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Verstappen or Hamilton: Who is in the better position?

Just eight points separate Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in the F1 Drivers’ Championship with two events to go. But who is in the stronger position? RacingNews365.com takes a look.

They often say the greatest sportspeople in the world thrive under the pressure, and that's exactly what Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have been able to do in recent races. Just two events remain in this enthralling 2021 Formula 1 World Championship and it's Verstappen who holds an eight-point advantage over Hamilton. But momentum is on Hamilton's side as he impressively won back-to-back races in Brazil and Qatar. A brand-new venue in Saudi Arabia awaits, before the finale at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, which has undergone several layout changes. The big question is, which driver is favourite to come out on top in this thrilling title race?

Is Verstappen's points advantage enough?

In theory, Verstappen could become World Champion if Hamilton has a shocker next time out on race day in Jeddah. It would realistically require an incident or reliability issue for Hamilton for this to happen. The key for Verstappen is he will be leading the championship going into the finale as long as he finishes in the top two. Even if Hamilton wins and scores the extra point for the fastest lap of the race, he can only tie Verstappen on points as long as the Dutchman finishes in second place. Verstappen would have nine wins to Hamilton's eight in this scenario, so would be ahead on countback. In every race Verstappen has taken the chequered flag and not suffered substantial damage, he has finished first or second. That's an incredible record. Verstappen has two shots to win the title, whereas Hamilton likely needs to win both races to become champion. Even if Verstappen has a nightmare in Saudi Arabia, he will still mathematically be in title contention, albeit relying on a poor weekend for Hamilton in Abu Dhabi. This is the critical advantage for Verstappen in the title fight.

Hamilton with the car advantage

Whilst Verstappen has the all-important small points buffer, Hamilton appears to have the car advantage. Should the seven-time World Champion win the final two races, he will take the title. It's easier said than done and he hasn't won four consecutive races all season. But he hasn't had a machinery advantage like he has now, either, and Hamilton is favourite for each of the final two races. If Mercedes have the car to beat in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, it's simply a question of: can they execute under pressure? Their destiny is in their own hands in that sense. On the other hand, Verstappen and Red Bull might need a poor start from Hamilton, a strategical error from Mercedes or a well-timed Safety Car to win one of the last races. There are more variables for Hamilton to overcome, but he has all of the experience to deliver. A look at the end of the 2016 season, when Hamilton won the final four races only to fall short to Nico Rosberg, shows the British driver knows how to keep his head down and execute when a victory is needed. Hamilton may not have won that year, but he kept the championship alive until the very end by converting four pole positions into wins.

So who has the upper hand?

The title fight could not be more finely poised. Verstappen has some points to play with, but Hamilton should have the car advantage. If everything is straightforward and goes according to plan, Hamilton will be champion. But F1 in 2021 has been anything but predictable. If the championship protagonists finish 1-2 in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, they will have filled out the top two spots in each of the final six races. That would be remarkable and would demonstrate how incredible both drivers are. It feels like there will be one last twist, though. The intensity is sky-high and surely one of these great drivers or teams will crack or suffer some misfortune. Only twice has the championship leader going into the final two races failed to win the title this century. This happened with Michael Schumacher in 2006 (although he was level with Fernando Alonso with two events remaining), and Alonso himself in 2010 when Sebastian Vettel snatched the championship away. In that year, Vettel never led the title race until after the finale in Abu Dhabi. The climax for the 2021 F1 season is nearly upon us, but will it be anticlimactic or one that goes down to the wire?

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