Formula One: Wolff and Horner shake hands before title showdown

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are level on points heading into Sunday's floodlit finale at the Yas Marina track but the Dutchman is ahead 9-8 on wins and will be champion if both fail to score.

Mercedes Executive Director Toto Wolff and Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner shake hands in the team principals press conference.   -  REUTERS

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and his Red Bull rival Christian Horner put on a display of sportsmanship ahead of the Formula One title showdown at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after months of trading bitter barbs.

Facing the media with the constructors' championship trophy between them, the pair shook hands not once but twice, taking some of the sting out of the tension that had built up between their two feuding teams.

"We're competing for two of the biggest trophies in sport, of course the competition is intense," said Horner.

"It would be totally fake to sit here and say how much we love each other... Because I'm not going on holiday with you after this weekend," he added turning to Wolff.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are level on points heading into Sunday's floodlit finale at the Yas Marina track but the Dutchman is ahead 9-8 on wins and will be champion if both fail to score.

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The pair have made contact three times this season, most recently in the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix which was marked by heated radio exchanges, controversy and collisions.

But even as the battle between Verstappen and Hamilton has raged on track, Wolff and Horner have been equally punchy off it.

Red Bull are 28 points behind Mercedes in the constructors' standings, with Horner conceding it would take a miracle to win.

Their run of four straight title doubles was ended by Mercedes in 2014, but Horner will still draw satisfaction from beating Hamilton to the drivers' title.

It would hand the German marquee a first defeat in the current rules era after seven straight title doubles.

Horner and Wolff have reported each others' teams and drivers to race stewards, questioned the legality of their cars, cast aspersions on stewards' impartiality and even traded direct insults with each other.

"As he said, very different personalities," said the Austrian on Friday.

"But it is just the fight for ... one of the most important prizes in sport, it's a world championship. That's why you cannot expect a lot of schmoozing between drivers, team principals and all the team."

Max vs Mercedes

Horner cast Verstappen on Friday as a brave underdog up against Hamilton's Mercedes machine in the battle for the Formula One title.

The Dutch driver is level on points with Mercedes' seven times world champion, but ahead of the Briton 9-8 on wins, going into Sunday's decisive season-ending showdown in Abu Dhabi.

Horner said Hamilton, the most successful driver of all time, had used "every tool available to him" to put Verstappen under huge pressure and had been "backed up by the Mercedes media machine".

"What you've got to remember about Max is that he's just a young lad," he told reporters.

"He's a 24-year-old that drives with bravery, with passion, with skill, with determination. He's just a guy living his dream and doing his job. And he's up against not only Lewis but a huge machine in Mercedes-Benz."

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