ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are battling for the F1 title this weekend.
They’re level on points, so the stakes are clear. The driver who finishes ahead of the other will win, unless Hamilton is ninth and Verstappen finishes 10th with the fastest lap bonus point.
Verstappen would win any head-to-head tiebreaker due to having more victories this year than Hamilton.
The title fight has captured attention worldwide, and this race promises to be a record-breaking spectacle. ESPN is at the heart of the action in the Yas Marina paddock to cover it all.
Max, Lewis face points deduction if crash decides title – FIA race director Michael Masi reminded both title contenders the race stewards have the power to deduct points or impose a race ban for any incident they feel was “unsportsmanlike”.
Verstappen thinks less of Hamilton – Speaking in a Thursday Zoom call, Verstappen said the events of this year have made him think less of seven-times champion Hamilton and his Mercedes.
F1 showdown like Squid Game – Christian Horner likened this weekend’s title decider to the bloody fight to the death in the popular Netflix show.
Alonso: Verstappen has been superior driver – In what might not be all that surprising, two-time champ Fernando Alonso said he is backing Verstappen over Hamilton this weekend.
11:30: After the madness of Sunday at Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, this one has been fairly low key in comparison … so far. Hamilton and Verstappen sat alongside each other in a press conference on Thursday but no major shots were fired — the two did not pose for a handshake despite photographers being present.
Wolff and Horner did shake hands, twice, in their press conference the following day, but the occasion was a far cry from their heated conference ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix.
The Abu Dhabi paddock has felt like the eye of the storm on the opening two days of the event. As front and back pages are ratcheting up the excitement around the world, the two men at the centre of it are calm as you like. Verstappen did not seem irritated by questions put to him on Thursday, as he has been when faced with controversial subjects (mainly related to his own style of driving) in the past.
Red Bull are calm outwardly, but you can tell talking to anyone in Red Bull colours in the paddock this weekend there are real tensions underneath the surface. Mercedes is no stranger to title showdowns, but unlike 2014 and 2016 when the battle was between its two drivers, this one is against a rival team, adding an edge to proceedings it hasn’t experienced before.
There is a sense that neither driver or team wants to escalate the tension any further this weekend. That’s refreshing as the feeling around this championship battle had felt quite ugly over the past few weeks. I can’t see it lasting though. Things should pick up this evening as soon as we have qualifying under the lights. Nate Saunders