Hamilton and Verstappen rivalry 'among sport's greatest EVER battles'

‘It’s IMPOSSIBLE to call’: F1 legend David Coulthard says unpredictable title fight between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton is among the sport’s greatest ever battles… but he insists neither driver will feel ANY pressure in Abu Dhabi

  • Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton go into Sunday’s Grand Prix level on points
  • F1 legend David Coulthard says it’s impossible to call who will become champion
  • Despite enormity of the weekend, Coulthard believes neither will feel pressure
  • He also says their rivalry is among the greatest in Formula One’s long history

David Coulthard has seen a lot of Formula One races in his life. 247 as a driver, and likely double that as a fan and pundit. But even he knows that this Sunday could be the best of the lot.

As he stands in the paddock ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the excitement is palpable. The world is ready to watch Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton battle it out for the 2021 title, and there isn’t a single point between them. 

It has been a topsy-turvy campaign, with both men leading the standings at different points, and more than a few tussles on track – Monza, Silverstone and Jeddah to name just three of the most severe. 

Lewis Hamilton (left) and Max Verstappen (right) will battle it out for the F1 title on Sunday

The drivers got a little close for comfort as early as the second practice session on Friday

Former F1 driver David Coulthard believes their rivalry is among the sport’s greatest ever

So, after everything, who’s going to win it? As ‘DC’ admits, it might just be too close to call. 

‘The momentum lies with Lewis,’ he begins, speaking exclusively to Sportsmail

‘The last few races have been pretty impressive, but unless Max has some sort of major performance issue then he’s more than capable of winning it. I just don’t know… 

‘I honestly have absolutely no idea, it’s impossible to call. I’m going to be watching it unfold like all of us.’

Not since 1974 have two drivers entered the final race completely level on points, with Emerson Fittipaldi overcoming Clay Regazzoni that year to secure the championship in New York. This, though, is a level up.

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‘I think it’s impossible to be able to separate who’s quicker between Max and Lewis,’ Coulthard adds. ‘What I can say, though, is that they’re both exceptional. 

Coulthard does not believe either driver will feel the pressure heading into Sunday’s race

Hamilton gets into his car for the second of two practice sessions on Friday in Abu Dhabi

‘This is elite sport. There’s a whole bunch of good footballers, good tennis players, good racing drivers, but it’s the exceptional that make you sit up and watch: Ronaldo, Federer… Hamilton, Verstappen.

‘Whatever sport you follow, you’ll have your headline people that when they’re on the ball, or the court, you’ll go, “wow”. In F1, they’re our two. They give you the chance to see something really remarkable.

‘This was a fairly mundane world championship [among the rest of the field]. Can you remember any other big battles, between Bottas and Perez, or elsewhere? No, exactly. This world championship has been created by the might of Mercedes and Red Bull, and the brilliance of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.’

With the pair effectively carrying the entire sport upon their shoulders, and as billions prepare to tune in around the world, you could forgive the two title rivals for feeling the pressure mounting as they head towards Sunday’s race. 

Coulthard, who is part of Channel 4’s F1 team, is in Abu Dhabi to watch the season finale

He believes Hamilton (pictured) has silenced any remaining doubters about his legend status

With his knowledge of the sport, though, Coulthard doesn’t believe that will be a factor in proceedings. In fact, he says that to Verstappen and Hamilton, this is just another day.

‘These guys have been battling, winning and losing, since they were eight years old,’ he says. ‘You think this is new to them? None of this is new. 

‘This race isn’t any more important than Lewis trying to win a kart race at eight years old. Every corner they do is the most important corner, on the most important lap, in the most important race. It just so happens that the global stage has increased and the stakes have increased. 

‘They’ve lost more races than they’ve ever won. In our sport, we learn how to lose, and we lose by looking our competitors in the eyes and shaking their hand. 

‘The reality is these are the two best people in the world in motor racing, to handle the pressure and the heat. These guys feel absolutely in control, they don’t feel the pressure.’

As they head into the race, Verstappen is eyeing his maiden drivers’ title, while for Hamilton it is a record eighth that he could be holding aloft come nightfall in the Abu Dhabi desert.

He says Verstappen and Hamilton’s Monza clash is among 2021’s most memorable moments

Sparks are set to fly in the desert on Sunday; pictured is Verstappen in first practice on Friday

Coming into this season, and with seven championships under his belt, Hamilton has still had questions asked of his ability, with many putting the likes of Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna above him in the hall-of-fame pecking order.

A win this year, though, could well settle all the debates. When asked if this would be Hamilton’s best ever triumph, Coulthard is clear with his response.

‘Yes. Yes, it will. His composure, given his age, is remarkable. Usually when you’ve taken a few punches you get tired of it, but he doesn’t appear to be tired of it at all. 

‘I think anyone who doubted his title credentials in previous years, who thought he was lucky… this has shown how brilliant a driver he is.’ 

And so, to the track we go. Thursday saw the drivers do their talking in the media pen, and Friday they were back on the circuit for two practice sessions. Verstappen won the first, and Hamilton the second.

This truly couldn’t be tighter as we head for Saturday qualifying and then the most exciting race in recent memory on Sunday. Strap yourselves in, folks… because who knows how this one ends.

DC’S MOMENTS TO REMEMBER

As we approach the end of an incredible season, Coulthard takes a look back at the on-track moments he will remember most from 2021.

Speaking to Sportsmail, the Heineken F1 ambassador said: ‘It’s actually the negative moments that we’ll replay in our minds in years to come. 

‘Just like you replay Prost and Senna, and moments like that. That’s what will go down in history. That’s what my 13-year-old son will remember… at Silverstone, at Monza, and at Jeddah. Those are the moments when the world champions did more than touch each other.’ 

Off the track, meanwhile, Heineken have been at the forefront of some of the most memorable moments for fans as the F1 roadshow rolled around the world.

Across a brilliant season and 21 different locations, the sponsor put on shows from the likes of Tiesto at Zandvoort and Kygo in Mexico City, to give the fans more than just the racing action to enjoy. 

Global F1 partner Heineken have been celebrating with fans around the world with unique music performances throughout the 2021 season. For more info search #HeinekenF1

Kygo performs to the crowd in Mexico City as part of Heineken’s post-race show

Dutch DJ Tiesto performed to the Zandvoort crowd after Max Verstappen’s big win




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