To finish on the podium at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday will be enough for Lewis Hamilton to seal his third Formula One championship in the past four years. To win the championship, however, he will have to outrun Red Bull Racing teammate Max Verstappen.
The championship will also be decided by whom team Ferrari dismisses in favor of Kimi Raikkonen, who failed to score points last year, at the expense of Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari’s reason for promoting Raikkonen: to give Vettel a title rival. With 11 races remaining this season, two of which are at the Yas Marina circuit, the Abu Dhabi race could be a preview of what could happen if Raikkonen wins the championship.
We predict who’ll win — and who’ll crash — in our FF Fastest Five:
Lewis Hamilton: After bouncing back from 2016 with two podium finishes and a Ferrari driver-driver’s title, Hamilton, 32, has been the fastest driver this season. His 1.57-second advantage over Verstappen at the start of the season was the smallest so far this year, but Hamilton came out on top at the first race in Australia, won the second race in Singapore, and finished third in China. But in Suzuka, which was interrupted by a widespread power failure and raised concerns about the reliability of Mercedes’ cars, Hamilton’s 27th-place finish may have been the first sign of things to come. In three races this year, Mercedes’ reliability has been the worst in the world; in three races in 2017, they were the best.
Max Verstappen: The 20-year-old from the Netherlands pulled off an amazing comeback in 2017, coming from eighth at the start of the year to become the youngest champion of the championship at 20 years old. This season he continued to progress, winning his second race in Mexico and finishing fourth in Monaco and Spain. This isn’t even Verstappen’s first year competing for the Red Bull Racing team, and he had to recce the Yas Marina circuit before his second year driving for the team was completed in 2017. Along with Hamilton, Verstappen could represent a huge challenge to Hamilton for the championship in 2019.
Mercedes F1: After an injured Nico Rosberg was unable to defend his title as the most successful driver of the last five years, Hamilton found himself defending the championship against Verstappen, Vettel and Sebastian Vettel. He came out on top, but had to enter the season on the back foot, having won the title despite finishing only second in two races. Since Mercedes ran a 1-2-3 championship sweep in 2016, they have finished no better than third in three of their last four seasons. The team may have looked destined for better days, until an engine failure forced Rosberg to retire after the Monaco race. As a result, Mercedes could be in danger of missing the championship next year, despite also winning the 2016 award.