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Winner-takes-all F1 finale

Lewis Hamilton

For the first time since 1974 two title contenders go into the final round absolutely level on points and the showdown promises to be television ratings gold, writes Alan Baldwin.

LEWIS Hamilton will become either the first Formula One driver to win eight world championships or be dethroned by young nemesis Max Verstappen at Abu Dhabi on Sunday at 3pm.

Either a record will be set, one surely destined to last longer than Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s seven between 1994-2004, or Hamilton’s long reign will end in a generational shift.

For the first time since 1974, and only the second since the world championship started in 1950 although scoring systems have changed, two title contenders go into the final round absolutely level on points. Whatever the outcome, the showdown promises to be television ratings gold.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Picture: Pool via REUTERS, Lars Baron

Verstappen has won nine races to Hamilton’s eight – a key advantage that means the Briton must score while the Red Bull driver could even become champion during the race if his rival retires.

Otherwise, whoever finishes ahead of the other – unless Hamilton is ninth and Verstappen 10th with the fastest lap – takes the title.

That has also raised fears that the outcome could be decided by a collision between the two, as has happened notoriously in the past in final showdowns where so much is at stake and one driver has everything to gain by taking out the other.

For all Verstappen’s aggressive driving and high emotions, Red Bull and their Dutch youngster have been clear they want to win the title fair and square.

Team boss Christian Horner says: “He’s a hard racer but a fair racer, and I expect no different this weekend. Nobody wants to win this championship in a gravel trap or in a stewards’ inquiry.”

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