Formula 1 is now in the final stage of its longest-ever season, and one might argue it’s greatest ever season.
In 2021, Formula 1 has treated everyone to one of the greatest sporting rivalries in the modern era.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and would-be usurper Max Verstappen have thus far gone blow for blow this season, with the tension and friction boiling over on multiple occasions in dramatic fashion.
Hamilton is looking to cement his status at the number one driver of all time with an unprecedented eighth world drivers title, while Verstappen is hunting for his first-ever, looking to dethrone an imperious living legend.
The three defining moments of the season so far in terms of the rivalry have been Silverstone (Great Britain), Monza (Italy), and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), each with varying consequences and ramifications. With the championship on the line and no quarter being given by either party, these moments have become flashpoints of the season.
However, what about the final race of this season? The pair are both sitting level on points with 369.5 apiece, but Verstappen knows that he has the advantage with more race wins this season.
But who will emerge from the ashes of the season as the victor?
Well, that’s impossible to call, even after yesterday’s first two practice sessions. Practice 1 saw Verstappen set the early pace, before Hamilton hit back in Practice 2.
And the Yas Marina Circuit is not the race of old. Two parts of the track have been completely revamped.
Ride onboard with @Charles_Leclerc for a mind-blowing view of the Yas Marina Circuit 😍#F1 🇦🇪 #AbuDhabiGP @ScuderiaFerrari pic.twitter.com/2nxTvsd5Fy
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 10, 2021
The first of these being the hairpin to get onto the main straight. The windy chicane before the hairpin has been removed completely and is now a straight run-up to it.
The second part is the end of the second straight. Likewise, the chicane there has been replaced, but this time it has been replaced with a medium speed corner.
Another thing to note this weekend is the race notes from race director Michael Masi (as reported by pitpass.com). This week has seen the inclusion of a reminder for drivers to adhere to certain articles of the International Sporting Code, with particular reference to fairness and conduct, paired with a warning about the deduction of points for unfair or unsafe driving – something that is not normally included in the notes.
In addition to the headline acts for the race, F1 will be saying goodbye to one former world championship winner and one of its most steady drivers in Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.
Raikkonen won the World Driver’s Championship on the final day of the 2007 season, pipping a rookie Hamilton and now Alpine driver Fernando Alonso to the prize. It was the last time Ferrari have had a driver win the WDC.
Elsewhere, Valtteri Bottas will be saying goodbye to Mercedes as he swaps the silver arrows for Alfa Romeo next season. George Russell will also be saying goodbye to Williams as he takes up the vacant seat at Mercedes, with Alex Albon returning from next year.
However, there is also another championship up for grabs.
The Constructors Championship has not yet been settled, and with the significance of the prize money of each position so important for each team, especially considering that next season will see the dawn of a new era of F1 cars, this year’s results could be the most important in a decade.
28 points separate Mercedes and Red Bull, as the two most dominant teams since 2010 juke it out for the final Constructors Championship of the era.
Furthermore, it has been announced that Channel 4 (via BBC Sport) will be showing the race this weekend for free, so for anyone who has nothing better to do, there is no better time to sit down and watch some F1.