Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has revealed that he is heading into the final two races with “a great feeling” after taking consecutive wins to cut his title deficit to eight points following victory at 2021 Qatar Grand Prix.
Split set-up running left Hamilton struggling throughout Friday Practice but he rebounded with a dominant Qualifying to claim pole position, from which he went on to seal a comfortable victory and cut his title deficit to eight points with two races left this season.
The seven-time champion though was reflective of his season as a whole following his seventh victory of the campaign, as he said: “It’s been a hell of a year so to be at this point of the season and have back-to-back wins is a great feeling.”
Hamilton though felt “lonely” in what he described as “a pretty straight forward race” as he executed a two stop strategy to win by 25.743 seconds, which now leaves him just eight points behind with a maximum of 52 points on offer across Saudi Arabian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix.
Acknowledging that he still has it all to do to secure a record eighth F1 title, Hamilton iterated that he is “grateful” to have scored 50 points from victories in the last two races in an “amazing” fightback to reduce the title deficit.
Hamilton though has warned that he still cannot sit on his laurels but is relishing this title fight as he added: “We’ve still got our work cut out, but we’re loving such a close battle and the challenge that it brings.”
Valtteri Bottas meanwhile retired on Lap 48 with damage after suffering a front left tyre puncture on Lap 33, which he described as “very disappointing”, after finishing fastest in FP2 and FP3 as he slowly lost pace throughout the weekend and suffered a poor start to fall to 11th.
Explaining his issues as he slowly fought back through the field before his race-destroying puncture, Bottas revealed that he “struggled” for tyre temperature on the formation lap and finding himself on the dirty side of the track after a three-place grid penalty left him with “no grip” on the opening lap.
Bottas though eventually found himself up to third after enduring a DRS train initially and enjoyed “good” pace on his long opening stint, until he suffered a sudden puncture “without any vibration or warning” whilst “pushing the limit of the tyre” amidst “good grip” at the time.
The puncture began at the end of Lap 32 and became apparent throughout the next lap with Bottas suffering severe damage to the car, which left him feeling that “it was safer to retire and save the mileage.”
Team Principal, Toto Wolff added that he thought Hamilton delivered “a commanding win” with control, whilst Bottas simply endured “a difficult day” especially after his “puncture came out of nowhere, with literally no indication,” as he was the first driver to encounter the failure.
Wolff therefore has “mixed emotions” about the race results but is heartened by the car’s pace which he feels is “encouraging” heading into the final two races, although he is aware that “there are still many challenges to come” as he continues to enjoy the season with “maximum attack”.