sport news F1: This was the dirtiest dance between Hamilton and Verstappen of them all

sport news F1: This was the dirtiest dance between Hamilton and Verstappen of them all
sport news F1: This was the dirtiest dance between Hamilton and Verstappen of them all

Here’s what’s great about Formula 1 this season. It’s not just Drive To Survive. It’s Drive To Survive, and Succession. And a little bit of Squid Game for good measure.

Drive To Survive? That part’s obvious. Have you seen the track in Jeddah? Succession is where the negotiations come into play; the offers, the double-dealing; the supposed hand of friendship or sportsmanship that really isn’t.

And Squid Game? Well, at the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, we had a number of different races within one big race, a few drivers were eliminated each time and then off we went again.

Lewis Hamilton (front) won Sunday's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix thriller at Max Verstappen's (back) expense

Lewis Hamilton (front) won Sunday's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix thriller at Max Verstappen's (back) expense

The Jeddah contest was marred by a collision between the two Formula One title chasers

The Jeddah contest was marred by a collision between the two Formula One title chasers

At the end of which, Lewis Hamilton won. Somehow. Not sure quite where. Part drive, part negotiation, part the mighty gladiatorial nature of the man. 

This was his 103rd Grand Prix win, having collected 103 pole positions. There truly hasn’t been anyone quite like him. It leaves the most delicately-poised drivers’ championship in the history of F1.

Even Netflix haven’t got an equivalent of this contest right now. Indeed, who has? Remember when motor racing was dubbed the most boring sport in the world? Now it sells streaming numbers the way football sold satellite dishes.

And with good reason. Level on points, one race to go. Winner takes all in Abu Dhabi. First versus second, fifth versus six, the order of two drivers is all that matters and whoever leads win. And if neither Hamilton nor Max Verstappen finishes in the top 10, then it goes to the Dutchman on race victories in 2021.

Hamilton (right) and Verstappen (left) are now level going into next week's final Abu Dhabi race

Hamilton (right) and Verstappen (left) are now level going into next week's final Abu Dhabi race

This, of course, raises the prospect of Toto Wolff’s doomsday scenario. Last month, he predicted that if one driver could win the title in the final race simply by taking out his rival - as Ayrton Senna famously did Alain Prost in 1990 - he would try that. The protagonists reacted in horror at the thought, but now? Of course, it’s possible.

All season, Hamilton and Verstappen have been dancing ever closer, and yesterday’s was arguably the dirtiest dance of all. From here, the ultimate sorry-not sorry collision is a distinct possibility. Nothing can be ruled out. 

Whoever wins, whoever loses, neither driver is going quietly, and Hamilton acknowledged the danger in that. ‘For him, it does not matter if we both don’t finish but for me we both need to finish,’ he said.

The intensity of their rivalry is perhaps the greatest twist of all. When any athlete has dominated for as long as Lewis Hamilton, sporting instincts would traditionally favour the underdog, Verstappen. 

The two Formula One rivals have shared an intense battle over this brilliant campaign

The two Formula One rivals have shared an intense battle over this brilliant campaign

Yet this season, with Verstappen having won more races, with Mercedes considered to have the inferior car until a series of engine changes, and with Hamilton at one stage looking out of the running, if anything it is the seven-time champion that has the underdog aura.

Of course, a new name on the trophy would be good for the sport. Yet so would a record eighth title for a genuinely iconic driver. Hamilton won in Saudi Arabia wearing a rainbow-coloured helmet that presents a genuine challenge to authority and repressive ideologies in this region, and with his background remains an outlier in motor sport still.

Wolff said if he had to pick one accolade he would forego the constructors’ championship to be part of Hamilton passing Michael Schumacher, which is why the gradual erosion of Verstappen’s lead some months ago is perhaps not being greeted with the disappointment that would have been felt in previous seasons.

Even Toto Wolff (left) was animated during Sunday's thrilling inaugural race in Jeddah

Even Toto Wolff (left) was animated during Sunday's thrilling inaugural race in Jeddah

Abu Dhabi, mind, is not a circuit that lends itself

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