In the hot seat: Lewis Hamilton gestures during a press conference ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton admitted Thursday that snatching a record eighth Formula One world title from the grasp of bitter rival Max Verstappen would be his “most significant”.
Hamilton trails Verstappen by eight points with just two races left – on the streets of Jeddah on Sunday and at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next weekend.
“I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been,” said Hamilton ahead of Jeddah’s championship debut.
Having won seven world championships – the same as Michael Schumacher – Hamilton insists another title triumph would be his finest to date.
“It would be for sure,” said the Mercedes star.
“One being that it is something that no one has ever done before. It has been against the toughest battle I think the sport has seen in a long time and the most challenging.
“Plus, we are in a pandemic and all sorts of things we have been faced with.”
He said his battle with Red Bull’s Verstappen was notable and different to the rest.
“It’s different in one sense because we’ve got two incredibly close teams. It’s different because, as a team, we’re fighting in unchartered territory. Nobody’s ever won eight titles, team or driver – so that’s quite fresh and new.
“On the other side, I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been. I think because I’ve been around a long time.
“I remember how it was with my first championship and even my second and third – the sleepless nights and all those sorts of things.
“Obviously I’m a lot more sure about myself and just apply myself better now than ever before. I know I can’t change anything from the past, but all I can do is prepare the best I can for what’s up ahead of me. And I know, 100 per cent, that I have.”
Hamilton’s calmness has come after winning the last two races in Brazil and Qatar to trim Verstappen’s advantage to eight points, but he knows that if the Dutchman wins on Sunday and he finishes outside the top six it will be the Red Bull man who takes his crown.
“I’m excited to be getting in the car and grateful that we have these two races to fight it out,” he added, ignoring consideration of any negative possibilities.
“It’s difficult to know what to expect here. I think we are prepared as best we can.”
“It’s not far off a Silverstone kind of surface. You’ve got these long, long straights, the corners… everything’s a little bit different to the simulator!”
Hamilton disagreed with team chief Toto Wolff that Red Bull had “woken up the lion” in him in Brazil, where he overcame two major penalties, and stimulated him to find a new higher level of driving.
“I don’t believe that I’ve gone to a different level, I think I’m at a good level in general,” he said.
“Maybe I tapped into something different in Brazil that maybe I hadn’t before?”