A DNF for both Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at Yas Marina would give the Dutchman the title by virtue of his nine Grand Prix wins to Hamilton’s eight, despite being level on points in the drivers’ standings.
But Hamilton’s one-time grid colleague Anthony Davidson said: “I think we’ve seen how desperate both drivers are to win. Lewis has the experience, been there and done things I’m sure he regrets now but he has that in his armoury.
“It’s more for Max’s sake he doesn’t do something that will tarnish his reputation and something that he may internally regret for the rest of his career.
“Michael Schumacher would sail quite close to the edge sometimes in the tricks that he played in the car and that divides opinion quite a lot. He was masterful but it came at a price to his reputation.
“Both drivers need to defend hard, race hard, take it right to the edge, to the limit, and do everything they can to finish ahead but hopefully without raising an eyebrow.”
The title protagonists have had a season littered with crashes and controversies, most recently in Saudi Arabia last week when Hamilton crashed into the back of Verstappen when his younger rival appeared to have brake tested him.
It equated to a five-second penalty which was doubled after the race but had no bearing on the result with Verstappen 16 seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas in third as Hamilton took the win.
And Davidson outlined his hopes that the stewards would warn both drivers and their teams about being thrown out of the championship if guilty of wrongdoing in Abu Dhabi.
Of things potentially turning ugly in the final race, Davidson said: “I think it’s a very realistic scenario that could play out. I hope we don’t see it play out as it’s not a good image for Formula One.
“I hope the stewards lay down the law before the race with the threat of exclusion from the championship like Schumacher in 1997 – drivers have to be reminded of that. And we also get into the complication of teammates possibly getting involved as well.
“I hope it can be settled fairly but it seems to me like the respect was dwindling slightly in the last race. I hope that’s not a sign of things to come because I don’t want to see the title decided in the stewards’ office but as fairly as can be hoped for.”
Davidson, who was speaking after driving Mercedes’ 2019-title winning car at Silverstone’s Lap of Lights experience, believes the 2021 season is the best he has ever watched. In addition, he argues the Hamilton of 2021 is the best he has seen in his lengthy F1 career.
“This year is the best all-round performance I’ve ever seen him drive throughout his time in Formula One,” he said. “If Max had been racing himself, I think we would have seen more situations like Monza and Silverstone.”
With a hat-trick of victories in the last three GPs, momentum is clearly with Hamilton going into the final round of a marathon season.
And the Yas Marina track, which usually plays to Red Bull’s strengths, Davidson believes will aid their title rivals.
“They’ve made significant changes to the track and it’s much faster so I think that eradicates lots of Red Bull’s previous advantage,” he said. “The circuit is coming more towards Mercedes and my gut instinct tells me that momentum is falling into their hands.”
Meanwhile, speaking of the Lap of Lights experience in relative darkness at Silverstone in an F1 car, Davidson added: “I got to drive around the track last year with the family last year but it was a bit of change from 5mph to 155mph. Driving the lap was challenging with no lights – it was a bit sketchy at points but I used Santa’s Grotto to know where to turn.”
Anthony Davidson opened Silverstone’s Lap of Lights Christmas experience, which runs until January 3, in Mercedes’ 2019 title-winning car. For details and booking go to www.silverstone.co.uk