Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said yesterday he feels for the fans with Max Verstappen on the cusp of wrapping up the world championship early at this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Last year’s title chase saw Verstappen pip Hamilton on the very last lap of a controversial final race of 2021 in Abu Dhabi.
But Verstappen can clinch his second successive world championship for Red Bull on Sunday night with five races to spare if he claims a sixth consecutive win and his rivals finish down the field.
After some patchy results in the first three races of 2022, after which Verstappen found himself 46 points behind Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, the Dutchman has dominated.
Verstappen has won 11 of 17 races and now has an almost unassailable 116-point lead over Leclerc with just six Grands Prix to go.
“I definitely feel for the fans because, even for us, last year going right down to the wire was intense for everybody,” said Hamilton, who has struggled all season in his Mercedes and is himself out of the championship running.
“So it’s never great when the season finishes early,” he said.
The 37-year-old Briton said he was “grateful” to have his 2008 season – when he won his first world title – right down to the last 17 seconds.
“And obviously last year, pretty much much the same thing. Let’s hope for the future, it’s a bit better,” he said.
Hamilton has grappled all season with a car that has suffered from instability over bumps and bouncing at high speed.
But he said the team now understands the new 2022 car “100 percent” better than at the season’s previous street races at Monaco and Baku, and that gives him hope for this weekend.
“We’ve learned a huge amount about the car,” he said.
“I think we’re very fortunate that we’re in a much better place than I think we have ever been. So I hope we are not that far away.
“We hope that the car works better here but it really depends how bumpy it is. The bumps often set the car off and upset the car in a lot of instances. We do know it will be bumpy.
“They have resurfaced some parts of the circuit so hopefully it is not as bouncy as before. Maybe the car will be fine, maybe it won’t.”
Hamilton is looking to keep his proud record of winning at least one race in every season since his debut for McLaren in 2007.
“For me, we’ve still got six races, I’m still enjoying the challenge and proud of the strength and the growth in our team,” he said.
Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton speaks during a pre-event press conference at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore yesterday. (AFP)