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IMS Writers’ Roundtable, Vol. 47: 2021 F1 World Champion?

Today’s question: Seven-time Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are tied in points at 369.5 entering the final race of a thrilling 2021 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Which driver will emerge as World Champion this Sunday?

Curt Cavin: I would like Verstappen to win it, but my money would be on Hamilton. Yes, Verstappen won there last year, but Hamilton won the two previous races there and has won the past three races this year, the past two from the pole. And he’s won five times at Abu Dhabi in his career. He will make it six.

Zach Horrall: I think it’s Max Verstappen. He has more wins this season (nine to Hamilton’s eight), and he tied the record for the most podium finishes in a season at 17 with one race remaining. Add in the sheer fact that he’s done all this while going head-to-head with one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all-time, and he’s more than deserving of the title.

Paul Kelly: Lewis Hamilton, for reasons past and present. First, the past. Hamilton has won three of the last five races at the wretched Yas Marina circuit (Suzuka, Melbourne or Sao Paulo are far better sites for finales). Yes, Max Verstappen won last year, but that was after Hamilton locked up title No. 7. Now, the present. Hamilton is rolling. He has won the last three races of this spellbinding season entering the season finale. It’s hard for Red Bull or any team to blunt that kind of momentum, especially when Hamilton’s Mercedes team is arguably the most ruthless winning machine in F1 history. I think Verstappen is starting to crack mentally, as shown by his less-than-savory driving tactics in recent races. My only hope is that he doesn’t pull a Senna or a Schumacher and try to win the world title through an intentional collision, but sadly I wouldn’t put it past Max. Finally, there’s the experience factor. Hamilton has endured title-deciding crucibles like this in 2007 (lost), 2008 (won) and 2016 (lost), while this is the first time in Verstappen’s career he has entered the final race with a chance for the championship. I’ll take Lewis’ ice over Max’s fire. One tip: Keep a close eye on qualifying. The pole sitter has won every race at Yas Marina – did I mention it’s a dreadful circuit with few overtaking opportunities? – since 2015.

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