RACE DEBRIEF

    Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton says he is “more relaxed” than he has ever been in his tight fight with Max Verstappen as he eyes what he described would be his most significant title win yet…

    The Mercedes driver arrived in Saudi Arabia for the penultimate race of the season with the momentum, having won the last two Grands Prix, however he still trails his Red Bull rival by eight points.

    Hamilton said he’s excited about the final two races of the season, after a year-long fight with Verstappen and Red Bull, and that the experience of his previous title victories means he’s less stressed about the run-in.

    READ MORE: A potential title decider and a brand new circuit – 5 storylines we’re excited about ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

    “I’m excited to be getting in the car, I’m very grateful we have these two races to fight it out,” he said when speaking on Thursday at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. “The team’s working as hard as it can, I feel great.”

    He added: “There’s a couple of bits that are different [in this title fight], in one sense because we’ve got two incredibly close teams. It’s different because we’re fighting for unchartered territory, no one has ever won eight drivers' titles or teams', so that’s new.

    “And then on the other side, I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been. It’s not the first 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, whereas I’m a lot more sure about myself and I’ve applied myself like never before.

    “I know I can’t change anything from the past but all I can do is prepare as best as I can for what’s ahead of me, and I 100% know I have.”

    Lewis Hamilton: Championship battle 'taps me back to when I was a kid'

    Many believe that Hamilton has moved to another level in the last couple of races, in part referencing his brilliant comeback drive in both the Sprint and Grand Prix in Brazil after his qualifying disqualification – but the Mercedes driver didn’t agree.

    “I don’t believe I’ve gone to another level, I believe I’m just at a good level in general,” he said. “Maybe I tapped into something different in Brazil, that is just – maybe I haven’t been there before, I don’t know. I definitely have in my career before, been in those positions many, many times before. But I’d like to think I’ve been doing well all year; you are constantly learning, your surroundings, the car, how to work with the team, how to get more out of each member of the team.

    READ MORE: Wolff says car 'in best place it's been all season' as Mercedes aim to stop Verstappen being crowned in Jeddah

    “I like to think that all of us have [gone to another level], not just me – it’s been the engineers, it’s been the mechanics, every member of the team has pulled out more and that’s what’s been needed. We always need more performance, we need more focus, we need more power on the straights.”

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    It’s been an up and down season for both Red Bull and Mercedes, with each team enjoying periods on top and other times where they were playing catch-up.

    FORM GUIDE: Who’s fancied to go well at the all-new Saudi Arabian Grand Prix?

    But should Hamilton come out on top this season, would his eighth title be the most significant or meaningful one yet? “I mean it would be, yeah, for sure. One being that again it's something that no one’s ever done before,” said the seven-time world champion.

    “It’s been the toughest battle that the sport has seen for a long, long time, and the most challenging, so I think collectively it would be. Plus we’re in a pandemic, so all sorts of things we’ve been faced with.”

    Verstappen is the only driver who can win the title this weekend. Victory and fastest lap would give him the title if Hamilton finishes sixth or lower (see the title permutations in the graphic above).

    Two races to go: Hamilton and Verstappen on their epic 2021 championship battle