Lewis Hamilton’s victory in Saudi Arabia sends the championship fight to a shootout in Abu Dhabi. Here’s what Lewis needs to do to win the title

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The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix perfectly sums up the 2021 Formula 1 racing season. Chaos followed by drama with an added dose of controversy has defined racing and has been the main topic of discussion this year.

Surviving the chaos, Lewis Hamilton took the win and, with the extra point for completing the fastest lap of the race, tied Max Verstappen on points. Tied at 369.5 points each, the two championship contenders head to the final race of the season with victory in mind. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be a direct shootout between Hamilton and Verstappen, setting up one of the most exciting season finals in recent years. Here are three key factors for Lewis Hamilton to win his eighth World Championship.

Final position is key

Put simply, all Lewis Hamilton needs to do to win the world championship is to finish ahead of Max Verstappen. The Formula 1 drivers’ championship is based on points, so simply finishing ahead, whether Hamilton is first and Verstappen second or sixth and seventh, will be enough to clinch the title.

The reality is much more difficult. Verstappen was as quick and at times faster than Hamilton and the Mercedes GP F1. Despite the high-speed nature of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit, Hamilton will not be able to rely solely on the performance of the car. He will have to beat Verstappen.

Verstappen’s aggressive driving style and willingness to take risks have led to several incidents this season. Hamilton responded by taking similar risks, some of which, like at Silverstone, did not go smoothly. To finish ahead of his Dutch rival, Hamilton will need every ounce of speed at his disposal and will be willing to take some risks to get the job done.

Lewis Hamilton can’t afford to be in an accident

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda and Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 collide in the F1 Grand Prix on 05 December 2021 | Lars Baron / Getty Images

A crash and a DNF would spell disaster for Hamilton. Being tied on points with Verstappen, a failure to complete would give the Dutchman the championship and relieve his need to win the race. Verstappen could take the checkered flag in tenth place and win the title by one point.

If an accident results in the death of the two pilots, Verstappen is doing better. As they are tied on points, the championship is decided by the number of wins. In 2021, Verstappen has nine wins against eight for Hamilton. A clash between the two drivers which prevents them both from finishing gives the championship to Verstappen.

The final scenario, in which Verstappen crashes or suffers a retirement, would give Hamilton the title. A crash or an abandonment will be on everyone’s mind in Abu Dhabi. The 2021 season saw a number of race-defining incidents, and drivers, teams and fans would be disappointed if the championship was settled by one or both of the title contenders who did not finish. Hamilton has said he doesn’t want to win the championship because of an accident or retirement, but if this season has proven anything it’s that unpredictability reigns supreme.

Perfect racing strategy and tire management are essential

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 stops in the pit lane during qualifying ahead of the Saudi Arabian F1 Grand Prix on December 04, 2021 | Giuseppe Cacace / Getty Images

Mercedes GP has had more than a few racing strategy errors in 2021. Pit stop timing issues, tire selection missteps and slow stops have taken their toll on Mercedes several times. If Hamilton wants to win the title at Abu Dhabihe and the team will need flawless team strategy and performance.

Red Bull has set the bar high in terms of pit stops and racing strategy, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll be anything but great in the season finale. The key for Mercedes will be to control Red Bull’s racing strategy. This would happen if Hamilton led the race. From this position, Red Bull will be forced to react to everything Hamilton and Mercedes do. If planned and executed correctly, Mercedes would be able to refuel, change tires and race with a strategy that suits them, forcing Red Bull to react and catch up. This prevents Red Bull from implementing their preferred racing strategy and gives Mercedes GP a tangible advantage.

Hamilton has been spectacular in handling his tires this season, and he will have to do it once again in Abu Dhabi. At the end of the race, Hamilton will want some extra performance and that will come in the form of tires. If he is in the lead, he will be able to widen a gap. If he calls, it could give him the advantage he needs for a pass. Whatever the scenario, Hamilton will have to take care of the tires.

Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of making history, and an eighth World Championship would make him the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time. This year he’s running a strong championship-hungry contender, and if Hamilton is to win, he’ll need to use all of his experience and speed. Mercedes will need impeccable racing strategy and a bit of luck to end the season as a championship winner.

Related: Max Verstappen Is Your Driver For A Jeddah Corniche Circuit Tour

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