What Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Race Means For Hamilton And Verstappen

The 2021 Formula One World Championship couldn't be any tighter as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen head into the winner-takes-all final race of the season in Abu Dhabi this Sunday.

British driver Hamilton has closed the gap on the young Dutch racer Verstappen in the previous few contests, meaning the pair are neck and neck with exactly the same points in the World Drivers' Championship standings.

After winning the previous three races, with Verstappen coming second each time, both drivers have 369.5 points each.

Although the drivers are tied, Hamilton's Mercedes team are leading the World Constructors' Championship standings ahead of Verstappen's Red Bull Racing-Honda team.

This is because Hamilton's race partner Valteri Bottas has performed better than Red Bull's Sergio Pérez. It is still possible for Verstappen to win the Drivers' Championship but Hamilton's Mercedes to win the Constructors' Championship.

Since the two drivers are tied at the top, whoever finishes the race higher on Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will win the 2021 Formula One World Championship. If both drivers fail to finish, Verstappen will take home the trophy with a better head-to-head record of wins.

While both will be desperate to win, what would a victory mean for both drivers' careers on Sunday?

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen
Hamilton and Verstappen go head to head in a winner-takes-all contest this SUnday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Cristiano Barni/Getty Images

What If Max Verstappen Wins?

If Verstappen were to finish ahead of Hamilton on Sunday, he would be lifting his first FIA Formula One World Drivers Championship Trophy.

Verstappen would no doubt be a national hero in the Netherlands, becoming the first ever Dutch winner of the Formula One Drivers' Championship, and he'd be among the youngest too. At 24 years and 73 days old, he'd become the fourth youngest champion in history, behind Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton (2008) and Sebastian Vettel.

Even if he doesn't win, Verstappen surely has a long successful career ahead of him, finishing third in 2019 and 2020, fourth in 2018 and sixth in his debut season back in 2017.

He's guaranteed at least a second place finish on Sunday so his results are still heading in the right direction, but he has a very real chance of usurping current world champion Hamilton.

If Verstappen were able to bring home the trophy for himself and the Constructors' Championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda then it would bag the team a massive $66 million according to British newspaper The Independent.

The prize money doesn't filter down to the drivers as they get paid a salary from their teams, but a Drivers' Championship on the resume would surely earn Verstappen a hefty new contract.

What If Lewis Hamilton Wins?

Throughout the season it was looking unlikely that Hamilton would be in contention for another Drivers' Championship but he's fought his way back up the leaderboard.

Last week he and Verstappen were exchanging the lead in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and Hamilton just held on to win the race. Before that Hamilton had started tenth on the grid in Brazil yet somehow managed to win that Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen trophy
Hamilton came out on top in a tight encounter during last Sunday's race in Saudi Arabia. Cristiano Barni/Getty Images

If Hamilton were to win the Drivers' Championship trophy in Abu Dhabi, it would be his eighth title, making him the most successful F1 driver of all time—a title he currently shares with Michael Schumacher who also has seven victories.

It would also be Hamilton's fifth consecutive title, which would pull him level with Schumacher for the record of consecutive Drivers' Championships.

Whilst he was once the youngest ever winner of the Drivers' Championship (a record later beaten by Vettel), Hamilton would move even further up the list of oldest World Drivers' Championship winners.

He's currently ninth on the list for his victory last year but would move ahead of fellow Brit Damon Hill into eighth place. He'd have to race for another decade if he wants to be first on that list though as Argentina's Juan Manuel Fangio won at the age of 46 in 1957.

If Hamilton and Bottas are able to bring home the Constructors' Championship for Mercedes, it would be their eighth victory in a row, tenth overall.

Another F1 World Drivers' Championship may increase Hamilton's already considerable wealth. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Hamilton is currently worth $285 million a year, on an annual salary of $50 million, 40 million of which comes from Mercedes. He signed a deal with Mercedes in July 2021 which will keep him with the team for another two seasons until 2023.

Even if he misses out on Sunday, Hamilton will have another two opportunities at breaking the record he shares with Schumacher and becoming the most successful F1 driver of all time.

Find out who will win the 2021 Formula One World Championship on Sunday when the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix airs from 8:00 a.m. ET. on ESPN 2.