Hamilton and Verstappen follow F1 title dispute into uncharted territory

By Alan BaldwinNov 17 (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will take their Formula One title battle into uncharted territory this weekend,

By Alan Baldwin

Nov 17 (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will take their Formula One title battle into uncharted territory this weekend, as Qatar hosts a grand prix for the first time on a track better known for two-wheel thrills.

In the last of three races on successive weekends, Qatar will also host a final race of three in the Middle East to decide whether Mercedes’ Hamilton wins a record eighth championship or Red Bull’s Verstappen takes first.

Hamilton narrowed the gap to 14 points after overcoming a series of setbacks with one of the best victories of his career at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo last Sunday.

The race in Brazil was marked by suspicion and controversy, and that will continue into the 20th race of the season as Mercedes seeks a review from the stewards of a Verstappen maneuver that forced Hamilton to swerve.

Meanwhile, fans will be on edge before a battle between two adversaries who are in their prime.

“We are witnessing a titanic battle for both championships this year, and the race in Brazil was just another twist in a fascinating story,” said Formula One Managing Director Ross Brawn.

“Mercedes had the advantage (in Brazil), but could go back to favoring Red Bull next time. It was fantastic. Nobody knows what will happen next,” he added.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said his team will keep fighting.

“The final three-race can sometimes test your energy levels, but with only three races to decide both championships, our motivation is higher than ever,” added the Austrian.

“Our goal is to channel it in the most effective way.”

Mercedes is 11 points ahead of Red Bull in the constructors’ championship.

The Losail circuit near Doha has regularly hosted the MotoGP season opener and is fast and fluid with a combination of medium and high speed corners and a kilometer-long main straight.

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It will be followed by another new race in Saudi Arabia, a street circuit in Jeddah, before the final race in Abu Dhabi, where changes have been made to the track since Formula One was last contested there.

“I think I’ve only been to Qatar once for an award so I’m looking forward to going back,” said Verstappen. “Hopefully we can do well there. It always looks good when we watch the MotoGP race.”

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Pérez of Mexico has raced at Losail previously, having won there in the GP2 Asia series in 2009.

(Report by Alan Baldwin in London. Edited in Spanish by Rodrigo Charme)