The battle for the 2021 F1 World Championship is now even closer following the Qatar Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton's dominant victory reduced his deficit in the standings to Max Verstappen to eight points, with just two races remaining in the season.
However, despite the momentum seemingly being with Hamilton and Mercedes at the Losail International Circuit, it is still possible for Verstappen to claim the title at the next race in Saudi Arabia, rather than it being decided during the final weekend of the year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
In fact, it is only Verstappen who can achieve this feat in Jeddah, as it is not mathematically feasible for Hamilton. But how can the Dutchman do it?
Verstappen has to outscore Hamilton
If Verstappen and Hamilton were to end the season on equal points, Verstappen would be the one to win the title, based on the fact that he has won more races than Hamilton in 2021.
So to secure the championship after the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, Verstappen would need to have an advantage of 26 points (the maximum points available, with 25 points for a win and one point for fastest lap). This means that, given his current eight-point lead, he would need to outscore Hamilton by 18 points.
There are four ways in which the Red Bull driver could do this.
How Verstappen can win the title in Jeddah
- Verstappen wins the race and sets the fastest lap (26 points), whilst Hamilton finishes sixth or lower (maximum eight points)
- Verstappen wins the race but does not set the fastest lap (25 points), whilst Hamilton finishes seventh or lower (maximum six points)
- Verstappen finishes second and sets the fastest lap (19 points), whilst Hamilton finishes 10th or lower (maximum one point)
- Verstappen finishes second but does not set fastest lap (18 points), whilst Hamilton finishes outside the top 10 (no points)
All still to play for
Whilst one of these scenarios could make for a thrilling spectacle, it perhaps seems more likely that the title fight will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.
This could be made even more tense by the possiblity of Verstappen and Hamilton arriving at the season finale on equal points, meaning that it really would be a case of 'winner takes it all'.
Should Hamilton win in Saudi Arabia and take the point for fastest lap, with Verstappen finishing second, both would head to Abu Dhabi on 369.5 points.
What about the Constructors' Championship?
It is clearly still all to play for in the Drivers' Championship, and the same can be said for the Constructors'. Mercedes have a five-point lead over Red Bull, but it seems unlikely that the Silver Arrows could claim this title in Jeddah.
For this to happen, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas would need to outscore Verstappen and Sergio Perez by 38 points, which would perhaps only happen if Red Bull had a disastrous weekend.
The only thing that currently seems certain is that the closely-fought title battle of the 2021 F1 season will end in suitably exciting fashion.
F1 Podcast: Is it game over for Red Bull after Hamilton's Qatar domination?
Does Lewis Hamilton's recent run of form against Max Verstappen now make him the favourite to claim the title? F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Thomas Maher and Mike Seymour discuss this and more in the latest episode of the RacingNews365 podcast!