McLaren-Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton has confessed that 'it feels a little different' going into this weekend's Abu Dhabi F1 2010 World Championship finale knowing that – unlike in 2007 and 2008 – the destiny of the title is not in his hands, whilst team-mate Jenson Button has vowed to give the soon-to-depart #1 on his car 'the best possible send-off'.
Hamilton can still lift the laurels at Yas Marina, but in order to do so the British ace needs to win the race and hope that a significant slice of ill-fortune strikes fellow protagonists Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, who he trails by 24, 16 and nine points respectively – with only 25 remaining up for grabs. The pressure, he reveals, is off.
“I've been in the hunt for the world championship at the final race of the season on two previous occasions, so I know all about the pressure you feel when the title is almost within touching distance,” the 25-year-old explained. “This year, it feels a little different – although I'm still mathematically in with a shout, I'm fully aware that I'll not only need to win the race but see the championship leader finish outside the points – and even then, that might not be enough, so I'm not feeling the pressure in quite the same way as I did in 2007 or 2008.
“That's not to say I'm going into the race weekend feeling any less determined or motivated – we've seen before that this championship can be unpredictable and volatile, and I think this last race of the year could be even more unpredictable than normal.
“I know from personal experience that the championship isn't over until you cross the line on the final lap – so I'll not only make sure I'm up there at the end, but I'll be pushing hard until the very end. It's going to be a brilliant spectacle, and a great event for F1 fans around the world – I absolutely can't wait!”
Button's hopes of successfully defending his hard-fought drivers' trophy, of course, were finally extinguished at Interlagos last weekend, when fifth place was not enough for the nine-time grand prix-winner and saw him become the first member of the crown-chasing quintet to drop out-of-the-running. With nothing left to lose in Abu Dhabi, he is now determined to conclude his campaign on a high, by doing justice to the number that adorns the nose of his car one last time.
“Obviously, it was disappointing to be ruled out of the drivers' championship in Brazil last week, but I was very pleased with my race, which was a lot of fun, and I'm already looking forward to another good performance this weekend,” the 30-year-old mused.
“Last year in Abu Dhabi, I had a similarly great result – I'd lifted the pressure of the championship from my shoulders at the previous race so I was free to race hard once again. I had a great drive, enjoyed a brilliant battle with Mark [Webber] right up until the very last lap, and finished on the podium.
“I'll be hoping for another strong finish this year. Most importantly, it will be my final race with the world champion's number one on my car – for this year, anyway! It's been a great privilege and honour to carry that throughout the entire year, and I want to make sure I give it the best possible send-off this weekend. I'm looking forward to a really great race and, hopefully, a spectacular conclusion to the world championship.”