Lewis Hamilton says he wants to clinch his fourth world title “the right way” by winning Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver needs only to finish fifth in Mexico City, even if rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari wins the race.
“I want to show what I’m capable of in every race,” said the 32-year-old Briton.
“I have no desire to finish fifth and win the championship while someone else stands on the top step.”
He added: “The dream would be to stand on the top step having won the championship.”
Vettel led the championship from the first race until the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August, but the advantage decisively went Hamilton’s way over three races in Asia, when Vettel retired twice and finished fourth in the other.
Hamilton has won five of past the six races and finished second in the other.
Because of the scale of the turnaround, Hamilton feels he is driving better than at any other point in his career.
“I was swimming upstream for a long time during the season and coming into the second half I still feel I have been swimming upstream,” he said.
“I’m fitter, healthier and stronger mentally, as well as riding the wave of great reliability and great team work.
“I think I have been performing the best ever, particularly in the second half of the season. Often the second half of the season is stronger but this has been my strongest second half.”
Vettel not giving up
Vettel is 66 points behind Hamilton and needs to finish in the top two in Mexico to have any hope of keeping the title race alive to the next event in Brazil.
If he is second, Hamilton needs only to finish ninth to secure the championship. A finish any lower than that for the German and the title is Hamilton’s no matter where he finishes.
“It’s not over,” said Vettel. “Overall it has been a very good year. Nobody expected us to be that strong to start with, or mid-season or awards the end.
“The pity is there were a couple races where we were just not there to fight. They got away from us.
“We want to win the last three races and I think we can. Then we see what happens. The team has done incredible to be where we are now. We proved everybody wrong.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is at the centre of controversy after criticising officials for the decision to drop him from third to fourth at last weekend’s US Grand Prix.
The Dutchman was penalised for overtaking Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen by cutting a corner.
He said that officials would drive fans away with such decisions and blamed “one idiot steward”.
On Thursday, he said he regretted his language but not the meaning of his remarks.
“I think all the fans loved the overtake; it was great move,” he said. “They told me I was gaining an advantage by cutting the corner, but if I was really gaining an advantage, I would be doing that every single lap – which I was not.
“So it’s understandable I got angry. I could have used different words but at the end I was angry at that time because I think it was not correct.
“I was not trying to offend anyone, otherwise I would have named them.”