Back-to-back victories for Lewis Hamilton in Brazil and Qatar have left the championship battle on a knife-edge heading into the final two races of a spellbinding F1 season. 

Verstappen leads title rival Hamilton by eight points going into the first-ever grand prix to be held in Saudi Arabia with a total of 52 points up for grabs across the final two rounds in the Middle East.

Hamilton has seized the recent momentum in what is proving to be a fascinating and closely-fought world championship battle between Mercedes and Red Bull amid his quest to claim a historic eighth drivers’ crown. 

While the title battle appears set to go down to the wire, Verstappen has the first opportunity to take ‘match point’ and score a famous maiden world title in Jeddah.

If Verstappen can stretch his points advantage to 26 come the chequered flag on Sunday, Hamilton will be powerless to stop the Red Bull driver from clinching the 2021 drivers’ crown early. 

Here is how Verstappen can achieve the 18-point swing he requires to land the world championship with a race to spare. 

Verstappen’s possible routes to the title 

- If Verstappen finishes first with the fastest lap and Hamilton finishes sixth or lower 

- If Verstappen finishes first and Hamilton finishes seventh or lower 

- If Verstappen finishes second with the fastest lap and Hamilton finishes 10th or lower 

- If Verstappen finishes second and Hamilton finishes outside of the top-10 

However, a points swing of 18 points or more has only happened twice this year.

These occurred in Monaco (Verstappen won with Hamilton seventh) and at Silverstone when Verstappen crashed out following a first-lap collision with Hamilton, who went on to win the British Grand Prix.

That statistic, along with the fact Verstappen and Hamilton have locked out the top two steps on the podium at 12 of the 20 races, points towards the world championship not being settled until the Abu Dhabi season finale. 

Regardless of where Verstappen finishes, Hamilton cannot win the title in Saudi Arabia. 

Should Hamilton take victory along with the fastest lap bonus point and Verstappen is second in Jeddah, the two championship protagonists will head to the final race of the season equal on points. 

Even without the fastest lap, a second successive win at a new F1 track for Hamilton would set up the mouth-watering prospect of a winner-takes-all showdown at Yas Marina. 

What the title contenders have said 

Verstappen: “Of course I know it’s going to be difficult to the end but I think that’s nice, it keeps it exciting. I would, of course, have liked to make it a bigger gap, but when you don't have the pace, it’s impossible to do that. So we’ll just try to be better, and come back strong, especially in Saudi on the street track, and then we’ll see in Abu Dhabi.” 

Hamilton: “I feel great, the car is feeling better than ever, and I feel positive going into these next couple of races. I think they should be quite good for our car, so I'm looking forward to that battle.” 

What about the constructors’ championship?

While the focus is largely fixated on the drivers’ title scrap, the battle for supremacy between Mercedes and Red Bull in the constructors’ championship is equally intense and remains finely poised. 

Mercedes can wrap up an eighth consecutive constructors’ title in Saudi Arabia, though such a scenario seems highly unlikely. 

The reigning world champions head to Jeddah just five points clear of Red Bull with a maximum of 88 points (including fastest laps) left to play for across the final two events. 

In order to continue its unbeaten run in the V6 hybrid era and to be crowned constructors’ world champions once again, Mercedes would need to outscore Red Bull by 40 points in Saudi Arabia. 

There is no mathematical situation that would see Red Bull score a first constructors’ world title since 2013 until at least Abu Dhabi. 

Even if Verstappen and Sergio Perez finished in a 1-2 with the fastest lap and Mercedes failed to score, Red Bull would only find itself 39 ahead with 44 points still available.