Max Verstappen holds a slender lead over Lewis Hamilton with two races remaining
Lewis Hamilton closed further on Max Verstappen in a thrilling drivers’ championship with a dominant win at the Qatar Grand Prix.
But despite narrowing the gap to just eight points with two races remaining, the Belgian-Dutch driver (351.5 points) can close the deal in Saudi Arabia in what has been a fascinating F1 season.
Alternatively, the seven-time world champion (343.5 points) can usurp the Red Bull star for the first time since the 15th race of the season at the Russian Grand Prix, when the Briton had a two-point advantage. That ramps up the pressure at the first-ever race at the Jeddah street track on 5 December, with one mistake likely to prove vital.
There is the prospect of a first-ever title race with both drivers tied on points, while Hamilton could become the first winner since Nico Rosberg in 2016 to win the title with less Grand Prix victories than a rival, as he currently trails Verstappen 9-7.
Here’s how the title race can come to a premature close before the season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 12 December.
How Verstappen can win in Saudi Arabia
– If Verstappen wins the race, secures the fastest lap (26 points) and Hamilton finishes sixth (8 points) or worse
– If Verstappen wins the race, fails to secure the fastest lap (25 points) and Hamilton finishes seventh (6 points) or worse
– If Verstappen finishes second, secures the fastest lap (19 points) and Hamilton finishes 10th (1 point) or worse
– If Verstappen finishes second, fails to secure the fastest lap (18 points) and Hamilton finishes outside the top 10
What Hamilton needs to win eighth world title
– Hamilton is eight points behind Verstappen, meaning a nine-point swing in his favour over two races is needed.
– A win and the fasted lap in Saudi Arabia will ensure Verstappen can only remain level with a second-place finish, meaning Hamilton would simply have to better his rival in the finale.
– If the drivers are tied on points, which has never happened in F1 history, the winner will be the driver with the most wins, with Verstappen currently leading 9-7. Hamilton would overtake Verstappen on points with two wins in the final two races, winning the championship by at least four – though the rules state that if the drivers were level once again it would go to most second-place finishes.
How Mercedes can clinch constructors’ championship in Saudi Arabia
The constructors’ battle, while also unlikely, could be settled in Saudi Arabia, with Mercedes currently taking a five-point advantage over Red Bull into the penultimate race.
With both drivers able to accumulate points towards the team total, there are a maximum of 44 available, with 25 points for the win and 18 points for the runner-up either, with one more for either driver if they drive the fastest lap.
If Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas could outscore the Red Bull pair of Verstappen and Sergio Perez by 38 points, then Mercedes would clinch an eighth straight title.
But if Verstappen and Perez complete the circuit in Jeddah unscathed, we’ll likely see the team race go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.
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