Why this is unlikely at best is the fact that Mercedes and Red Bull are the fastest cars on the grid. Even if Hamilton doesn’t finish first, he will likely finish high in the points; therefore stretching out the title race to the last Grand Prix.

Thus far, Hamilton and Verstappen have always finished close to each other – even when their teammates have struggled to do the same.

Therefore, a scenario with Hamilton finishing sixth or lower is possible but, unless he suffers some extreme bad luck, unlikely.

How can Hamilton stay in the fight?

Simple: pick up his third win on the trot and maybe even the fastest lap point. Given the fine margins this season has thrown up, there’s no such thing as too many points.

Of course, if Hamilton can’t get the extra point then Mercedes should use Valtteri Bottas to steal it away. That has a two-fold effect of snatching the point from Verstappen and also adding points for the constructor’s championship.

In case he can’t finish atop the podium, the seven-time world champion must ensure he stays atop the podium spots. That way, the deficit will be low going into the final race of the season.

Of course, Mercedes and Hamilton will see anything less than a win as a shortcoming. Especially given the form they’ve shown over the past two races.

Who is favourite to win the Saudi Arabian GP?

That would be hard to say. Jeddah is a journey into the unknown for everyone on the grid. And this brand-new venue will be a challenge; the circuit has three DRS zones and a plenty of high-speed corners.

Given the track will likely favour cars with high straight-line speed, however, initial readings say Mercedes will enjoy this circuit more. But that will only be determined for sure once the cars hit the track.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, however, is quietly confident going into the race.

“The car has been performing well recently and is probably in the best place it has been all season, with the drivers confident to push it to the limit. That’s encouraging for the final races and gives us strong momentum to take forward,” said Wolff.

“We are all excited to still be in the fight at this stage in the season, it’s a privilege and a testament to our resilience when we see where we stood in the early summer. Both titles are wide open, and our mission is clear,” he added.

“Jeddah is another completely new challenge, an all-new track to get to grips with and a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to ensure we hit the ground running on Friday, because getting as much information as we can during those initial sessions will be vital,” continued Wolff.

“It’s a fast street circuit with long flat-out sections and several high-speed corners, lined by barriers meaning it’ll be high risk and reward. We’re more motivated than ever and we expect to be in the hunt, so we are all looking forward to the debut Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia.”

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