Lewis Hamilton v Max Verstappen predictions: F1 experts have their say on Abu Dhabi finale

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen analysed by Coulthard

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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen go head-to-head in one of the most dramatic season finales in F1 history. The two title protagonists face off in Abu Dhabi locked over 369.5 points, with the battle for the championship going down to the wire.

Verstappen heads into the title decider with the advantage after grabbing pole ahead Hamilton. 

The Red Bull driver has put himself in a brilliant position to clinch the title, with his time of of 1:22.109 proving more than enough to keep Hamilton at bay.

Hamilton has not given up hope though of claiming a record eighth world title, saying afterwards: “Max did a great lap today. We just couldn’t compete with that time at the end there. It was looking really strong through practice.

“That was a fantastic lap from him. We’re in a good position with our tyres for tomorrow and I hope we can have a good race.”

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The Mercedes star will still come into the race with the momentum after a hat-trick of wins in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia set up this enthralling finale. 

There is no separating the pair ahead of Sunday’s winner-takes-all scenario.

However, Express Sport has spoken to several of Sky’s F1 experts and they seem to be in no doubts as to who will take the crown with one clear winner being backed.

Here are their predictions for the Abu Dhabi showdown.

JENSON BUTTON, former F1 champion and Sky F1 columnist

RACHEL BROOKES, Sky F1 presenter

“I think Lewis will win. Max told me in Austria this year that he wouldn’t take risks as he had something to lose now.

“I believe he felt that way until Silverstone and then the gloves came off. His calm exterior gradually began to show the smallest cracks and I think this year will make him a complete competitor on and off track, but not a champion, yet.”

Verdict: Hamilton

ANTHONY DAVIDSON, former F1 driver and Sky F1 analyst

“I think the momentum is with Lewis Hamilton at the moment, he’s been winning the current races, the car looks strong in race trim particularly. He drove a magical race obviously in Brazil to come from the back of the grid to win the race. 

“And in Qatar he looked comfortable. Red Bull seem to have the pace in qualifying but I really think, especially with this new circuit modification in Abu Dhabi that it might fall more in the hands of Lewis. 

“Like I say, he’s the one that seems to have the bit between his teeth and he’s not going down without a fight. It’s been a joy to watch the last couple of Grands Prix so I’ll pick Lewis as the winner for this year’s championship, but only just.”

Verdict: Hamilton

DAVID CROFT, Sky F1 lead commentator

“Max has a win-at-all-costs way of going racing, Lewis with the experience knows that sometimes you have to pull out of the scrap to win the overall battle, but to pull out of any scrap with Max Verstappen in the final race might not give him time to win the eventual overall battle. It is winner takes all, it’s going to absolutely fabulous under the lights and I can’t wait calling it home.

“I actually don’t know hand on heart who it’s going to be. It’s been Max for so long this season, but the momentum is with Mercedes. Lewis has experience but Max has that fire in his belly and he won’t want to let this opportunity go. All I know is that the talking will stop as the lights go out in terms of team bosses, those on the pit wall and behind the visors and will start to walk the walk and that’s the bit I can’t wait for.

“It’s a battle for the ages and the sands of time are running out here in the desert for this season and may the best driver win because whoever does win will be the best driver of the season. Hopefully, it will be a moment of magic and not controversy that decides this title race because that’s what we all deserve after this incredible season, but it’s too close to call as far as I’m concerned.”

Verdict: On the fence

KARUN CHANDHOK, Racing driver and Sky F1 commentator and expert

“It’s so hard to predict, but I would say the favourite is probably Lewis after taking a hat-trick of wins to arrive at the final day in a winner-takes-all situation. Mercedes and Lewis seem to have gained a lot of momentum and the last few races will have given them a lot of confidence heading into the finale so I would say he’s the favourite.”

Verdict: Hamilton

NATALIE PINKHAM, Sky Sports pitlane reporter

“‘It’s been a true privilege to be involved in F1 in 2021, to witness the skill of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and really to make a prediction as to he is going to take the title on Sunday is impossible.

“We have tried to make predictions based on historical data and past form before and it’s come to nothing because the form book has been thrown out of the window and any kind of assumption based on prior knowledge has been futile.

“But this has without doubt been the best season I’ve ever been involved in and on Sunday, whoever wins, it will be an incredible and deserved achievement because Lewis will take a historic eighth win, Max will take his first world title. The only shame for me is that one of them will have to walk away empty handed.

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Verdict: On the fence

TOTAL

Hamilton = 5 votes

Verstappen = 0 votes

On the fence = 2

It’s only live once. Watch the dramatic finale of a F1 season like no other, live at 1pm on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event Sunday, 12th December.

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