RACE DEBRIEF

    It’s the big question on everyone’s minds right now: who will win the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship? Ahead of the title deciding race in Abu Dhabi, the drivers gave their view on the battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

    Red Bull’s Verstappen and Mercedes’ Hamilton are equal on points going into the finale so it literally is too close to call. Inevitably, the drivers were asked to give their predictions and opinions on the title battle in Abu Dhabi.

    Some drivers were undecided, some perhaps choosing not to reveal their choice and some – including Kimi Raikkonen, George Russell, and Sebastian Vettel – gave their honest opinion on which driver they thought will win the 2021 World Championship.

    Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin

    Choice: Max Verstappen

    “Well, Michael [Schumacher] is my hero. For that reason I probably don’t want Lewis to win. But the truth is they’ve both had a strong season, they are going into the last race with the opportunity to win this championship because they both deserve it. So in a way I’d be happy if Michael’s record still stands, because to me, Michael is still the greatest but if Lewis can win one more, two more, three more world championships, it doesn’t change anything for me.

    “And I get along with Lewis; the gut says I want Max to win to keep Michael’s record alive but my head is quite clean or clear, may the better man win.”

    READ MORE: Why the Abu Dhabi GP should be a historic F1 moment – for all the right reasons

    Mick Schumacher, Haas

    Choice: Undecided

    “Well, I think that nothing is decided yet so I can’t tell you how I feel about [the prospect of my dad’s record being broken]. Obviously, I think that my feelings are respect for both of them, that this year only they can win the championship. Yes, it will for sure be interesting to see and, whoever wins will win, I can’t do anything about that.”

    Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri

    Choice: Max Verstappen

    “Max, of course.”

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    Hamilton could break Michael Schumacher's record this weekend if he wins his eighth title

    Fernando Alonso, Alpine

    Choice: Max Verstappen

    “It will depend on the package a little bit; Mercedes lately have been more performing and they’ve won a couple of races now, but Max is driving – in my opinion – one step ahead of all of us. We saw the [qualifying] lap in Jeddah, until he touched the wall at the last corner, that lap was coming from Max, not the Red Bull.

    “In a way, that’s my opinion: Mercedes deserve the constructors’ championship because the car is superior and Max, maybe overall in the year, was driving one step ahead of everyone.

    “It’s not that I support Max, it’s that he deserves it, in my opinion.”

    READ MORE: Alonso believes Verstappen 'driving one step ahead of everyone' as he says Dutchman ‘deserves’ 2021 title

    George Russell, Williams

    Choice: Lewis Hamilton

    “For me I’d love to see Lewis win. I think what he has achieved, especially recently, is pretty exceptional, to even be in the fight altogether when Red Bull had such a far superior car at the start of the year; when you look back, [Mercedes] managed to win, I think, three of the first four races when Red Bull were clearly the quickest package out there.

    “Max has done an exceptional job; you can argue that they both deserve to win for different reasons but hopefully it’s a clean and fair race and the best man wins.”

    Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo

    Choice: Max Verstappen

    “Honestly, whoever has the most points will win. I don’t know if there is a right or wrong in who is going to win it, it doesn’t matter for me who wins but if I had to choose one, I would go with the Red Bull to win it, just something different, you know?”

    READ MORE: ‘My wife will be more emotional than me’ says Raikkonen ahead of his final F1 appearance

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    Alonso backed Verstappen to win the title

    Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri

    Choice: Max Verstappen

    “Well, I think it’s amazing for our sport to have two drivers from two different teams racing for the world championship in the last race and being tied after that many races. As Fernando [Alonso] said, both of them have done an amazing season.

    “As a motorsport fan I even enjoy watching the highlights after the race as I don’t get to see them. On Sunday night I got back to the hotel and watched the highlights [from Saudi Arabia] and was like, 'whoa'. That was a great race to watch in terms of battles they gave us and how close it gets between the two and the limits they are pushing between each other. So just an amazing time for the entire F1 community and our sport in general and I’m just really excited to see which way it goes this weekend.

    “I think Max will have the edge, I’m not sure they’ll finish the race but I think Max and Red Bull will get it.”

    Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren

    Choice: Undecided

    “I’ve stopped giving predictions! At moments I’ve thought Max; at moments I’ve thought Lewis. It’s so hard to read, ultimately, it’s really great for the sport that the fight’s going down to the wire, equal on points, it’s cool... But ultimately, it’s whoever has a good Abu Dhabi weekend, it’s whoever does better in Abu Dhabi, they’ll become champ. It’s that simple.”

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    Lance Stroll, Aston Martin

    Choice: Undecided

    “It’s going to go down to the wire, like Daniel said it’s really about this weekend. Lewis seems to have the momentum right now but Max isn’t going to go down without a fight as we saw last weekend in Saudi, so should be interesting.”

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    "I'm not sure they'll finish the race..." joked Gasly

    Nikita Mazepin, Haas

    Choice: Undecided

    “I think experience – in that respect, I think Lewis has the upper hand, I think Mercedes have done a fantastic job. But Max, a new face as well – I really like them both, as humans, as athletes, as racing drivers as well. So don’t make me [choose]!”

    READ MORE: Formula 1 renews Abu Dhabi Grand Prix contract until 2030

    Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

    Choice: Undecided

    “I think it’s an ideal scenario for Formula 1, I think it’s super exciting to watch – even I went back to my room on Sunday night, I tuned in and replayed the race to see what the hell happened up front and why everyone was talking about what had happened and I had the chance to watch it, and you realise how tight this battle is; every race you have a fight between the two championship contenders and how exciting this is for Formula 1.

    “Unfortunately, on Twitter… it is definitely polarised and it makes it less exciting when you see the two sides fighting each other so much. I think just be a bit more neutral, enjoy the fight and let the best man win.

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    “I’m not going to comment personally on who has been the better driver, if I will say one, one side will criticise me and say ‘no, Lewis had a better car’; if I say Max… it’s too polarised so I don’t want to take a stance as it doesn’t make sense on how polarised it is on social media.

    “I think they’ve both done a brilliant season, at an incredible level. From my side I just wish they can keep it clean for the image of the sport as much as anything else, for the benefit of Formula 1. That we are still a sport not only a show, so show good sportsmanship and put on a good show in the finale.”