Lewis Hamilton and Max Vertstappen will go into the final race of the championship tied on points in a winner take all showdown. | HAMAD I MOHAMMED

My first ever football game was when I was ten years old. Our friends went every week and they took me with them. Cheltenham Town were playing in the Southern League at the time and we lost 2-1 on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon.

Forty two years later, my same friend went to the midweek game this week and, now in the dizzying heights of League 1, witnessed a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Cambridge United. “Painful,” he texted me after the game. “And freezing cold.” I was sorry to see us lose, but somewhere deep down, in an uncertain, fast-changing world, I was glad to know that sometimes, some things remain reliably the same.

Chelsea won the delayed women’s FA Cup last week, which meant they won the triple last season. Quadruple if you count the Community Shield. AND they were runners-up in the Champions League. The day after Cheltenham lost, Chelsea played out a listless 0-0 at home to Juventus and it was refreshing to hear their manager, Emma ‘the truth’ Hayes, say, “Yeah, we were knacked after the FA Cup win.”

With Christmas now only two weeks away, the weekends are getting busy, which makes my appointment with the biggest sporting event of the weekend more complicated than it needs to be. I am not talking about the Ashes, or Real v Atletico, but of the F1 finale and world championship decider.

I am not a petrol head but the closing stages of this season have been nothing short of mind blowing.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Vertstappen will go into the final race of the championship tied on points in a winner take all showdown.

Hamilton, aged 36, has more GP wins than any other driver and is looking for a historic 8th world title.

If he wins, there will be little doubt that he is the greatest F1 driver or all time.
Verstappen, at just 24, is bidding to become one of the youngest F1 champion in history. It is hard to believe that the Dutchman has been racing F1 since he was 17. Eager to start writing a legacy of his own, this is a clash of the two best talents of their generation.

It is the first time two drivers have gone into the final race level on points since 1974. It is the first time since 2012 that two drivers from rival teams are fighting for the title in the final race of the year. We have to look back to the Senna Prost battles in 1989 and 1990 to find a rivalry as intense as this.

Having started the season on relatively friendly terms, the drivers have become bitter rivals. They have collided three times this season and the racing has been intense. The war of words has escalated dramatically. Rule infractions, penalties and appeals have been as much a feature as the racing.

Verstappen led for much of the season until Hamilton fought back in the latter stages with some sublime driving, particularly in Brazil when Hamilton won from 10th on the grid to cut the Dutchman’s lead from 21 to 14 points. The teams, Mercedes and Red Bull have also been embroiled in an increasingly rancorous battle as the season has unfolded.

What started as competitive rivalry has turned into fierce competition between Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes, and his opposite number Christian Horner at Red Bull. The pair share an uncompromising desire to finish first, but couldn’t be more different otherwise. Wolff is calculating and understated and prefers to work behind the scenes, while Horner is a more mischievous, extroverted character and married to Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell.

The fascinating Netflix series about the sport has lifted the lid on the inner workings and rivalries of the teams and we have become far closer to Wolff and Horner than we get to most decision makers in sport. The TV coverage of the races is spectacular and the viewer feels completely embedded in the sport.

The rivalry is so intense, and there is so much at stake, that the governing body this week have been making it very clear they want a clean race.

If neither car finishes in the points, Verstappen wins. We all remember when Schumacher collided with Damon Hill in 1994 to ensure the German won the world title that year, and the world is watching to see if there are crashes again in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, intentional or otherwise.

But with my son’s water polo match and daughter’s theatre show both tomorrow afternoon, taking my seat for the showdown of the year is going to be tricky.