Haas driver Nikita Mazepin has been ruled out of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after testing positive for coronavirus.

The Russian, who qualified at the back of the grid on Saturday, will sit out the season-ending race after returning a positive result at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Mazepin had driven in all of the sessions ahead of Sunday's concluding race, meaning reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi is unable to step in.

Mick Schumacher will therefore be Haas' sole representative in the 19-driver race, with the German starting from 19th.

Formula One confirmed all of Mazepin's close contacts have been declared and there will be no wider impact on Sunday's highly anticipated race.

A Haas statement read: "Nikita is physically well, having been asymptomatic, but he will now self-isolate and adhere to the guidelines of the relevant public health authorities, with safety the ultimate priority for all parties concerned.

"Uralkali Haas F1 Team wish Nikita well, and we look forward to his return to the race track in early 2022 for pre-season testing."

Mazepin, who is one of only two regular drivers – alongside team-mate Schumacher – without a point to his name this season, added in a social media post: "Hi, everyone!  Sorry to report I've had a positive Covid test.  

"Feeling totally fine but won't be able to race today. Wishing all my fellow drivers a fantastic end to the season and sending thanks and love to everyone for their support."

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton indicated they have both enjoyed their heated rivalry for this season's Formula One world championship on the eve of their crucial encounter in Abu Dhabi.

Both go into Sunday's final race of the season level on 369.5 points, just the second time the top two in F1 have headed into the finale all square.

Red Bull's Verstappen beat Mercedes and Hamilton to pole position on Saturday by 0.371 seconds with a flying lap that gives him a clear view of his first world championship.

Should he win his eighth title on Sunday, Hamilton will surpass Michael Schumacher in becoming the driver to have won the most world championships in F1 history.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Sunday's race, Verstappen and Hamilton were both asked to list some positives about the other, despite the rivalry appearing to turn nasty in recent times.

"I think Lewis has already won so many championships, but also this year I think we have been pushing each other, certainly in some races, to the limit," Verstappen said. 

"We have been really basically trying to get everything out of our cars, tyres, to the last lap, to the last corner and that's very exciting, especially when it's been between two teams as well because when it's team-mates, it's always a bit different.

"But when two teams are fighting, you have different strategies you don't know about, preparation, so it has been really enjoyable for most of the time.

"That's normal in a championship and yeah, of course, in 10, 20 years' time, people will look back at it, even myself, and you will remember this year for sure."

Hamilton agreed, adding: "Well said. I agree fully. It’s been an incredible year, an amazing battle and I'm grateful that I've had such a close battle with Max and his team.

"I think they've done an exceptional job and shown true strength and so it's pushed us to the limit in ways that we needed and we, I think, have grown stronger as a team in ways we didn't know that we could grow and yeah, it's been amazing. I hope that we have many more seasons like this."

The Dutchman does enjoy a slender advantage in the title race due to his superior win tally, and is also boosted by the fact that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix's winner has started from pole in each of the last six races, though he was keen to play down the significance of statistics.

"First of all," Verstappen said. "I never look at these stats because these things can already change at the start or whatever, first lap, so I just need to focus on what we can control as a team and yeah, the coming hours.

"I think what's most important is to have a good sleep, but also I have friends and family around, so I'm not going to do anything different to what I normally have been doing."

Verstappen will start on a soft tyre that should initially work in his favour, potentially leaving Hamilton – on mediums – battling the chasing pack. Hamilton is not too worried, though, saying: "I feel good. I'm happy that I'm on the front row. I can see my opponent.

"Obviously it's going to be a little bit harder at the start off the medium tyre as opposed to the soft tyre but nonetheless, I'm giving it everything."

Toto Wolff saw cause for concern in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday but is backing Lewis Hamilton to muster an "angry" response in the decisive season-ending race.

Max Verstappen beat title rival Hamilton to pole position by 0.371 seconds with a flying lap that gives him a clear view of his first Formula One world championship.

Verstappen and Hamilton enter Sunday's race tied on 369.5 points, just the second ever example of the top two in F1 heading into the finale all square.

Red Bull's Verstappen already has a slender advantage due to his superior win tally – a potential tie-breaker – and will now lead Hamilton off the start line, prompting Mercedes team principal Wolff to acknowledge to Sky Sports: "It's 1-0 for them."

Verstappen will also start on a soft tyre that should initially work in his favour, potentially leaving Hamilton – on mediums – battling the chasing pack.

"I am also worried for tomorrow because their long runs were much better on Friday," Wolff said. "Our tyres were just not in the window they were.

"You can see Q1, Q2 was ours. It looked like a pretty easy run, and then you lose all the performance.

"The pace was there. Obviously on the long runs you do not know. The car that's faster tomorrow will win the race, irrespective of who starts on which tyre."

Wolff added: "This is a long race, and it's Lewis Hamilton in the car."

Indeed, Hamilton is not lacking motivation as he pursues a record-breaking eighth championship.

"He's hunting," his boss said. "I think there is nothing you need to say. I think he's going to be angry and that's good, motivated for tomorrow to hunt him down.

"We are on the back foot. Sometimes you need to see the positive, sometimes that's not bad as a starting point."

Sergio Perez gave Red Bull team-mate Verstappen a tow to boost his pole bid, although chief Christian Horner pointed out his main man had enough pace regardless.

"I think that's one of Max's best laps of the year," Horner said. "Even on the following lap that we got him to back off on, he matched the time. The tow was probably worth a tenth or two, not half a second.

"His last sector, when you look at the level of downforce he's got on, is insane, absolutely insane."

Horner, who was "surprised" Hamilton stayed on the mediums, added: "I think that Max is giving it everything. He's driving his heart out. He's thrown everything at this session."

Max Verstappen's flying performance secured pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton declared Mercedes had no answer to his pace.

Hamilton and Verstappen head into Sunday's race vying for the title. Both drivers are level on 369.5 points, though Verstappen holds an advantage courtesy of his nine race wins in 2021, to Hamilton's eight.

Red Bull driver Verstappen may have taken a big step towards claiming his maiden title, and ending Hamilton's dominance, however, after he recorded a best time of one minute and 22.109 seconds in his first run of Q3 in Saturday's qualifying session.

Hamilton will start in second, having clocked in at 0.371 seconds slower than his title rival, with Lando Norris in third place. Sergio Perez, who went out ahead of Verstappen in Q3, towed his Red Bull team-mate down the long straight, taking a hit on his own time in the process.

The Mexican nevertheless will start in fourth, two places ahead of Valtteri Bottas in his final race for Mercedes, who are 28 points ahead of Red Bull in the constructors' championship, which is also up for grabs.

For his part, Hamilton was just happy to have kept Verstappen within touching distance, with the reigning world champion complimentary of his rival, who said on Thursday that the Briton had gone down in his estimations.

"Firstly, Max did a great lap today. We just couldn't compete with that time at the end," Hamilton said.

"It was looking really strong through practice. We just couldn't answer to that lap. We're in a good position I'd like to think with our tyres tomorrow.

"The last lap was nice and clean, I just couldn't go any quicker. I couldn't beat that time he did today, he deserved pole. I'm still on the front row. I'm grateful I can see where he is!"

Verstappen looked set for pole in Saudi Arabia last week, having gone fastest in the first two sectors, but he hit the barriers on the last corner and had to stop, handing Hamilton the first place on the grid.

After claiming his eighth pole of the season, Verstappen said: "It's of course an amazing feeling. We definitely improved the car again in qualifying. Incredibly happy with this.

"It's never easy with [Mercedes'] form the last few races. I am just looking forward to tomorrow because that's where the points are.

"I felt good on both tyres. Naturally now in the evening it's a bit cooler, so it should be easier on the soft tyres. We'll see where we end up."

Lewis Hamilton "feels great" at the end of the first day of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but is expecting a "super close" race regardless.

Hamilton goes into Sunday's final race tied with title rival Max Verstappen on 369.5 points, with a record eighth World Championship on the line for the Mercedes driver.

It is only the second time the top two have gone into the last grand prix of the season level on points after Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni in 1974.

Hamilton set the fastest time in FP2, going three-tenths clear after finishing third in FP1 behind Verstappen and team-mate Valtteri Bottas at Yas Marina Circuit.

"[The car] doesn't feel too bad," Hamilton said. "It started off good but got a bit worse in P1, then started off better in the second session with some changes we made.

"Now we just have to crank through the data and try to figure out how we can improve, where we home in. The target is always moving, but yes, otherwise, I feel good.

"I feel good, I feel great in my body and as I said, I think we made some positive steps set-up wise, so we'll try and perfect it tonight and come back hard tomorrow.

"It's obviously close between us all. We got through our sessions a bit unknown in terms of pace but I'm sure it's going to be super close like it has been in previous races."

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, however, was less upbeat about his team's chances of success, citing Mercedes' strength in the first two sectors.

"[Mercedes] look very competitive here, certainly in the first two sectors," Horner said. "I think Sector 3 we come back at them, but the damage is done in the first two sectors. We've still got 24 hours or 23 hours [before qualifying] to try and find a better set-up and a bit more pace.

"We've got plenty of data, we've got some areas of the car we need to tidy up overnight. It's going to be a long evening certainly here, back in Milton Keynes, trying to tidy up the car. I think the long run pace looked sensible; we just need to tidy up the pace for the short runs."

Verstappen echoed Horner's sentiments, finding some positives in the long runs, but admitting the short runs needed work.

"I mean, we're still learning and understanding a few things but of course clearly the short run didn't go to plan – lacking a bit of pace – but the long runs were quite a bit more competitive so of course, that's also a bit more important," Verstappen added.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen set the pace in Friday's two Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice sessions as the Formula One title race remains too close to call.

The championship will be awarded after Sunday's final race, which Hamilton and Verstappen enter all square on 369.5 points.

It is only the second time – after Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni in 1974 – the top two have been tied in the standings ahead of the last grand prix of the season.

Verstappen's superior wins record means he would take the title if neither driver finished in the points, but that seems unlikely – barring a dramatic crash – based on Friday's results.

The Red Bull posted the fastest time in the first session at one minute and 25.009 seconds, with Hamilton back in third, behind Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

But Hamilton, Esteban Ocon and Bottas all beat Verstappen in FP2, the defending champion out in front with a time of one minute and 23.691 seconds in a session that was much faster than FP1.

The second session, in which Verstappen was more than six-tenths off the pace, should in theory be more indicative of the race, taking place later in the day at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen's final weekend in Formula One got off to an unconvincing start as the retiring former champion hit the wall at Turn 14 in FP2.

Raikkonen emerged from his car unharmed but left Alfa Romeo with plenty of repairs.

Lewis Hamilton is not concerned about colliding with Max Verstappen in the decisive Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he prepares to go "full steam ahead" in his quest to make history.

Hamilton and Verstappen will start the last race of the Formula One season at the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday level on points in a captivating battle for the title.

Tensions between the defending champion and Red Bull's Verstappen heightened further in a chaotic Saudi Arabia Grand Prix last weekend, which Hamilton won to set up a thrilling finale.

Verstappen was penalised five seconds for leaving the track to gain an advantage and another 10 for causing a collision with Hamilton.

Hamilton accused the Dutchman of going "over the limit" after their latest clashes in Jeddah, while Verstappen said when they faced the media on Thursday that the Mercedes man had gone down in his estimations this season.

Verstappen will be crowned champion for the first time if Hamilton fails to pick up as many points as him due to winning more races this season and the 24-year-old said he will do "whatever is necessary" to win the title.

But Briton Hamilton is not giving any thought to the prospect of missing out on a record eighth title due to another collision.

Asked about the possibility of that happening, Hamilton said: "No, I honestly don't give it any energy.

"I'm here to do the best job I can with this incredible team and going back again, we never thought we'd be neck and neck going into the last race; we've had an amazing recovery collectively as a team and we've been in a great position these last few races.

"So, we go full steam ahead with that focus, and we don't waste energy on things that are out of our control.

"I think at the end of the day, I do believe that everyone here racing comes to win, I would like to believe everyone wants to do it the right way. So, I don't even let that creep into my mind."

Hamilton is sticking with the mindset that he is "the hunter" rather than a history-chasing defending champion.

"At the moment it just feels like another championship to me, I don't look at it as another multiple," he said. "I just look at it every season and every year from ground zero, you're the hunter and you're fighting from the moment you start training.

"The moment you get into the new year you're focused on training and winning. I don't turn up with ‘Number One’ on my car, I turn up with Number 44, I don't consider myself the one that's fighting for a championship."

Verstappen topped the podium in Abu Dhabi last year to halt Mercedes' run of six consecutive victories at this race, but Hamilton is hopeful the Silver Arrows can maintain the standards that have seen him win three races in a row to reel Verstappen in.

He said: "They won here last year. So without doubt they're going to be strong this weekend. But we've chased and caught up a lot and I think we can come here and be strong this weekend."

Fernando Alonso claims Max Verstappen has been the standout driver in Formula One this season, declaring the Red Bull star to be "one step ahead" as a winner-takes-all battle with Lewis Hamilton looms.

Two-time former drivers' championship winner Alonso claims Verstappen "deserves it" ahead of this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; but, like everyone, he is waiting keenly to see what unfolds.

The experienced Spaniard, currently with middle-of-the-pack Alpine, is too wily to predict anything at this stage, as Verstappen and Hamilton head into the final race of the season locked together on 369.5 points.

It is a scriptwriter's dream as the season comes to a close, but if Alonso looks back across the year, his hunch is that Verstappen has been the outstanding driver.

Looking ahead to Sunday's showdown, Alonso offered his expert view, saying: "It will depend on the package a little bit; Mercedes lately have been more performing, and they've won a couple of races now, but Max is driving – in my opinion – one step ahead of all of us.

"We saw the [qualifying] lap in Jeddah, until he touched the wall at the last corner, that lap was coming from Max, not the Red Bull.

"In a way, that's my opinion: Mercedes deserve the constructors' championship because the car is superior and Max, maybe overall in the year, was driving one step ahead of everyone."

It will come down to nerve and driving excellence on Sunday, plus whatever the teams can do to help the championship-chasing pair.

Alpine star Alonso is a former team-mate of Hamilton, dating back to 2007 in their time together at McLaren. That was Hamilton's first year in a Formula One seat, and in the final race of the season both the McLarens and Ferrari star Kimi Raikkonen were in the title frame.

Hamilton led the championship going into that race in Brazil but could only finish seventh, while Alonso took third and Raikkonen won the race. It meant Raikkonen carried off the title, with Hamilton and Alonso just one point behind the Finn.

The battle between Hamilton and his Mercedes team and Verstappen with Red Bull has become increasingly tense as the season has edged towards this remarkable finale.

Hamilton is chasing a record-breaking eighth title, which would take him above Michael Schumacher, while the 24-year-old Verstappen has yet to be crowned champion.

"It's not that I support Max. It's that he deserves it in my opinion," Alonso said, quoted on formula1.com.

"Everyone has a different opinion, but he is driving that Red Bull to another level. I think it is very interesting to watch from the outside, that’s good.

"What is happening at the front, as a motorsport fan you are following and you are aware of the stress... and it’s nice to watch from the outside."

Max Verstappen's opinion of Lewis Hamilton has changed for the worse during their dramatic title tussle across the 2021 season.

The two drivers head into the final race of the Formula One campaign with the title on the line after Hamilton won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to move level on points with the Dutchman in the drivers' championship.

Verstappen has the advantage as the pair prepare to meet in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, with the Red Bull driver holding the edge on races won (9-8), which means he will clinch his first title if Hamilton does not better his result.

The two contenders have endured a tumultuous relationship throughout the year after colliding three times, the most recent of those coming last weekend when the Briton hit the back of Verstappen's car.

Verstappen, though, incurred a 10-second time penalty for slowing down without due caution – to compound an earlier five-second punishment for gaining an advantage by leaving the track – and Hamilton could be heard on the radio furiously questioning his opponent's behaviour.

Asked whether his opinion of Hamilton, who is aiming for a record eighth championship triumph, and Mercedes had changed during the season, Verstappen said on Thursday: "Yes, very much so and not in a positive way.

"Clearly only I was wrong somehow [for the collision in Saudi Arabia], like I said other people do exactly the same thing and get nothing.

"Both of us were off the track into turn one and somehow they judged that it was my fault, that I don't agree with.

"The other penalty [causing the collision] as well I don't agree with, then afterwards [Hamilton] pushes me off the track, he even looks at me, he doesn't turn in, he just pushes me outside the white line, the track edge, and he only gets a warning for that.

"It's not how it should be, it's not fair because it seems like other drivers can do different things, and it seems like only I get a penalty."

Before the weekend's finale, FIA director Michael Masi issued a reminder of the rules, stating drivers can be punished with a points deduction if they are deemed to have intentionally crashed into their rival.

Masi added that stewards may decide to impose race bans for any untoward behaviour, but Verstappen insisted he would congratulate Hamilton if he wins fairly, even if he would not sit down for dinner with him. 

"I don't think we need to sit down," Verstappen told reporters at the news conference. "We are both here to win. 

"I will do of course everything to win and win the championship, whatever is necessary in terms of points. 

"I think we have raced really well together the whole year and I think we have put on a great show for everyone at the end of the day. So hopefully we can do that here."

Kimi Raikkonen says his wife will be more emotional than him when the Finn races for the final time in Formula One this weekend.

The 2007 world champion will bring the curtain down on his F1 career at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, having won 21 races, been on the podium 103 times and secured pole on 18 occasions.

Raikkonen's wife, Minttu, will be at the Yas Marina Circuit for his swansong along with his children, Robin and Rianna.

The 42-year-old is not sure what his emotions will be for his last race, but he expects his wife to shed a tear or two.

He said: "I think it's true my wife will be more emotional about it.

"Honestly I doubt that the kids will care either way, there are things their father does that are far more interesting! They like coming to a warm country and other things, but it's nice to have them here."

Asked if he will be emotional, Raikkonen replied: "I don't know, I doubt it, but you never know."

 

The Alfa Romeo driver says he has still not made any plans for retirement.

He added: "Right now I'm not looking at anything apart from finishing the year. We'll see if there's some interesting things that comes out, if it makes sense maybe I'll do it, but I have zero plans right now.

"I don't want to make any plans, I'm looking forward to having a less hectic schedule from my side, so we'll see if we'll do something or not in the future."

Raikkonen is 16th in the 2021 drivers' championship with 10 points.

A new deal has been agreed for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to remain on the Formula One calendar until 2030.

F1 races have taken place at the Yas Marina Circuit since 2009 and the track will this weekend stage a decisive finale to the 2021 season, with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen level on points in a captivating battle for the title.

It was announced on Thursday that F1 has renewed its contract with Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management (ADMM).

F1 CEO and president Stefano Domenicali said: "We are delighted to confirm that we will be racing in Abu Dhabi until 2030 under this new agreement. We are hugely looking forward to the season finale this weekend when more Formula One history will be made.

"The promoter, ADMM, always creates an incredible show for the final race of every F1 season and, combined with the changes made to improve the racing on the Yas Marina Circuit, we are excited for many years of racing in Abu Dhabi that is ahead of us."

Saif Al Noaimi, CEO of ADMM, said: "The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and Yas Marina Circuit continue to introduce hundreds of millions of spectators and TV viewers to Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates.

"The signing of a new multi-year deal with the Formula One Group not only represents the strength of our relationship but reaffirms our commitment to delivering an unparalleled and world-class race weekend experience for all visitors to enjoy."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes this year's dramatic Formula One title race is "amazing for the sport".

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen head into the final grand prix of the season level on points at the top of the drivers' championship.

Mercedes, meanwhile, are bidding to win their eighth constructors' title. The gap between themselves and Red Bull is 28 points, though Wolff's team could still lose the crown to their rivals.

With such drama promised in Abu Dhabi this weekend, Wolff thinks it can only serve as a boost to F1, which had become predictable due to Mercedes' dominance. 

Indeed, Hamilton is aiming for a record eighth world title and a fifth consecutive championship triumph.

Since 2014, Hamilton has only failed to win the championship on one occasion, finishing second to team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2016, while Verstappen and Red Bull are bidding for a maiden title.

"The final race will be intense, but it's important to not get distracted, to just keep our heads down, our feet on the ground and bring the performance that we had last time out," Wolff said in a release on Mercedes' official team website.

"We're grateful to still be in this fight. The fact that both championships will be decided at the season finale proves just how hard both sides have been challenging each other and pushing each other forward.

"It's all or nothing for the season finale and that's amazing for the sport, amazing for the fans and amazing for all of us, too.

"We're also relishing the challenges of racing in Abu Dhabi this weekend, at a circuit that has gone through quite a few changes since we last raced there.

"There are new sections of track to understand and that really is a step into the unknown for everyone. So, it's going to be another exciting weekend!"

Verstappen won the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and in the unlikely event both he and Hamilton finish outside of the points, it will be the Dutchman who wins the title courtesy of his nine race victories for the season.

Mercedes had won the previous six races in Abu Dhabi prior to Verstappen's victory last year. The Red Bull star is aiming to become the first F1 champion from the Netherlands, and he would be the fourth-youngest champion at the age of 24 years, two months and 12 days.

Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni, in 1974, are the only other F1 title rivals to have gone into the last race of a season level on points. Never in the history of the championship has a season ended with two drivers tied at the top of the standings.

As far as title races go, there have not been many better than this season's tussle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

A remarkable 2021 campaign ends in Abu Dhabi this weekend, with the Formula One championship up for grabs.

With 369.5 points each, Hamilton and Verstappen do battle for the world title; the Briton is aiming for a record eighth crown, his Dutch counterpart hoping to scoop his first.

Three straight race victories in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have seen Mercedes' Hamilton catch up with Verstappen, who has nine wins to his rival's eight.

The rivalry has boiled over. Tempers have been frayed. Verstappen was slapped with two penalties for his actions in Jeddah on Sunday as the Red Bull driver finished in second.

Everything is up for grabs on Sunday. The drivers' championship and the constructors' championship. Indeed, it is the first time two teams have gone into the final race vying for glory since 2008.

There is no more room for error. The winner will take it all in the United Arab Emirates.

LAST TIME OUT

Hamilton won an extraordinary Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in a race that set new standards for drama.

Having clinched his 103rd pole in F1 in Saturday's qualifying session after a costly Verstappen crash, Hamilton held his nerve amid plenty of controversies.

Verstappen got ahead after the season's penultimate race was red-flagged twice in the first 16 laps, but a series of virtual safety cars kept Hamilton in touch.

With Verstappen going beyond track limits to keep the lead, he was instructed to give the place back, only for Hamilton to crash into the back of him. Verstappen then did give the lead back to Hamilton at turn 27, but did so in a DRS zone, allowing him to swiftly regain the edge, that move also deemed unsatisfactory by race officials.

A five-second penalty all but ended hopes of a win for Verstappen, with Hamilton also clinching the fastest-lap bonus point to make things all square heading to Abu Dhabi. Verstappen leads the way in the championship thanks to his nine wins, however.

It was a bad day for Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who crashed into a wall, with Valtteri Bottas' third-place finish leaving Mercedes with the advantage in the constructors' championship.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN ABU DHABI

Drama. Tension. Blood, sweat and tears? This title race has had more twists and turns than Monte Carlo, but all will be settled.

Should both title rivals finish out of the points – it would seem unlikely, though you never know – Verstappen would take the crown based on his nine wins.

Hamilton has thrown plenty of accusations of aggressive and dangerous driving the Dutchman's way, and it would be hard to argue against that given recent events.

Verstappen led this race from beginning to end last season, however. Can he harness that form and composure under the finest of margins?

Mercedes' dominance of the constructors' championship has seen them win seven in a row. They hold a 28-point lead as it stands, meaning even a Verstappen-Perez one-two, plus the fastest lap bonus, would not be enough to necessarily deny Toto Wolff and his team an eighth triumph.

Indeed, Red Bull would need the fastest lap time, a minimum ninth place for one driver and a race win combined to win the title even if both Mercedes cars fail to finish.

This is also the final race of Kimi Raikkonen's F1 career, with the 2007 world champion set for retirement. Bottas will be his replacement at Alfa Romeo, bringing an end to his stay at Mercedes.

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

- Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni, in 1974, are the only other F1 title rivals to have gone into the last race of a season level on points. Never in the history of the championship has a season ended with two drivers tied at the top of the standings.
- Hamilton is the driver to have won the most races in Asia (3) and in the Middle East (15). This tally includes five victories and five pole positions in Abu Dhabi.
- Mercedes had won the previous six races in Abu Dhabi prior to Verstappen's victory in 2020. The Red Bull star is aiming to become the first F1 champion from The Netherlands, and he would be the fourth-youngest champion at the age of 24 years, two months and 12 days.
- Bottas is one podium finish away from equalling Rubens Barrichello as a non-championship winning driver to have achieved the highest amount of top-three finishes (68) in F1.
- Should Hamilton win, it will be a fourth race victory in a row, and would mean the Briton has achieved such a streak in six of the eight Hybrid Era seasons.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 369.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 369.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 218
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 190
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 158

Constructors

1. Mercedes 587.5
2. Red Bull 559.5
3. Ferrari 307.5
4. McLaren 269
5. Alpine 149

Max Verstappen's father does not believe his son will resort to ramming title rival Lewis Hamilton off the road in the final race of the Formula One season in order to win the championship.

Hamilton won an extraordinary Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday to move level on points with Max Verstappen in the F1 drivers' championship.

Heading into the final grand prix in Abu Dhabi next Sunday, Verstappen has the edge on races won (9-8) and so will clinch his first ever title if Hamilton does not better his result.

If neither driver finished in the points – or finished the race – that would also seal Verstappen's triumph.

Asked by the Daily Mail whether his son is likely to sacrifice his own race to take out Hamilton, Verstappen's father and former F1 driver Jos said: "I don't think that will happen.

"Max absolutely wants to win. He will definitely go for it. He will clearly try to beat him. He will do everything to get the win, that's for sure. It will be exciting."

Ahead of the Saudi Arabian GP, Jos had discussed Max's relationship with Hamilton – as well as his own.

"I never speak to Lewis," the 49-year-old told the Daily Mail. "He doesn't need to speak to me. I'm nothing to him. I respect him as a driver, but the rest... nothing.

"Max and Lewis only speak on the podium, very little. When I see Max with other drivers, I think they get on very well. But with Lewis, nothing. Lewis is in his own world."

Verstappen received a pair of penalties in Jeddah, the second for causing a collision with Hamilton when he braked suddenly.

Hamilton was critical of Verstappen when asked if he thought his rival drove dangerously, saying: "I definitely feel that there were scenarios where that was the case.

"This is not the first time that I've had to avoid a collision, that's how I felt at the moment, but you know sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment and you go back and re-watch things and then you maybe feel differently. But in the moment, that's how it felt.

"I really just tried to recompose myself and chase down and keep fighting."

Max Verstappen received a further 10-second penalty plus two penalty points following a wild Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton levelled the Formula One title race with victory on Sunday.

Verstappen had already been slapped with a five-second penalty for the Turn 1 incident – the Red Bull star and championship leader was deemed to have gained an unfair advantage going off track.

The stewards imposed a further punishment after the race for a Turn 27 collision, which ultimately did not impact Verstappen's finish, having crossed the line in second behind Mercedes rival and reigning F1 champion Hamilton.

As a result, Hamilton and Verstappen will still head into the final Grand Prix of the 2021 season, Abu Dhabi, level on 369.5 points.

Verstappen's secondary penalty was for causing a turn 27 collision with Hamilton when he braked suddenly, causing the Briton to clip the car head, damaging his front wing.

Hamilton was critical of Verstappen after the race, saying his driving was "over the limit" while claiming he brake-tested him in the Turn 27 incident, leading to the 10-second penalty.

"I definitely feel that there were scenarios where that was the case," Hamilton told reporters when asked if he thought Verstappen drove dangerously.

"This is not the first time that I've had to avoid a collision, that's how I felt at the moment, but you know sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment and you go back and re-watch things and then you maybe feel differently but in the moment that's how it felt. But I really just tried to recompose myself and chase down and keep fighting."

The incident was the latest flashpoint between the two title rivals, but Verstappen indicated he felt he was harshly penalised.

"I find it interesting that I am the one who gets the penalty when both of us ran outside of the white lines," Verstappen told reporters after the Turn 1 incident. "In Brazil it was fine and now suddenly I get a penalty for it.

"You could clearly see both didn’t make the corner, but it's fine. I mean I also don’t really spend too much time on it. We have to move forward.

"We're equal on points on now and I think that's really exciting, of course, for the whole championship and Formula 1 in general but I said it earlier on my in-lap, I think lately we're talking more about white lines and penalties than actually proper Formula 1 racing and that's, I think, a little bit of a shame."

The stewards report on the Turn 27 incident said: "In deciding to penalise the driver of car 33 [Verstappen], the key point for the Stewards was that the driver of car 33 then braked suddenly [69 bar' and significantly, resulting in 2.4g deceleration.

"Whilst accepting that the driver of car 44 [Hamilton] could have overtaken car 33 when that car first slowed, we understand why he [and the driver of car 33] did not wish to be the first to cross the DRS [line]. However, the sudden braking by the driver of car 33 was determined by the stewards to be erratic and hence the predominant cause of the collision and hence the standard penalty of 10 seconds for this type of incident, is imposed."

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