Lewis Hamilton warns Mercedes have their work cut out to catch Max Verstappen and Red Bull in title race

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Lewis Hamilton claimed victory ahead of Max Verstappen at the Qatar Grand Prix  (AFP via Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton claimed victory ahead of Max Verstappen at the Qatar Grand Prix (AFP via Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton warned he still has his work cut out to close the gap on Max Verstappen with just two races remaining of a thrilling 2021 season.

Hamilton got to within eight points of Verstappen following a dominant Qatar Grand Prix but, after his 102nd race victory, said there would be no cause for celebrations with two crucial weekends ahead.

The inaugural Saudi Arabia Grand Prix takes place in two weekends’ time before the season finale in Abu Dhabi the following weekend.

And Hamilton said straight after the race in Qatar: “The last two weeks have been just amazing. There’s no time for celebrations. I’ll be back with the team again next week and back training tomorrow, stay on it, head down.

“It’s so good to close up so many points the last races. But they’re still very fast. We’ve still got our work cut out.”

The title race has ebbed and flowed all season, with the consensus that Mercedes ought to have the marginal edge on a quick Saudi Arabian race.

Should Hamilton win that and take the fastest lap and Verstappen finishes second, the pair would go into the final race level on points in one of the tightest title battles in history.

Of their head-to-head, the Briton said: “I’m loving it. I love that close battle, and the pressure and demands it puts on you and the whole team.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it but these next two races need better performances. We’ll have to bring our triple A-plus game.”

It proved another fractious weekend between Red Bull and Mercedes, which ended with Red Bull boss Christian Horner given a warning and having to publicly apologise for berating what he called a “rogue marshall” for the yellow flag in qualifying that led to Verstappen’s five-place grid penalty.

His Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff, meanwhile, said he was not yet getting carried away with the team’s recent upturn in fortunes.

“Lewis controlled the race from the front but that’s good for what’s to come in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi,” he said. “Saudi should be a good track for us but we know when you think it’s a good one it can be the other way around.

“If everybody finishes the race, it’ll go to Abu Dhabi. I think we’ve got to push maximum attack. We’ve got to catch up and make some points up.”

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