Big betting money started pouring onto Lewis Hamilton to win the 2021 Formula One World Championship, following his impressive victory in Sao Paulo, where he cut Max Verstappen’s lead to only 14 points.
And while there are still three more races to go before the season ends, it’s very easy to understand why many started to believe that 2021 might not be the year when the Brit gets dethroned. Popular bookies like the BetMGM sportsbook have both listed at -115.
All Eyes On Lewis Hamilton
There are three more races on the calendar of what could turn out to be the closest ending to a Formula One World Championship season to date. Perhaps we might see another nail-biting finish akin to the Niki Lauda vs. Alan Prost in 1984, but even if that doesn’t end up being the case, it’s more than fair to say that 2021 was (and still is) one of the most exciting seasons in recent history.
Unless the final three races yield something unexpected, the battle for the crown is highly likely to get decided on Yas Marina Circuit. As we enter the final stretch, only 14 points separate the two frontrunners, and based on what we have seen over the season, there isn’t a lot to separate them talent-wise.
That also explains why BetMGM sportsbook has Hamilton and Verstappen both priced at -115 to win the championship. Depending on which camp you support, you could argue that your favourite driver deserves to be priced at shorter odds, yet you really can’t find a strong argument in favour of either of them.
Admittedly, Hamilton deserved a lot of praise for what he has shown in Brazil, where he has achieved what many believed was impossible. A race that will go down in history as a true testament to Hamilton’s greatness saw the seven-time world champion claim the checkered flag despite having to come back from qualifying disqualification and a power unit grid penalty.
Over the entire race, Hamilton made a total of 25 overtakes, which on its own is extremely impressive. He first went from the back of the grid to P5 in the sprint race and then from P10 to the top of the podium.
You can call it incredible, ridiculous, or breathtaking. Either way, Hamilton has proven to the world why he is by many considered to be the best Formula One driver in history.
While the whole world is talking about Hamilton’s remarkable drive in Brazil, many seem to forget that Verstappen is still in a 14-point lead, which sits him in an excellent position to claim his maiden World Championship title. Admittedly, he wasn’t as impressive as Hamilton last weekend, but Mad Max is rightly priced at even money with Hamilton to win the crown by BetMGM sportsbook.
What’s more, Max Verstappen‘s bittersweet second-place finish in Brazil was not so much him driving poorly, as it was Hamilton having a performance of his career – don’t quote us on that. So while Hamilton was the better driver in Brazil, he is still trailing the Dutch driver in the standings.
Verstappen is at nine wins and 15 podiums on the season, which is still better than Hamilton’s six wins and 14 podiums. What’s more, Verstappen has outperformed Hamilton in three of the last four races, as well as in 10 of 19 races so far.
Obviously, the recent form is far more valuable when assessing which driver has a better chance to finish the season strong. Still, even so, Brazilian Grand Prix was the first race since Russia where Hamilton finished higher than Max.
No matter which driver you like more, you can’t deny that Verstappen and Hamilton are extremely closely matched. Each has had his moments, and each has proven that he can be better than the other – who can outperform who in the final two races, however, remains to be seen.
With such small markings separating the two in the standings, any small mistake could const either of the two the title. One such instance was the anticipated penalty for Verstappen’s Brazil incident on lap 48 that could have severely harmed the Dutch’s dreams of claiming the crown.
Fortunately for the Red Bull Driver, the stewards denied Mercedes’s request for “Right of Review,” meaning there will be no penalty issues for Verstappen’s sketchy defensive manoeuvre.
As the Formula One 2021 season gets ready for the 20th race of the season, the only thing that should be on Verstappen’s and Hamilton’s minds is that they can not afford to slip. Losing crucial points on the Losail International Circuit could spell disaster for either of them, yet, it’s Hamilton who definitely can’t afford to lose.
While the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix won’t decide the new champion – as there are two more races to go – we can expect another exciting battle between two of the greatest F1 drivers of our time.
The Qatar Grand Prix is a complete unknown for several reasons. It will be the first Formula One race on the track, but there are also questions surrounding the track’s grip and the effect of the weather and the climate on the race.
Beyond that, the race will take place in the afternoon, so the track temperatures will differ from other races, while the organizers will have to find a way to prevent sand from getting onto the asphalt.
With so many “what ifs,” it’s impossible to say what will happen next Sunday and what it means for the title race. And it doesn’t help that the penultimate race of the season (Saudi Arabian Grand Prix) will also mark the first Grand Prix at the venue.
On a more positive note, the 2021 Formula One World Championship season will culminate with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a track that the F1 drivers know well. Still, the track should suit Hamilton, who has won it five times and is the current all-time leader in Abu Dhabi.
Considering how chaotic and unpredictable the 2021 F1 season has been, it’s nearly impossible to say what will happen over the next three races. However, there are two things that we should keep in mind.
Verstappen is still the favourite and can win the championship even if he crashes out of a race. Meanwhile, Hamilton realistically needs to win all the remaining three races to be in with a shot.
Although not something Mercedes fans wanted to hear, that’s the cold truth.
The maximum number of points a driver can take in per weekend is 25 points (+1 for the fastest lap). So assuming Verstappen and Hamilton claim the top two spots in the next two races – as they have done in 11 so far – then Hamilton would need to win every single race.
In other words, due to the 14 points gap, Hamilton needs to beat Verstappen by an average of 4.7 points to win the championship. Barring any unusual events, Verstappen will win the championship if he crosses the finish line before Hamilton in the final three races.
Even a DNF would not lose Verstappen a title, albeit it would require him to win two of the three races to guarantee himself the title. So, all things considered, Verstappen is in a much better spot to win the title and our favourite to do so.
Interestingly, there is a world where Verstappen and Hamilton end the season level on points. It’s not the most likely scenario, but there’s a chance.
If Hamilton ends up winning the next two races and completes the fastest lap, while Verstappen claims second, the Brit would lead Verstappen by two points ahead of the final race of the season.
As a result, Verstappen finishing anywhere from fourth-eighth and Hamilton directly behind him, would see the two drivers end the season tied in points. It would mark the first time in the 71-year history of Formula One that two drivers would be on level points.
But still, the title would belong to Verstappen due to FIA Rules stating that the driver with the most wins over the season is crowned the champion.