The 2021 Formula One World Championship season has so far been undoubtedly one the greatest seasons we have ever seen with the driver’s championship going right down to the wire. Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Dutchman Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing-Honda have been trading blows all season, and the bookies favourite to win it all has been chopping and changing all year, as seen on this F1 Championship probability tracker. After Hamilton’s back to back wins in the last two Grand Prix’s, he has snuck out in front of Verstappen on the tracker, amazingly the fourth time this season the favourite to win has changed. As it stands heading into the Saudi Arabian GP, Hamilton is listed as having a 61.77% chance of taking home the title, his highest since May 10th and the fourth round of the 2021 World Championship. Verstappen, who had an 80.39% chance of winning the title as recently as November 8th, has gone on an incredible slide since and now sits at 45.31%. Verstappen sits eight points clear of Hamilton at the top of the standings, but Hamilton’s recent form and his outstanding record in Abu Dhabi, the host of the final Grand Prix of the racing calendar puts him in good stead to win his eighth title and overtake the legendary Michael Schumacher as the greatest in the sport’s history.
What’s happened so far?
In the opening round in Bahrain, Max Verstappen took pole position, and a dramatic race ensued with Nikita Mazepin spinning out and crashing into the barrier, forcing the safety car to be called out. Just as the safety car left Pierre Gasly collided with Daniel Ricciardo at the same time that Mick Schumacher spun off behind everyone else. After a tight race between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, Hamilton lost his place but was quickly handed it back when Verstappen was found to have exceeded track limits.
The opener was a taste of things to come throughout the season, as the drama and repeated close calls have been standard throughout. In the mid-season rounds, the constant battle between Verstappen and Hamilton intensified. Verstappen’s three wins in a row in the French, Styrian and Austrian Grand Prix’s gave the dutchman a tight grip on the lead at the top and things were looking bad for Hamilton.
However, on home turf, Hamilton was the fastest in qualifying to start in pole position for the British Grand Prix. Verstappen made a much better start than Hamilton in the inaugural Silverstone Sprint which led him to overtake the British racer at the first corner before leading every lap and winning the sprint with Hamilton in second again. On the first lap of the Grand Prix, the battle came a little too close for comfort with Verstappen and Hamilton colliding at approximately 180mph. The race had to be stopped temporarily and Hamilton was penalised for the contact. Despite this, Hamilton still managed to make the most of the home advantage, taking over Norris, Bottas and Charles Leclerc at the last minute to win the race.
This could have been a real turning point for Hamilton, but Verstappen bounced back with wins in Belgium and Holland before Verstappen and Hamilton collided at the Italian Grand Prix, causing them both to bow out early. and this constant battle for first place between Verstappen and Hamilton has continued throughout every race this year. Hamilton regained some points in the race for the Drivers Championship at the Russian Grand Prix on a very wet day in Sochi. Despite starting in 20th on the starting grid due to penalties in qualifying, Verstappen put on a clinic, making his way from 20th to 2nd, but was still 53 seconds behind the eventual winner Hamilton. This victory put the Brit into the record books, as he became the first driver in Formula 1 history to reach 100 wins.
Hamilton couldn’t back up his victory in Sochi when it came to the Turkish GP. He started in 11th on the grid due to being penalised 10 places for a new ICE unit in qualifying and after Verstappen won both the United States and Mexico City Grand Prix’s, the title became Verstappen’s to lose, and many were wondering if Hamilton had been left with too much to do with just four races left on the calendar. However, the Brit showed his greatness with brilliant drives to win in Brazil and Qatar, to close Verstappen’s lead at the top to just eight points. It really is all to play for heading into this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, a new race on the racing calendar.
Would winning the title cement Hamilton’s place as the greatest ever?
Lewis Hamilton is just two races away from history. If he wins the Drivers Championship this year, he would be out on his own as the driver with the most World Championships to his name. That is quite hard to argue with and he has shown why he has an argument for the greatest ever already in recent weeks with his wins in Brazil and Qatar, showing a skill level rarely seen on the track to win GP’s with his back against the wall, needing victories to stay in the hunt for the Drivers Championship. This season he also became the first driver to win 100 GP’s, a truly incredible feat.
If Hamilton can win in Saudi Arabia, he will be feeling confident of being able to take home the title in Abu Dhabi, a race he has won five times in the past. While Verstappen did win the curtain closer last year, it’s hard to bet against Hamilton when he needs the most. The Mercedes driver has shown constantly throughout his career that when the pressure is at its highest, he delivers. If he does indeed take home the championship this year, there would be no doubt that he is indeed the greatest driver to ever compete in Formula 1.