Verstappen and Hamilton insist they both enjoy their rivalry ahead of deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

By Sports Desk December 11, 2021

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton indicated they have both enjoyed their heated rivalry for this season's Formula One world championship on the eve of their crucial encounter in Abu Dhabi.

Both go into Sunday's final race of the season level on 369.5 points, just the second time the top two in F1 have headed into the finale all square.

Red Bull's Verstappen beat Mercedes and Hamilton to pole position on Saturday by 0.371 seconds with a flying lap that gives him a clear view of his first world championship.

Should he win his eighth title on Sunday, Hamilton will surpass Michael Schumacher in becoming the driver to have won the most world championships in F1 history.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Sunday's race, Verstappen and Hamilton were both asked to list some positives about the other, despite the rivalry appearing to turn nasty in recent times.

"I think Lewis has already won so many championships, but also this year I think we have been pushing each other, certainly in some races, to the limit," Verstappen said. 

"We have been really basically trying to get everything out of our cars, tyres, to the last lap, to the last corner and that's very exciting, especially when it's been between two teams as well because when it's team-mates, it's always a bit different.

"But when two teams are fighting, you have different strategies you don't know about, preparation, so it has been really enjoyable for most of the time.

"That's normal in a championship and yeah, of course, in 10, 20 years' time, people will look back at it, even myself, and you will remember this year for sure."

Hamilton agreed, adding: "Well said. I agree fully. It’s been an incredible year, an amazing battle and I'm grateful that I've had such a close battle with Max and his team.

"I think they've done an exceptional job and shown true strength and so it's pushed us to the limit in ways that we needed and we, I think, have grown stronger as a team in ways we didn't know that we could grow and yeah, it's been amazing. I hope that we have many more seasons like this."

The Dutchman does enjoy a slender advantage in the title race due to his superior win tally, and is also boosted by the fact that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix's winner has started from pole in each of the last six races, though he was keen to play down the significance of statistics.

"First of all," Verstappen said. "I never look at these stats because these things can already change at the start or whatever, first lap, so I just need to focus on what we can control as a team and yeah, the coming hours.

"I think what's most important is to have a good sleep, but also I have friends and family around, so I'm not going to do anything different to what I normally have been doing."

Verstappen will start on a soft tyre that should initially work in his favour, potentially leaving Hamilton – on mediums – battling the chasing pack. Hamilton is not too worried, though, saying: "I feel good. I'm happy that I'm on the front row. I can see my opponent.

"Obviously it's going to be a little bit harder at the start off the medium tyre as opposed to the soft tyre but nonetheless, I'm giving it everything."

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    3. Mercedes 95
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