Lewis Hamilton has admitted he “feels sorry” for Formula One fans that the world drivers’ title could be settled this weekend with five rounds of the season still to go.
The title has only ever been won with five races remaining twice before: in 2002, when Michael Schumacher clinched his fifth crown with six races left, and in 1992, when Nigel Mansell won with five to go.
Max Verstappen would join them on Sunday if he won Singapore’s street race, which is held at night under the floodlights, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez finished well down the field.
Hamilton said that wherever Verstappen ended up clinching the title, the championship race as a whole had been a dud. Especially when compared with last year’s, which went down to the wire in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen eventually emerging victorious thanks to a hugely controversial late safety-car period.
“From my point of view, I’m not really thinking much about that [Verstappen potentially winning the title this weekend],” Hamilton said in his pre-race press conference at the Marina Bay Circuit on Thursday night.
“Definitely, I feel for the fans, for everyone and even for us [the drivers]. Last year, going right down to the wire, that was intense for everybody.”
Hamilton, of course, had enjoyed his fair share of title processions. The seven-time world champion won his third drivers’ title in 2015 with three races to spare, and his seventh in 2020. Some may say it is a bit rich the Mercedes driver complaining that this year’s title race has been boring when he has been responsible for similar cake walks. But Hamilton did not try to claim his dominant title wins were any more exciting than the current one.
“It’s never great when the season finishes early,” Hamilton insisted. “Even when I’ve experienced having it finish early in places like Mexico [with two races remaining in 2017 and 2018]. For you, as the one individual, it’s great. But for the actual sport, it’s not spectacular.
“I’m really grateful to have had 2008 [his first title], which went right down to the last 17 seconds. And obviously last year, pretty much the same thing. Let’s hope for the future that it’s a bit better.”
Verstappen, who turns 25 today, said he was not expecting a birthday gift from his rivals on Sunday.
“I don’t really think about the championship,” said the Dutchman, who has won 11 of 16 races this season, including the past five. “It’s quite a long shot and I just want to enjoy the weekend and, of course, try to win it. I need a lot of luck for it to happen here, so I don’t really count on it. It’s a bit unrealistic.”
Verstappen also needs two more wins from the last six races to equal the single-season mark of 13 jointly held by Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013).
“It will be nice if we get it [this weekend], but for me personally it’s not something [to focus on],” he said. “It’s nice what we’ve done the last few races but I don’t think about it any more. I’m just focusing on what we have to do here.”
Formula One is back in Singapore for the first time since the pandemic. The sport then heads to Suzuka for next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, with races in Austin, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi to follow.