Verstappen and Hamilton enter the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale in exactly the same situation they found themselves going into the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix 21 races ago; tied dead level on points. 

It tees up the remarkable prospect of a winner-takes-all showdown that is fitting of a truly extraordinary F1 season for the ages. 

Verstappen has won nine races and taken nine pole positions compared to Hamilton’s eight victories and five poles, with both drivers pushing each other to unlock exceptional levels of performance this year.

They have been in a league of their own at the front of the F1 field, but who would be the more deserving world champion? Our writers have their say…

The argument for Max Verstappen 

While Verstappen’s driving was over the limit and rightfully punished by the FIA in Jeddah, it was a rare blemish on the Dutchman’s spectacular 2021 campaign.

Excluding Azerbaijan, Britain, Hungary and Italy - all races where misfortune events occurred, mostly out of his control - Verstappen has either finished first or second, remarkable consistency for a driver in his first-ever F1 title battle.

Lady luck hasn’t been on his side. 

Verstappen was on for a guaranteed victory before his tyre failure in Azerbaijan, while at Silverstone, he’d have had a serious shot at the win had he not been punted out of the lead by Hamilton.

It was a similar story in Hungary, but this time it was the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas who was culpable.

You can easily make the argument that Verstappen has lost at least 50 points through incidents that were completely out of his control. 

Red Bull has indeed given Verstappen a car capable of taking the title, but he’s certainly delivered the maximum at every race.

His win at Zandvoort - in front of a full capacity home crowd - showed that he’s not one to buckle under the pressure.

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Verstappen’s approach to racing also has to be credited. 

Granted, he pushes the limits but to beat a driver of Hamilton’s calibre - he simply has to do so.

Hamilton is a fierce racer, one of the best in wheel-to-wheel combat and Verstappen has tamed him to some extent with his ultra-aggressive, on-the-edge approach.

Regardless, even if he doesn’t take the title in Abu Dhabi, this season should go down as one of the best not to win it.

Up there with Fernando Alonso in 2012, Hamilton in 2007 or Michael Schumacher in 1998.

There are now zero doubts about Verstappen’s ability and if he is to secure the title in Abu Dhabi, then it would be the final confirmation that the Dutchman is the heir to Hamilton’s throne at the top of F1.

Connor McDonagh 

The argument for Lewis Hamilton 

The statistics may well favour Verstappen - who has arguably been the more consistent over the course of the entire campaign - but a fifth successive world championship success for Hamilton would go down as one of the greatest title triumphs of his career, if not the best. 

Despite winning the opening race of the year in Bahrain, Hamilton and Mercedes started the season on the back foot owing to floor regulation changes over the winter that hampered it more than Red Bull. 

Mercedes spent much of the first half of the season trying to understand the optimal set-up for its diva-like W12 that endured wild performance fluctuations compared to the more stable and inherently fast RB16B. 

As the year progressed, Mercedes slowly began to turn the tables on Red Bull, helped in part by the introduction of its only big upgrade of the season at the British Grand Prix. 

Hamilton has not been error-free. His blushes were spared by a red flag in Imola, he had an uncharacteristically off weekend in Monaco, and he blew the chance to capitalise on Verstappen’s misfortune in Baku with a costly slip of the finger. 

Nevertheless, this season has still featured some of Hamilton’s best-ever displays. He has won both races when Mercedes had the slight performance advantage and at times when Red Bull held the edge. 

When victory wasn’t possible, Hamilton limited the damage on several occasions by finishing right behind Verstappen to keep himself in with a shot.

But Hamilton has saved his most impressive performances until when it matters most - the championship run-in. 

Just four races ago the title race almost looked over, with Verstappen extending his lead to 19 points with a dominant victory in Mexico. Then came Hamilton’s biggest setback in Brazil following an exclusion after topping qualifying.

Hamilton’s response was phenomenal. A stunning fightback drive saw the Briton recover from 20th to the very front across the sprint race and grand prix in Interlagos, passing Verstappen en route to one of F1’s greatest ever victories. 

Mercedes appears to have gotten over its early-season troubles and has boasted the faster car over the last three races. Hamilton has taken full advantage to claim a hat-trick of wins in ruthless and convincing fashion. 

He has dealt with everything that has been thrown at him with the calm and experienced head of a seven-time world champion and set up one of the most thrilling title deciders in F1 history in the process. 

In the heat of battle, Hamilton has kept his head when Verstappen at times lost his. While Verstappen has certainly been unlucky to lose a lot of points this year through misfortune, he also has to hold some responsibility. 

Crashes at Silverstone and Monza could have been avoided had Verstappen conceded to Hamilton, like the latter has done on several occasions when the roles were reversed. A win would have still been on the cards at the British GP even if Verstappen did give Hamilton the corner at Copse. Even if he finished second, he would have already wrapped up the title by now.

Hamilton’s more calculated approach to wheel-to-wheel combat has ultimately kept him in the race for a title that at times looked well out of reach. 

If a record-breaking eighth world title was to follow, it would have been hard-fought and completely earned to silence the critics who continue to question Hamilton’s ability. 

Regardless of who ultimately comes out on top, both drivers would be worthy world champions at the end of what has been a spellbinding season to savour.  

Lewis Larkam

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