Just two points separate F1 2021’s title protagonists going into this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix following a titanic, season-long world championship battle that has already featured many twists and turns. 

Red Bull finds itself in the title fight for the first time since 2013 but Verstappen does not appear daunted by the enormity of what he could achieve by realising his dream of becoming an F1 world champion for the first time. 

Verstappen has remained incredibly relaxed this year and the 24-year-old calmly batted away questions from the media on Thursday by insisting he is not feeling the pressure of his first proper title fight because winning would not “change his life”. 

“I always do my best and I know that the team is also doing the best they can,” Verstappen said in his press conference at Istanbul

“And if that’s going to be first at the end of the year - that’s of course an amazing achievement and that’s what we work for, right?

“But, even if we would finish second, I think we’d still have had a great season.

“Of course we want to win, the whole team wants to win, so that mentality is definitely there. 

“But there is nothing you can force or stress about, because we always want to do the best we can anyway.” 

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Hamilton, who currently holds a slender advantage, admitted his other interests such as fashion and music act as vital outlets to “blow off steam” between races during an intense season. 

And the 36-year-old says his vast experience from being involved in many title fights during his F1 career is helping him deal with the pressure in his bid to claim a record-breaking eighth world title. 

“It’s not a case of ignoring it,” Hamilton explained. “Because it’s there, but it’s the understanding that what will be will be.

“All you can do is prepare the best way you can, give it 100%, and what’s coming up is coming up. And so I just don’t worry about those things. 

“I have been very fortunate. In the past I’ve had lots of ups and downs but had an amazing time, a lot of growth and I just don’t worry about ‘what if?’ - that’s up ahead. 

“I just try and prepare for now and that means making sure I’ve done the work with the guys back at the factory, with Bono [Peter Bonnington, race engineer] and the team, and then ultimately enjoy it. 

“What an amazing season it’s been so far,” Hamilton added. “It’s been super exciting for fans, massively engaging, and we finally see two teams neck and neck which is amazing. 

“Of course we want to win, but you’ve got to learn to let that not overtake everything in your life.”

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Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso believes Verstappen is adopting the right approach by taking it one race at a time and not allowing himself to become overwhelmed with thoughts of potentially winning the title. 

“He seems to deal with the pressure better than other people,” the Spaniard said. 

“Everyone of us is different but it seems that for him it is not a big deal every weekend and he takes race by race. I think that’s the right approach for these remaining races.” 

The situation Hamilton and Verstappen now find themselves in is reminiscent of Alonso’s challenge as a young charger to seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher’s in the mid-2000s. 

Having successfully brought Schumacher’s winning reign to an end in 2005, Alonso found himself two points behind Schumacher after 15 races in 2006 and went on to seal back-to-back world titles. 

“I was 24 and I was fighting for my first world championship against a seven-time world champion,” Alonso reflected. “At that time it was Michael and now it’s Lewis. 

“We had a full blue grandstand in Barcelona and now we have a full orange in Zandvoort so there are a lot of similarities this year. So let's see how they finish.” 

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Fellow multiple world champion Sebastian Vettel also weighed in to provide his verdict on how to cope with the pressure of being in a title fight. 

“I can’t speak for everyone but do you care? If you care about something really much then it’s difficult to always be cool and in control,” he explained. 

“Is it helpful to be cool and in control? Probably most of the time, yes. But I think time will tell.

“Does it change his life? I don’t know. He has to judge whether it would change his life or not. In the bigger scheme of things I think he’s probably right. He’s young and he’s got a lot of time. I don’t think he has much to prove.

“But I don’t think you can always be cool, especially if you care - that would be me. Maybe he’s different.” 

Who will ultimately come out on top?  

One factor that could yet determine the destiny of the title is reliability. 

Mercedes admitted to having “question marks” over its engines after Valtteri Bottas was forced to take new power unit elements at back-to-back races in Italy and Russia, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff revealed earlier this week that a strategic penalty for Hamilton in Turkey is a “possibility”.

Hamilton only has two units left in his pool and said he remains unsure whether he will need to move onto a fourth engine - and trigger an automatic grid penalty - before the end of the season. 

“At the moment I still have engine numbers two and three,” he said. “I don’t envisage us having to take one at the moment but that could change, who knows?”

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Several drivers were asked on Thursday for their predictions on who will ultimately be crowned champion come the end of the season. 

“My feeling is that Max will probably come out on top, because it feels like he has been quicker in more races than Lewis has been this year,” said Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc

“So my feeling is that, but Lewis is an extremely consistent driver and he’s always there when you don’t expect him to be there. It’s going to be a very close fight but if I follow my feeling now, it’s probably Max.”

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who was alongside Leclerc, added: “I go for Lewis. I agree that the Red Bull and Max have been a bit faster, but I trust Mercedes to turn that around.” 

Williams driver George Russell, who will partner Hamilton at Mercedes next year, believes his future teammate and team’s experience will serve them well in the business end of the campaign. 

“It’s going to be close,” Russell acknowledged. “Mercedes and Lewis have got the experience and they’ve obviously been here seven times before in the last seven years, so that’s going to play in their favour when it gets down to crunch time.

“But Max and Red Bull have been incredibly fast this year. Purely because of the recent experiences, probably Lewis and Mercedes.” 

Meanwhile, 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen gave the sort of typical response we have come to expect from the no-nonsense Finn who will hang up his helmet at the end of the year. 

Asked who will win the title, Raikkonen simply said: “Whoever has the most points in the end.” 

Following a pause, he added: “I hope it’s going to be decided on the track and not with one having a mechanical issue or something that decides it, in the end.”