Lewis Hamilton says F1 title this season would be his greatest achievement

  • Mercedes driver battling for eighth crown against Verstappen
  • ‘I made every sacrifice I could this year … there are no regrets’

Lewis Hamilton believes winning an eighth Formula One title this season would be his greatest championship victory. The world champion has been locked in a season-long struggle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and going into the final two decisive rounds, beginning this weekend in Saudi Arabia, Hamilton insists he has left nothing on the table in his attempt to win. He is calm and ready to race in the know ledge he has given his all.

With seven titles already under his belt and the prospect of surpassing Michael Schumacher’s record with an eighth, the 36-year-old acknowledged he is in the battle of his career with Verstappen. Hamilton agreed that should he win it, having at one stage been 32 points behind the Dutchman, this would be the best title he has secured during a remarkable 15 years in F1.

“If I get the job done, I think it will, yes,” he said. “But also, no one has ever been able to fight for an eighth, aside from Michael. It is a new position, uncharted territory.”

Verstappen leads the championship by only eight points after a gripping season across 20 races. Two remain, with 52 points on the table. Verstappen can take the title in Saudi Arabia if he wins and takes the fastest lap and Hamilton finishes sixth or lower, if he wins and Hamilton finishes seventh or lower, or if he outscores Hamilton by 18 points.

Yet unless Hamilton endures a DNF the competition will go almost certainly to the wire at the finale in Abu Dhabi. Hamilton was considering these climactic races as he prepared to go to Saudi Arabia. Having returned to the UK to work with the team, and staying in a London hotel, he was relaxed, upbeat, animated and in fine humour. Hamilton is always personable but there was no trace of tension or apprehension at the task ahead. His experience, which may well yet be telling, is surely playing a huge part in how calmly he is approaching these pivotal moments.

Max Verstappen (left) and Lewis Hamilton have managed to maintain a friendly relationship despite two crashes on the track
Max Verstappen (left) and Lewis Hamilton have managed to maintain a friendly relationship despite two crashes on the track. Photograph: Xinhua/Shutterstock

He has competed in nail-biting run-ins before, in 2007, then to take his first title in 2008 and against his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016. He also had to see off strong title challenges from Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari in 2017 and 2018. This year with a car that has been marginally outpaced by the Red Bull he is content that, in a season where the lead has changed hands five times, he could not have done more.

“This is the best I have been able to give in a year, the training, the time balance that I have,” he said. “I made every sacrifice I could this year. I don’t think I have left anything undone, so at this point of the year there are no regrets.

“I am proud of everything we have done. There were times when we were 32 points behind. I know how hard it is to catch them up and at the time it feels impossible, but somehow we recovered.”

Ever the complete competitor, Hamilton confirmed he was still charging as hard as he could to make the difference. Never a fan of working on the simulator, he explained he had spent seven hours in one day last week on the Mercedes simulator at their Brackley HQ and a further four on Monday as he prepared to head to the Jeddah circuit in Saudi Arabia, which is hosting its first race.

The track, which features long straights and almost 80% of a lap at full throttle, should on paper favour Mercedes but Hamilton was taking nothing for granted, noting how conditions at the venue and the track surface would play a role in whether his team could find the sweet spot for their car which has been notoriously hard to nail down this season.

Hamilton and Verstappen have maintained a friendly respect throughout, despite crashing into one another twice. However the relationship between their respective team principals, Toto Wolff of Mercedes and Red Bull’s Christian Horner has been marked by increasingly fractious exchanges.

Most recently Horner has been blunt in stating his belief that the Mercedes rear wing is flexing illegally, delivering a straightline speed advantage. Red Bull are likely to protest about the wing in Saudi Arabia.

Mercedes are confident their wing is completely legal. Hamilton, who confirmed he has checked with his team that is the case, took exception to a claim he believes is unfounded and, he implied, unsportsmanlike.

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“If it is egos fighting each other there is defence, there is respect,” he said. “But what is important, I did see someone say something about cheating and that’s the worst claim to ever make. We have done all these tests and this is where it is. I don’t like it when people put that out there.”

Two races remain and a smiling Hamilton revealed he had been watching videos of his old karting races, ones he classes as some of his favourites. Two more wins and these deciders might be added to those cherished moments of a kid in a kart who had no idea quite how far he would go.

Contributor

Giles Richards

The GuardianTramp

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