Max Verstappen could be crowned the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Champion at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (not officially, that happens at a post-season event), if the result goes his way in Jeddah.
F1 heads to Saudi Arabia for the first time, with Jeddah, the country’s second largest city behind capital Riyadh, hosting a high-speed street circuit overlooking the Red Sea.
The penultimate round of the 22-event F1 calendar might just be the one that sees the ever-so-close title fight finally resolved. Only Red Bull’s Verstappen can be crowned champion here, thanks to his slim eight point championship lead over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
All Verstappen needs to do is leave Jeddah with a 26-point lead over Hamilton, which would leave the seven-time champion powerless to claim his eighth title at the season finale in Abu Dhabi a week later. Even if Hamilton were to win in Abu Dhabi and take the fastest lap point with Verstappen failing to score, drawing level on points with the Dutchman, Verstappen would still be crowned champion owing to his greater number of race wins.
There are just four scenarios that would see Verstappen clinch those all important 18 points to claim a maiden championship.
– If Verstappen finishes first with the additional point for fastest lap and Hamilton finishes sixth or lower
– If Verstappen finishes first and Hamilton finishes seventh or lower (regardless of who gets fastest lap)
– If Verstappen finishes second with the additional point for fastest lap and Hamilton finishes 10th or lower
– If Verstappen finishes second and Hamilton finishes outside the top ten
However given how closely fought this championship has been and how close the performance of Red Bull and Mercedes is, the most likely outcome is that the title will go to the season finale in Abu Dhabi – an outcome most would probably welcome.
Just once this season has Verstappen outscored Hamilton by 18 points, when Verstappen won in Monaco with Hamilton only seventh.
The most tantalising result in Jeddah would be a victory for Hamilton with fastest lap bonus and Verstappen second, which would see the pair head to Abu Dhabi equal on 369.5 points apiece, for what would likely be the most dramatic finish to a season in history.
Although it’s advantage Verstappen in Jeddah, Mercedes hold the upper hand in the Constructors’ battle, but would need to outscore Red Bull by 40 points to settle things this weekend.