F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has hailed 2021 as “one of the great seasons in F1” as the battle for the driver and constructors championships enters its final stages this season. Both titles are still up for grabs and Mercedes and Red Bull have battled it out all year to try and build up some sort of advantage over their main rivals with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen going head-to-head.
Verstappen has managed to pull out the biggest lead so far after picking up a sprint qualifying win and pole position ahead of the British Grand Prix, with a 33-point lead over Hamilton.
Yet disaster struck for the 24-year-old who collided with the Briton on the opening lap of the race and was sent spearing into the tyre wall at Turn 9, ruining any chances of points at Silverstone.
In contrast, Hamilton, despite picking up a 10-second time penalty, went on to win the race in front of his home crowd.
Now, with just six races remaining of the year, Verstappen is back in the lead after a second-placed finish at the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul and has a six-point advantage heading to Austin on Sunday.
And with such a thrilling battle between the two teams, Domenicali added it was a “fantastic” advert for Formula One.
“I can’t wait for the next six events as they are six opportunities for something new and incredible to happen in what has so far been one of the great seasons in F1,” he wrote in his F1.com column.
“Last time we found ourselves in such a tight fight for the championship, I was on the team side at Ferrari, with the title going down to the final race in 2010 and 2012 – so I know what it means to live this kind of intensity.”
And it’s not just the battle at the top, as two mighty teams, McLaren and Ferrari, battle out for third in the constructors.
And though Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo have pulled out a 7.5-point lead over the Italian outfit, there’s all to play for with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr at the wheel.
“It’s fantastic for Formula 1 to have such an intense fight, but I don’t want to only focus on that, as we have the fight for other positions,” continued Domenicali.
“McLaren and Ferrari, for example, are battling hard for third and we have battles all the way down the field, with the final positions in the constructors’ championship critical for teams regarding their positioning for the future.”
With the championship on a knife edge, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has warned Hamilton that even one single non-finish could see the championship swing out of their hands, with the seven-time world champion vying for an eighth title.
Speaking after the Turkish Grand Prix, which saw Hamilton finish fifth after a tyre change disagreement, Wolff felt the championship fight is likely to go down to the wire.
“In the end, we lost eight points today [Sunday] to Red Bull from a grid penalty and Red Bull last week were happy with a seven-point loss,” said Wolff. “It’s going to be very tight until the end [of the season].
“DNFs are going to make the big difference and that was also a consideration today, not three or four or five-point swings.”
“The whole season swings back and forth, we make mistakes together, we win together,” added Wolff. “We decided for one thing and it went wrong.
“We have had much bigger swings in the past with lost opportunities and this one was a very close call.”