Former McLaren and Red Bull driver David Coulthard has likened Formula 1 to the Ultimate Fighting Championship amid Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s tense title fight.
This season’s Formula 1 title race has been touted as one of the most vicious of all time, with joint-leaders Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton coming to blows on the track more than once.
The pair most recently clashed at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix over the weekend, where Hamilton collected a third straight win to pull level on points at the top of the drivers’ standings.
Red Bull ‘s Verstappen, 24, was handed 15 seconds of penalties for leaving the track and braking suddenly in front of Hamilton upon his return, pleading his case to stewards that he was attempting to let the Briton pass.
Tensions are particularly high heading into Sunday’s championship-decider at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where the belt will be decided in a winner-takes-all showdown.
But Verstappen holds a key advantage with more race victories than Hamilton so far this season (nine to eight), and the Dutchman would win the crown on count-back should neither driver finish in Abu Dhabi.
Amid fears that Formula 1’s in-form duo may not finish at the Yas Marina circuit, David Coulthard compared the modern sport to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
“If we look at UFC (sic), as far as I know there’s only two rules and it’s about below the belt and it’s about the eyes, and everything else goes,” the former McLaren and Red Bull driver told the F1 Nation Podcast.
“This now feels like Formula 1 has been redefined as F1 UFC, and pretty much anything is going, and then the stewards are stepping in.”
The debut Saudi Arabian Grand Prix comprised two red flags, three virtual safety cars and three standing starts, leading to a more disjointed spectacle than fans are accustomed to.
While some may have considered that entertainment in itself, many will be hoping the drivers let their performance do the talking in Abu Dhabi.
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The possibility of another crash is all the more daunting for Hamilton, who is hoping to collect a record-breaking eighth world championship after cutting down Verstappen’s cushion at the table summit.
The Mercedes superstar is also on the verge of a fifth straight world title, something only F1 legend Michael Schumacher has achieved to date.
Meanwhile, Red Bull poster boy Verstappen is hoping to prove his often aggressive driving tactics can pave the way to success by winning his maiden world championship.
Verstappen’s father, Jos, predicted it was unlikely but failed to rule out the possibility of his son barging Hamilton off the track in Abu Dhabi.
“If it came down to it, would Max ram Lewis off the road? I don’t think that will happen,” he told the Daily Mail.
“Max absolutely wants to win. He will definitely go for it. He will clearly try to beat him. He will do everything to get the win, that’s for sure. It will be exciting.”
The situation has created a fraught atmosphere and sparked conversations regarding elite competition and the concept of honour in sport, themes that also often arise in mixed martial arts.
Hamilton and Verstappen will be stopped short of punching, kicking or grappling with one another come Sunday, but the gloves are off in every other sense for the final fight of the F1 season.