Max Verstappen, left, and Lewis Hamilton are taking their F1 rivalry to the wire in 2021.
Mercedes have promised to provide Lewis Hamilton with a “spicy” engine to combat Max Verstappen in the penultimate race of their riveting Formula One championship rivalry.
The Saudi Arabian GP is being held in Jeddah on December 6 with the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP run the following weekend.
An under pressure Hamilton has rebounded to win the last two races to close the gap to Verstappen to just eight points. There are 52 points available from the two remaining meetings and everything to play for.
F1 title race set to go to the wire.
Hamilton ignited his resurgence with a brilliant drive in Brazil a fortnight ago, ignoring penalties for using a new engine to storm from 10th to first.
He resisted the urge to use that engine again last weekend, but still managed a comfortable win in Qatar to increase the heat on his Dutch rival.
Now Mercedes will bring out the “new” engine again in Saudi, believing it will be suited to the debut track where flat out speed should be rewarded.
“It is long straights, and we will get our spicy equipment out,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said.
“Saudi should be a good track for us. But we know this year when you think it’s a good one it can turn the other way around, but it’s a long straight.”
Andrew Shovlin, the Mercedes trackside engineering director, backed up that theory.
“We’ve seen pretty big swings of performance over the recent races, [but] if we look at the track in Saudi, I think it should suit us,” he told The Times.
“For Lewis, we have got the more powerful engine to go in the car, so that’s going to give him a useful engine.
“We’re always cautious to go to a race thinking that it’s all going to go our way. What we do know though are the things we’ve got to get right on the set-up, what we need to get right on the tyres and how they’re working.
“That’s what we’re going to be busy doing over the next few days, making sure we’re taking every possible opportunity to arrive there in good shape.”
The drivers’ championship lead has changed hands between Hamilton and Verstappen five times this season, and there could yet be another twist in this terrific tale if it goes down to the last race.
But Vesrtappen could make that academic in Saudi where he has a chance to claim the title without a decider required in the Abu Dhabi finale. The calculators will be kept busy.
With his nine race wins to Hamilton’s seven so far this season, Verstappen will be champion if he wins and takes fastest lap at Jeddah and Hamilton finishes sixth or lower, or if he wins and Hamilton finishes lower than seventh.