LEWIS HAMILTON says winning the F1 title this year for a record eighth time would be his greatest victory.
The Brit is locked in a gripping battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen which is delicately poised going into the final two races of the season.
The championship lead has changed hands over the previous 20 races and currently sees Hamilton just eight points behind.
The 36-year-old could wipe that out this weekend in Saudi Arabia providing he is victorious and sets the fastest lap.
It would mean he would be level-pegging with Verstappen going into the season finale in Abu Dhabi next week in what has been a pulsating duel for the F1 crown.
But sat in the Rosewood Hotel in London, dressed in a tight green top and black trousers, Hamilton is looking and sounding as cool as a cucumber.
He says: “I am excited. I feel different than what I felt in my first year.
“I remember the year of my first title and my second, the nervousness I had in Brazil in 2008, and then in Abu Dhabi, the double points in 2014 and not sleeping.
“There is a different calmness this year, I don’t know why, I guess because I have had those experiences in the past.
“Would this be the best championship? If I get the job done, I think it will, yeah. But also, no one has ever been able to fight for an eighth, aside from Michael Schumcher. It is a new position, uncharted territory.”
If he does manage to win the title this season, Hamilton would have overturned a 19-point deficit – his biggest comeback to win a championship.
And he says that his recent successes, particularly his victory at the Brazilian GP – where he was disqualified from qualifying and hit with a grid penalty – were reminiscent of his karting days.
He added: “This year has been amazing. These past few days I have been watching back my karting races.
“I went to see my dad and my brother on Sunday and we had roast dinner and my brother came and showed me a race at Buckmore Park – he knows all my races, he’s my biggest fan probably, and he was like ‘this was your best race’.
“Those have been my favourite races when you have to come back from somewhere else.
“When I started karting at Rye House, I always started last because the kart was bent, it was really not great and I worked my way through the field.
“This year has been amazing too. There was a period at the beginning of the year where we just won in Bahrain and then we had a good couple of races before then really falling behind.
“They were three or four tenths ahead and it was like, ‘shoot, we don’t have a development coming’, so it has been a real challenge and I love it.
“The team and I are closer than we have ever been. Everyone has lifted their game.
“I am proud of everything we have done. There were times when we were 35 points behind in the Constructors’ Championship and at that point and at the time it feels impossible.
“But somehow we recovered and then you go to Brazil and when I got that message I was disqualified, my heart sank.
“I was like ‘there is no matter how good I am, I am never going to recover and I am going to lose at least, I might get back to fourth or fifth from there’.
“But then we won the race.”
Next up is the high-speed street race in Saudi Arabia, a new addition to the calendar with building work still going on.
Hamilton booked himself in for double-sessions on the team’s simulator in their Brackley HQ and has cancelled private engagements to ensure he stays fit, focused and healthy.
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He said: “I have been working hard and this is the best I have been able to give in a year in terms of the training, the time balance that I have.
“What I say yes to, what I say no to. On Sunday, it was the British Fashion Awards and I was supposed to be on a really nice table and I was like ‘I have got to be up training, I have got to be focused, I cannot risk getting covid’, so 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.”