Fittipaldi excited for F1's 'grand finale' and reflects on 1974 'duel'

By Sports Desk December 12, 2021

Emerson Fittipaldi is one of only two men who knows exactly the emotions Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will experience as they do battle in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Verstappen and Hamilton head into the final grand prix of the Formula One season tied at the top of the standings on 369.5 points.

Red Bull's Verstappen has a slight advantage, having won more races – a potentially pivotal tie-breaker – and taken pole on Saturday, but he will start alongside Hamilton on the front row.

At the 1974 United States Grand Prix, Fittipaldi lined up next to title rival Clay Regazzoni – albeit in eighth and ninth – in the only previous example of the top two being all square heading into the last race of the year.

"[There was] incredible pressure on myself, on the team, on my family, on my friends, on the sponsors," Fittipaldi told Stats Perform.

"When you think [about] going to the last race on equal points, I don't even call it a race, I call it like a duel.

"And knowing that only one is going to be world champion, there's no other chance. After two hours, someone is going to be world champion – one or the other.

"There was tremendous pressure, with all my race experience. I raced in Indianapolis, everywhere, the Brazilian Grand Prix, Monza – where I decided my first world championship.

"I had never experienced so much pressure in my career. I only slept like three hours the night before."

Now as an outsider, though, Fittipaldi is relishing seeing F1's two modern superstars go toe-to-toe in the most highly anticipated grand prix in years.

"I know that's going to happen on Sunday with Max and Lewis," the Brazilian said. "They will have so much pressure. The teams are under tremendous pressure and remember the families, the sponsors, the public.

"It will be a fantastic grand prix to watch. And this is why I say it's one of the best situations ever for a Formula One grand finale – it will be a grand finale, for sure."

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    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
    2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 85
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 66
    4. George Russell (Mercedes) 59 
    5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 53

    Constructors

    1. Ferrari 157
    2. Red Bull 151
    3. Mercedes 95
    4. McLaren 46
    5. Alfa Romeo 31

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