Verstappen, Hamilton battle for ultimate supremacy in Abu Dhabi

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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, right, shakes hands with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands after clocking the fastest time in the qualifying for the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, just outside Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, May 8, 2021. The Spanish Grand Prix will be held on Sunday. Verstappen clocked the second fastest time. (Emilio Morenatti, Pool)
FILE PHOTO: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (R) shakes hands with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen after the qualifying session for the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Emilio Morenatti, Pool)

The last race of the 2021 Formula 1 season is set to be held in Abu Dhabi later on Sunday with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen aiming to stop Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton from winning a record-setting eighth world championship title.

The two drivers are tied on points at the top of the table, with both on 369.5.

Hamilton heads into the race in top form, having clinched victory in the last three consecutive races. In all three, Verstappen finished second.

The Dutchman, however, has the advantage of starting Sunday’s race on pole after he clocked the fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Verstappen clocked a brilliant 1m 22.109s on his first run to take a 10th pole position of the season, with Hamilton 0.371s off the pace to end up second.

McLaren’s Lando Norris will start in third place after crossing the line with a time of 1:22.931, ahead of Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez who clocked a time of 1:22.947 to secure fourth spot.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will start fifth ahead of Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who will race his final Grand Prix for Mercedes ahead of his move to Alfa Romeo.

Charles Leclerc was seventh, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda – who could have been higher, having sat third before having his lap deleted for track limits – with Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo completing the top 10.

Ahead of the race, Verstappen and Hamilton said the close battle this season has brought the best in them.

Worth noting, the two drivers have shared the top two finishes between themselves in the last five races.

“I think Lewis has won already so many championships but also, you know, this year, I think we have been pushing each other certainly in some races to the limit. We’ve been really trying to get (the maximum) out of our cars, tyres, to the last lap, to the last corner and that’s very exciting, especially when it’s between two teams, as well,” said Verstappen.

“But of course, you know, probably in 10, 20 years’ time people will look back at it – even myself – and we will remember this year, for sure,” he added.

On his part, Hamilton hailed the Red Bull vs Mercedes battle this season, noting that he hopes to see more such seasons in the future.

“I think they’ve done an exceptional job, and shown true strength, and so it’s pushed us to the limit and 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 yes, it’s been amazing,” he said.

“I hope that we have many more seasons like this,” added the seven-time champion.

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