Verstappen: I’m feeling calm

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 21: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage before the F1 Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail International Circuit on November 21, 2021 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ahead of what could be the greatest prize of his life, Formula 1 World Championship leader Max Verstappen is “feeling calm” ahead of the sport’s venture into the unknown.

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend, at just finished Jeddah International Circuit, could be where the 24-year-old clinches this year’s title; a long shot not worth indulging with speculation.

The Red Bull driver leads the 2021 F1 drivers’ standings by eight points after 21 rounds and two to go. He is on the cusp of winning his first F1 world championship and with it denying his archrival, Lewis Hamilton, an eighth title.

With the momentum firmly in Hamilton’s court since Mercedes found something extra in recent races, which the World Champ put to excellent use by winning sensationally in Sao Paulo and dominated in Qatar a week later, to keep the championship sizzling as the circus jets into Jeddah.

Ahead of this weekend in Saudi, Verstappen said in his team’s preview: “I’m feeling calm, I know that I will always try to do the best that I can and we’ll just find out where we are going to end up.

“Nothing has been decided yet and we are all up for the challenge, there’s still a lot of racing left to do and we are going to give it our all that’s for sure. It’s going to be an exciting end to the season.”

While Verstappen leads the points standings, at this late stage of the championship, the margin is slim and worth remembering that before the last two races, the gap was 19 points; Hamilton and Mercedes have found another gear that Red Bull and Honda need to match in the next two races.

Verstappen: We still lacked quite a bit of pace compared to Mercedes so we’ll see

Looking back on Qatar last time out, where they were ‘out-played’ by their rivals, Verstappen said: “It wasn’t too bad and it wasn’t too good! I was positively surprised by the overtaking possibilities there, the start was good and necessary of course after the penalty.

“We still lacked quite a bit of pace compared to Mercedes so we’ll see how we get on this weekend. The track in Qatar was definitely one of my favourites, it was a lot of fun to drive.”

Jeddah as an all-new Tilke-designed venue that resembles a construction site right now, with finishing touches likely to be ongoing until the final minutes before FP1 on Friday morning.

Verstappen continued: “I’ve driven the track on the simulator and it seems like a really fast track, so there’s no room for error. Of course, there will always be a bit of guesswork as we haven’t driven on the track there yet. It’s going to be interesting and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s been fun to go to different tracks again this year,” added the 24-year-old Dutch ace.

Perez: We’ve got nothing to lose, and we will give our very best

A significant factor in Verstappen’s title quest has been a teammate in Sergio Perez capable of making an impact, at least more so than other drivers sat in the same seat.

The Mexican veteran is fired up to be in such a situation for the first time in his career: “Those points in Qatar and the last three races were really important in the Constructors’ Championship. We’ve managed to close the gap to Mercedes and now it’s time to go all in.

“We’ve got nothing to lose, and we will give our very best. If we manage to have two perfect races as a Team then I am sure that we are going to be able to come out on top,” which is the kind of talk Verstappen as he enjoys the calm before the storm.