Lewis Hamilton says he can go flat-out in this weekend's Formula 1 title decider in Abu Dhabi with no pressure on his shoulders now that his championship hopes are looking remote.
The result in Brazil, where Hamilton could only finish fourth, left him 24 points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso. He therefore needs to win with Alonso failing to score, and must also hope for misfortune for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, who are nine and 16 points ahead of him, respectively. Hamilton reckons this could be a better situation for him than leading into the final round as he had in 2007 and '08.
"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," he said. "This year, it feels a little different – although I'm still mathematically in with a shout, I'm fully aware that, being 24 points behind, I'll not only need to win the race on Sunday 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 pushing hard until the very end.
"It's going to be a brilliant spectacle, and a great event for Formula 1 fans around the world. I absolutely can't wait."
His teammate Jenson Button said he was taking a similar stance into the weekend, having been ruled out of title contention in Brazil.
"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," said the outgoing World Champion. "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 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 No. 1 on my car, for this year anyway! It's been a great privilege and honor to carry that throughout the entire year, and I want to make sure I give it the best possible send-off this weekend."