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Verstappen's first match point as F1 mourns - What to expect at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Verstappen's first match point as F1 mourns - What to expect at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

F1 News

Verstappen's first match point as F1 mourns - What to expect at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Verstappen's first match point as F1 mourns - What to expect at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

A new circuit, a title fight nearing its conclusion and an F1 legend remembered.

F1 heads to Saudi Arabia for the first time in its history in a solemn mood after the saddening news last weekend of the passing of Sir Frank Williams.

As has been said by drivers up and down the paddock, however, including Williams driver George Russell, the best tribute to Sir Frank would be to continue racing.

So that is what we do, with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton split by just eight points and Mercedes and Red Bull by five.

Things are hotting up with two races to go, so here is what you can expect from the penultimate weekend of the season.

Remembering Sir Frank Williams

There are not too many faces that endure in the same way as those of the superstar drivers of F1, but last weekend the sport lost one such character.

Sir Frank Williams was the definition of a man who refused to give up, forgoing family holidays and battling against the odds to run a team from a wheelchair after an accident in 1986.

F1 and Williams are organising "numerous tributes" to honour the Williams team founder and it is probable that almost every team on the grid will feature a decal paying tribute to the 79-year-old.

You can find the GPFans obituary for Sir Frank here.

Hamilton to defend from Verstappen match point

Whilst it may seem inconceivable that there won't be a title decider in Abu Dhabi given the tightness of this season's battle, but it is possible Verstappen could leave Saudi Arabia as F1 world champion.

There are various permutations, all of which can be found here, but the short of it is that the Dutchman must outscore Hamilton by 18 points to clinch a maiden crown.

Given the "spicy" engine being fitted back into Hamilton's car, winning out will be no simple task but, what is most frightening for Red Bull, is that should Hamilton win and bag the fastest lap, the two drivers will head to Abu Dhabi level.

On countback of wins, Verstappen would retain the lead, but what a finale that would set up!

As for what to expect on the track, fireworks! Lots of fireworks between the two rivals. The track should suit Mercedes so a championship outcome is unlikely here.

Mercedes and Red Bull more civilised in battle

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, it must be accepted that both Christian Horner and Toto Wolff have pushed the boundaries of acceptability in recent weeks.

Horner was rightly warned by the stewards for his comments over a "rogue marshall" at the end of qualifying in Qatar, but by the same token Wolff may now be counting himself lucky after stating his belief F1 was being judged "in two ways" on the São Paulo grid.

The tension of a finely balanced title race is difficult to manage but with the FIA stepping in at the close of the Qatar weekend, it is likely the duo will present a calmed exterior this time around.

That being said, Red Bull could still protest the Mercedes rear wing and send everything into hyperdrive again!

Extreme track evolution

Whenever F1 visits a street layout or a circuit rarely used across the year, track evolution is high but this could take things to a new level.

The asphalt has been fully laid for, being generous, a matter of weeks and has not been raced on. This means drivers face a completely green track on Friday.

The danger here is twofold. Firstly, the oils will rise to the surface as soon as running begins, a process that will create a sheen across the track making it incredibly slippery.

Secondly, the concrete walls that line the track. Push too hard during this phase and the walls will collect a car before the driver realises they've made a mistake.

In short, think of the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix but on a street circuit. That brings us nicely to the final point...

Red flag chaos

Street circuits and red flags go together like brass bands and Christmas. If you wait around long enough, one is sure to show up!

As we have already suggested, track evolution is going to be huge across the weekend as more rubber is laid, but during these early phases, it would be a surprise if the concrete walls failed to claim at least one driver.

Given the complete unknown of the layout and how hard all drivers will be pushing, it is not impossible to conceive that either or both of the championship contenders could be victims.

A red flag in the race is less likely given the generous runoff, something not often a characteristic one can point to at a street track, but across the three practice sessions and in qualifying, the likelihood is high.

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