Hamilton vs. Verstappen

This is what I wanted. This is what Formula One fans all around the world have wanted. The competition. The rivalry. The unpredictability. The ingredients for one of the most anticipated Formula One races…ever.

After 21 races, there is a tie in the Drivers’ Championship.

Fortunately, there is one more race left to go. Under the lights in Abu Dhabi. Winner take all.

Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen.

What’s going to happen? Who will win?

I DON’T KNOW.

As someone who has been waking up early on Sunday mornings to watch F1 races since the late 90s, I am overjoyed to see that more people – at least, in my part of the world – have discovered this sport and have become fans.

And if you still haven’t watched a minute of Formula One in your life, this is the race to watch.

In many ways, it’s the end of an era.

The regulations are changing next year. The cars will look different. There have been promises of closer racing and more passing. Drivers are changing places, again. Kimi Raikkonen is retiring.

That last one will be especially jarring. Kimi started his F1 career in 2001. He is synonymous with the sport. How will we get through a race weekend without seeing Kimi reluctantly answer questions in a disgruntled tone with half-enunciated words?

I don’t know, but we’ll get through it together.

Make no mistake about it, though, this race is about Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

They each have 369.5 points. If this were a movie, there’s no way the writers would have them go into the final race all tied up. Viewers wouldn’t find it realistic. It would be too “cliché sports movie” of them.

And yet, here we are.

The Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi is one of my favourites, if only because I’m a sucker for sporting events that take place at night under the lights. Also, I’m pretty good at this circuit in video games, so that helps.

Some changes have been made this year to the layout of the track. A couple of chicanes – which I always found annoying in the video game – have been taken out in favour of a couple of hairpins, ensuring that speed takes no vacation during the race.

But seriously, say goodbye to downforce.

Will it be difficult to pass? Yes, but there are some opportunities.

Verstappen and Hamilton qualified first and second, respectively, of course. Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez, starts 4th, while Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, starts 6th on the grid.

The first lap is always important and everyone will be watching Verstappen and Hamilton. And rightfully so. However, I’m curious to see if Perez and Bottas can move to the front quickly and provide their teammates with some support.

There has been some chatter this week that Verstappen should just crash into Hamilton and take him out of the race because if neither driver finishes the race, Verstappen would win the Drivers’ Championship based on race wins.

Personally, I don’t see that happening. Verstappen entered F1 with an aggressive style that lead to many reckless decisions early on in his career. The discussion around him was always about whether or not he could mature on the race track and adjust his style, so that when he went for a move, he wasn’t out of the race by the next corner.

He’s kept his aggressive style, but has eliminated the careless errors. That is why he’s in this position.

I know “crashing into your rival just to win the championship” is a juicy story that gets people talking, but I don’t see him intentionally doing that. Besides, he could be docked points if it’s determined he’s guilty, thus handing the championship to Hamilton. It’s just not worth it.

I doubt he wants to win his first championship and have an asterisk next to it.

I think this entire “crashing into Hamilton” storyline makes his job even more difficult because he and Hamilton have collided multiple times this season and don’t give each other an inch.

Now, if they come close in this race, everyone is going to look at it as if Verstappen is trying to initiate contact, or cause an incident, even if he isn’t. Because why would Hamilton do something that could jeopardize his car reaching the end of the race?

It’s going to be very interesting. Every second, every car placement, every radio message, and everything else you could possibly think of, is going to be under a microscope.

“Is he trying to take out his rival? Was that legal? Was that fair?”

I chuckle to myself when drivers argue over fairness. Yes, there are rules, but the drivers are so smart that they’re playing a game within the game at the same speed as their car. Just listen to their radio messages. They know how to passive-aggressively blur the lines between what is fair and what isn’t, while daring someone, anyone, to penalize them.

Plus, they know exactly where to park their car on the road, so an argument can be made that it was “fair”.

Hamilton is a seven-time World Champion, tied with Michael Schumacher for the record. He’s calculated. Listen to him talk to the media. Listen to his radio messages to the team while he’s in the car. A lot of the things he says are not meant for the person he’s talking to. They are a message for someone else.

He knows how to play the game.

The last six Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have been won by the the pole sitter. That’s a pretty good sign if you’re Max Verstappen. And yet, Hamilton’s Instagram caption was, “P2 on the front row tomorrow, not bad since I prefer the battle.”

Now, I’m not one to fall for statistics like that because I always believe anything can happen in sports. Patterns are patterns until they aren’t.

The words “I prefer the battle” are just wonderful. Hamilton’s playing the game.

If you were wondering, Max Verstappen’s post-qualifying Instagram caption was, “Pole is simply the best way to start the final race.”

This is some high stakes social media volleyball we’re witnessing for the low, low price of NOTHING. This is Formula One.

Verstappen is going for his first World Championship. All he has to do is finish the race ahead of Hamilton. That’s all. It sounds so simple.

Do we think either driver got much sleep last night? Because the anticipation is keeping me up and I’m not in the slightest way involved.

I am ready from the chaos, the drama, and the controversy.

I am not ready for this season to come to an end, but I guess that’s the only way to find out who will win. So, let’s do it.

Hamilton vs. Verstappen.

Winner take all.

My stomach is in my throat.

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18 Responses to Hamilton vs. Verstappen

  1. Ben Berwick says:

    I’ve been visiting and revisiting this tune all week: https://youtu.be/52khlKOl1do

    It’s surreal for me. I grew up in the same town as Lewis, albeit I’m a little older and we didn’t move in the same circles, so I never met him. Our memories of Stevenage are very different, and the trajectories of our lives even more so, yet I’ve often felt a certain kinship with him. If he claims his eighth title I’ll be absolutely delighted, but if Max wins it I’ll be happy for him too. They are the two best drivers on the grid by a mile, the King and the Heir, and this is the most dramatic, exciting scenario we could have asked for. I can’t wait!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Well said!

      What an ending!! How do you feel about the decision the FIA made? I was completely fine with how they handled the last lap.

      Like

      • Ben Berwick says:

        It was bonkers! I am none too certain, but then again, the theme of the season has been alleged inconsistency from the stewards and controversial clashes, so I guess in that context, it made sense? At any rate, the title should be decided on track, not in a courtroom, so that should be that. Whether it *will* be… Well, we’ll find out! What did you make of it all?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        If this goes to court, that’ll be insane. It’ll completely tarnish Hamilton’s reputation I think, regardless of what the court decides. The fact that he’s a 7-time champion and Mercedes has dominated for 8 years won’t get a lot of sympathy outside of their supporters.

        When Latifi crashed and I saw there were 5 laps left, I almost hoped they’d red flag the race because I wasn’t sure they’d clear everything in time. I think given the circumstance, the FIA wanted to do everything they could to finish the race with at least 1 lap of racing. It wouldn’t have been a good look to have a race this hyped up, end one a safety car. So, if they didn’t completely follow the rule of allowing ALL lapped cars through, then I’m fine with that. Even if they did let all cars through, I don’t think it would’ve made a difference. If Mercedes were in Red Bull’s position, they would’ve done the exact same thing and be thrilled with the result.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ben Berwick says:

        In a way, how could this not end in some form of controversy? Mercedes and Red Bull have been embroiled in a fierce war of words all season, there have been so many collisions and bumps and chaotic moments that we were always heading for this. I agree that if the roles were reversed, Mercedes would be joyful.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        Agreed, it was bound to end in controversy. I think everything balanced out in the end, but I might be biased because I was cheering for Max.

        I’m still unsure how I feel about the first lap incident. Max did run Lewis off the track, but the advantage Lewis gained was much larger than the one Max gained last week when he got the penalty for it.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Ben Berwick says:

        That’s the biggest issue with F1 right now. Rules are being applied haphazardly, and as long as that continues it will create unreasonable chaos and draw attention away from the racing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. James says:

    I’m a casual F1 fan at best normally but really looking forward to this one. There will surely be a movie about this season.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill says:

    Now, explain to me the screaming over the last lap.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Normally, when there is a safety car, they allow the lapped cars to pass everyone before they resume the race, so that when they restart, the cars are in the correct order and are fighting for the position directly ahead of them.

      Initially, they said they weren’t going to do that. If they didn’t, there would’ve been 5 lapped cars between Verstappen and Hamilton, thus causing an anticlimactic restart and finish to the race. But then they changed their mind and let the cars through. The screaming comes from them changing their mind, as well as not allow ALL lapped cars to go through – rather, just the ones between Verstappen and Hamilton. So, people thought that was unfair.

      Personally, I think they made the right decision in the name of competition and entertainment.

      Like

  4. Dutch Lion says:

    I haven’t watched this yet so I better get on this. It sounds like great fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dutch Lion says:

      Oh wow! I just watched the 8 minute highlight video on Youtube. What a great race! So much action and controversy. I should have watched this live but I guess I’ve been busy with Christmas and football etc. This was on the same day as the Grey Cup? Wow, that was quite a day. Thanks for writing about this Paul. As we say, “You ain’t much if you ain’t Dutch”. Congrats to Max Verstappen!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        It sure was the same day as the Grey Cup. I was in the front of the TV for about 12 hours straight that day. It was an incredible final race. All the action was within the first 5 laps and the last 5 laps. The middle felt like a let down but the drama at the end saved the day. Really happy Max won it, should set up a good season next year!

        Liked by 1 person

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