After 21 races of what has been a blockbuster F1 season, Verstappen and Hamilton still cannot be separated and enter the Abu Dhabi title decider level on 269.5 points with a maximum of 26 points left up for grabs. 

It sets up F1’s first last-race title decider since 2016. Remarkably, it will be just the second time that two championship protagonists have gone down to the wire on equal points in the last 47 years. 

The last time that happened was in 1974 when Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni were tied on 52 points entering the US Grand Prix. McLaren’s Fittipaldi ultimately prevailed to his second world championship with a fourth-place finish after Regazzoni came home 11th. 

Verstappen is going for a historic maiden world title to become the first non-Mercedes champion since 2013, while Hamilton has the chance to claim an unprecedented eighth world championship. 

Such an achievement would break the record Hamilton currently shares with Michael Schumacher and extend his reign at the top of the sport to five successive years. 

Simply put, whoever wins or finishes ahead of the other driver will be crowned world champion. 

The fastest lap bonus point will not have any bearing on the outcome of the world championship, unless Hamilton and Verstappen find themselves running in ninth and 10th and Verstappen holds the fastest lap. 

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This is the only scenario in which one driver can win the world title by finishing behind the other with both inside the top-10. 

That is because Verstappen will emerge victorious in any event of a points tie due to winning nine races compared to Hamilton’s eight.  

Verstappen’s count-back advantage also raises the prospect of the title being won in potentially contentious circumstances as the Red Bull driver could afford to have a race-ending collision with Hamilton. 

But in a clean, straight fight, whichever driver outscores the other will ultimately triumph. 

Meanwhile, in the constructors’ championship, Mercedes heads into the final round holding a relatively comfortable 28-point buffer over Red Bull thanks to its 1-3 finish in Saudi Arabia. 

With a total haul of 44 points available, Mercedes will win an eighth consecutive world championship and maintain its unbeaten record since 2014 if Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas score at least 17 points between them. 

Red Bull’s best chance of overturning its deficit is to seal a 1-2 finish, and even then it could still miss out if Mercedes scores with both cars. 

There has only been a single 1-2 result all season, and it wasn’t achieved by either of F1’s two front-running teams. 

All the statistics from this season would suggest that the odds are heavily stacked in Mercedes’ favour, especially considering it comes into the weekend with momentum on its side following a hat-trick of wins for Hamilton. 

Red Bull dominated last year’s season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit but the circuit has since been revised in a bid to boost overtaking opportunities for this year’s showpiece event.