For the first time in decades, there’s a real possibility that the Formula 1 season could finish with a tie. And if that’s the case, F1 has a way to settle things and find a winner. But, it does mean we have to talk about that awful Belgian Grand Prix again. I’m sorry.
To set the scene, as we head into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, championship rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are level on points. They both sit on an impressive 369.5, which they have amassed through the 2021 season.
By my math, there’s two ways that both drivers could still be level on points following the race in Abu Dhabi.
First up, if either driver finishes in ninth place and the other comes home 10th and sets the fastest lap of the race, they’ll stay level.
That’s because finishing ninth in a grand prix earns you two points, while coming tenth will get you one point. On top of that, F1 also offers an extra point for whoever sets the fastest lap of the race.
While it’s unlikely we’ll see either of these drivers fall to the bottom of the points, it could happen if there are engine penalties or on-track incidents.
Which brings me onto the second way they’ll end the race in a tie, and that’s if neither manages to score any points. That could be because of a freak mechanical issue that hits both drivers or, as many are expecting, they could come together on track and take one another out.
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, though.
But if it does, and the rivals are still level on points come the checkered flag on Sunday afternoon, F1 will decide this year’s champion based on the number of wins they have had this season.
So far, Mercedes driver Hamilton has notched up eight victories. However, Verstappen is just ahead and has nine wins this year. That means, if it all came down to a tie, Verstappen would be crowned 2021 Formula 1 World Drivers Champion.
Sure, that all seems fair. But, one of Verstappen’s win was the farcical 2021 Belgian Grand Prix. That race was, to put it bluntly, an absolute shit show.
The race at Spa, which is usually a highpoint of the F1 calendar, was one of the sport’s most shambolic events in years. After rain flooded the track, teams, drivers and fans were left waiting around for hours as race directors decided how to manage the situation.
Stewards couldn’t decide when the race had started, how long it could run for or even how many laps had been completed. It was a low point for the sport.
In the end, organizers finally called it quits after the cars completed just two laps of Spa – each behind the safety car. The whole thing was a complete shambles.
After those two laps of racing, Formula 1 said it would award half-points for the event, which is now officially the shortest race in F1 history.
As a result, Max Verstappen was awarded first place and 12.5 points, George Russell took second at 9 points, and Lewis Hamilton was awarded third and 7.5 points.
Oh, and Nikita Mazepin set the fastest lap of the race.
Half points are awarded for races below half distance in F1, so technically Max Verstappen has won 8.5 races and Hamilton just eight.
If this event ends up impacting the outcome of one of the most exciting title fights in years, that would be a crushing blow to the sport.
At the time, many said the race should have been cancelled and fans refunded for their tickets. And now, the wider implications of F1 insisting that the race was run could draw further criticism from onlookers. Surely, winning this non-race should not be enough to put you ahead in a world championship?
If that does become the case come Sunday, this is easily a bigger travesty than any questionable time-penalty, grid drop or controversial crash that we’ve seen throughout this incredibly scrappy F1 season.
Here’s hoping that this scenario doesn’t come to fruition.
But, in the year of drama we’ve so far seen in 2021, I would not be surprised if the worst event of the year ends up coming back to haunt us.