F1 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview: Showdown in the desert to decide the title

Sports of all kinds share cliches meant to describe the pinnacle of their events. They’re all meant to convey a sense of importance and finality to that event despite the sun always rising the next morning. Those cliches are overused and applied to pedestrian matches or games far too frequently.

Locker rooms and broadcasts are filled with them and it’s cheapened the effect. But every so often, there is an event nobody has to print a word about for the epic nature to soak into the lore. It’s already being discussed in every fan’s garage, living room or device. And, for F1 fans, that event is this weekend.

Inserting a cliche here would do nothing more than discuss the fairytale truth: we have arrived at the last race of the 2021 season, the 22nd, and two drivers are tied for the championship lead. They also happen to be indisputedly the best drivers on the grid and near complete opposites. It’s an early Christmas present.

Track guide

Credit: Reddit

Finally, some good news about Yas Marina! One of F1’s more boring tracks – though, far from the worst – got a much-needed upgrade this year. Intending to smooth out some of the slow, jerky sections into rhythmic corners where cars can actually pass, the circuit now offers a track possibly worthy of the fight on it’s doorstep.

This is no longer the track Hamilton slowed his then teammate Nico Rosberg into the challengers behind in 2016. It was a cheap, tactically brilliant last move to try and salvage a championship. And it largely worked because of the former layout of Yas Marina.

In its place are faster, more flowing corners that will leave room for even more wheel to wheel racing: exactly what Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are itching to give us.

Jeddah was dynamite

Last weekend was the first weekend F1 has spent at the Jeddah track in Saudi Arabia it gave us a terrifying edge-of-your-seat ride. From the very beginning, drivers were noting how close and hard the walls were and how fast it was.

The race had to be red flagged and restarted twice, the lead was changed more times than I can remember and controversy swirled like a tornado with post-race penalties adding to in-race reprimands. Ultimately, Hamilton prevailed over Verstappen to continue his triumphant surge in form over the past six races. The Dutchman was able to salvage second to stay even with Hamilton heading to Abu Dhabi.

Verstappen? Or Hamilton?

The title rivals collided yet again a week ago

Whatever happens this Sunday, 2021 will go down as one of the greatest seasons in F1 history. It has been a beautiful tapestry of interwoven racing lines, epic heroics and a chaotic, aggressive mess all at once.

Will Verstappen, who seems to be summoning demons trying to stop his opponent, take his first and destined world championship? Or will Hamilton take his finest?

This season has been defined by close and aggressive racing between the two.  Frequent penalties to Verstappen, clashes and crashes, and wild swings in momentum have pronounced themselves at nearly every event. It will be unfortunate if a crash between the two determines who wins the championship. But, as has been the truth all season long, the level of skill and commitment to winning is supreme from them each. And it won’t come down to who “wants it” more. Clearly, they’re both desperate to win and possess the skills to do so.

The end of the season is here again. Only, this season was magic, carrying nearly impossible levels of excitement. I can’t tell you who is going to win but I do know that Sunday may be one of those times a sporting event makes you remember where you were that day – so don’t blink.

Session Times

Practice 1, Dec 10th: 9:30 – 10:30 (4:30 – 5:30 EST)

Practice 2, Dec 10th: 13:00 – 14:00 (8:00 – 9:00 EST)

Practice 3, Dec 11th: 10:00 – 11:00 (5:00 – 6:00 EST)

Qualifying, Dec 11th: 13:00 – 14:00 (8:00 – 9:00 EST)

Race, Dec 12th: 13:00 (8:00 EST)

All times are UK time (GMT), unless stated

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Abu Dhabi GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the Abu Dhabi GP Preview. Owain Medford hosted Tom Downey in episode 159 of the show. Both audio and video versions of the podcast are available below:

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