THE Formula One title race is reaching boiling point – just as the season comes to an end with three races in the Middle East heat.
Max Verstappen still leads the way on 332.5 points with rival Lewis Hamilton behind on 318.5.
The Brit closed the gap to 14 points on Sunday with his spectacular win in Sunday’s Sao Paulo GP, storming from tenth on the grid to win by ten seconds.
That was despite Verstappen dangerously forcing Hamilton wide when he looked to have overtaken – and getting no punishment.
And it was the 11th time this season the pair have claimed the top two spots on the podium.
But the reigning champion still has plenty of work to do to overturn the deficit.
The F1 season goes to Qatar next weekend before a weekend off and then Saudi Arabia and UAE to finish off what has been a spectacular season – with the drama set to go down to the wire.
explains how Hamilton can catch Verstappen and win a record-breaking eighth drivers’ world championship…
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As stated, Verstappen currently holds a 14-point advantage over Hamilton with three races left.
That means there are 78 points up for grabs for the drivers – 25 for a race win plus the additional point for the fastest lap.
If Hamilton wins the next two races, collecting 50 points, and Verstappen comes second, adding 36 to his total, they would be absolutely level on 368.5 points with one race to go.
That would be before the fastest lap is taken into consideration.
So should Verstappen take one of those fastest laps in Qatar or Saudi, Hamilton would need to get more points than Verstappen in Abu Dhabi.
Therefore, three wins from the final three races would guarantee the title for Hamilton.
Should Verstappen win in Qatar, though, he would be 21 points clear with two races to go and therefore finishing second behind Hamilton in both would be enough.
It could still finish absolutely level on points.
And in that case, Verstappen would be crowned world champion.
He currently leads 9-6 – so the Red Bull racer is guaranteed to come out on top if they tie for points.
ABU DHABI DECIDER
And going into the Abu Dhabi race with any advantage, Verstappen would know if neither driver made it to the finish line he would be crowned champion.
The pair have collided already this season – at Monza where they were both retired and also at Silverstone where the Dutchman crashed into the tyre wall before Sunday’s controversy.
And Mercedes boss Toto Wolff would not be surprised to see further contact in Abu Dhabi if the title is on the line.
He said: “If it was to come to the scenario of the last race in Abu Dhabi and they were to be racing each other for the title, whoever is in front is absolutely going to try to do the same as in the Senna-Prost years.
“If you are racing for the championship and you see it fading away because the other guy is overtaking you, what tool have you got other than the one that makes sure he can’t overtake?
“We’ve seen it with Schumacher and Villeneuve, we saw it with Senna and Prost twice.
“I would never give the instruction to crash into anyone else but if they go to that last race and whoever is in front wins the championship, they will be racing each other, hard.”