Formula 1 is braced for a crash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in the final two races of the season, one that could decide the title.
Verstappen and Hamilton will line up in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix separated by eight points in the Drivers’ standings.
If Verstappen takes maximum points at the Jeddah circuit and Hamilton is sixth or lower, F1 will have a new World Champion.
Anything above P5 for Hamilton guarantees the title race will go down to a decider in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton, though, could at least head to the Yas Marina circuit tied with Verstappen on points if he wins on Sunday and takes the fastest lap point. He could also regain the lead in the standings if Verstappen is P3 or lower.
And of course a crash could change the picture entirely.
“Sure it can happen,” former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone told RT. “We’ve waited a long time for a fight like this.
“It’s why the fans watch Formula 1.”
Alain Prost is a former driver who knows all about crashes.
His bitter feud with Ayrton Senna led to crashes at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix and again a year later at the same track.
He told Germany’s Bild newspaper it “could happen” between Verstappen and Hamilton, but that is “why it is important for them not to cross the line”.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 22, 2021
Prost added: “The situation could arise where the drivers know at one corner or another ‘I will either win or lose the World Championship right here’.
“It’s already so tense, and the tension has only been rising for some time. So you can’t rule out such a scenario.
“I look at Monza, where if Max hadn’t tried to overtake Lewis he would have lost the race, so do you accept the risk or not?
“It’s not easy in a win or lose situation like this.”
Former F1 driver and GPDA chairman Alex Wurz reckons if the protagonists do clash in Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi, it hopefully will not be deliberate.
He told Osterreich: “They will probably meet on the track at some point and if the going gets tough, statistically there is a very good chance of another crash.”
But he added: “Your primary thought as a driver is definitely not like that, and the days when someone intentionally crashes into his opponent are over.
“But it’s perfectly legitimate to go really hard when you are in the lead.”
The two have already crashed twice this season, at the British Grand Prix and again at Monza. While only Verstappen did not finish at Silverstone, both drivers retired from the Italian GP.