Hamilton rules out mind games in title battle with Vettel

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Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton has said he will avoid any kind of mind games in his title battle with Sebastian Vettel this year as the two multiple world champions scrap it out for the tiniest of advantages at every race.

Having topped Thursday morning’s opening free practice for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix and then fallen more than a second adrift in the afternoon, the 32-year-old Briton had every reason to consider engaging in the kind of “phoney war” of previous seasons.

His intra-team battles with 2016 champion Nico Rosberg, during three seasons of raw competition, were characterized by spells of accusations and acrimony that made life difficult for Mercedes’ management.

But this season, the three-time world champion has made it clear he wants a pure championship scrap, without any discord, that will be decided on the track.

“I want him to be his best when he gets in the car so I don’t have any intention of playing psychological wars outside the car,” Hamilton told reporters.

“I want to beat him in the car because, when he’s at his best and I beat him, that says what it needs to say rather than having him on the back foot.”

The Englishman was only six points adrift of the championship leading four-time champion before arriving in the Mediterranean principality for their classic street circuit showdown.

Facing a further 15 races, he made clear he believed his long-term performance this year, his experience and his mental strength will stand him in good stead as the season unfolds.

“I take a lot of pride in the fact I am very strong mentally,” said Hamilton. “I think that’s something you can admire when battling someone else — like Sebastian or Fernando Alonso.”

Much matured since the days when he allowed his frustrations to show in rash comments and actions, Hamilton acknowledged that mental strength was likely to be a key factor as his bid for a fourth title unfolded.

“It’s definitely going to be part of it this year,” he said. “For both of us…  It’s such a long year, just like it is in golf, over 18 holes.

“Whoever is the most consistent generally ends up winning. I am excited about that. It’s an all-round battle, physically, mentally, technically — and I think that’s why it’s a great battle.”

The key alteration in the dynamics of this year’s championship, said Hamilton, is that Mercedes are no longer split by their drivers’ rivalry, but united in a fight to beat Ferrari.

“There’s just so much more excitement now that we are fighting against another team,” he said.

“There is actually more passion and excitement being extracted from within the team. I’ve not seen this team so passionate and excited in the five years that I’ve been with them.

“Being on the podium in the last race, I saw an energy from my team that I’ve been yearning for — that they’ve probably all been yearning for…”

All of which has left Hamilton, and Bottas, working closely within a different kind of rivalry to last year’s Hamilton-Rosberg relationship for the good of the Mercedes squad, particularly as they are still  seeking to optimize their performance with a new breed of ‘fatter and faster’ cars that are harder on tyres.

“I quite like it that the car’s difficult to drive,” Hamilton explained. “It’s like jumping on a bull and trying to tame the bull — or to tame a horse.”

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The Inside Line Podcast: Why Kimi Raikkonen will never race the Indy 500

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Kimi Raikkonen.

As Motorsport’s most-awaited weekend nears, Mithila and Kunal had to make a tough choice while deciding what to speak about first – the Monaco Grand Prix or the Indianapolis 500? We can’t possibly wonder how Fernando Alonso made up his mind! And damn the Indy 500 traditions for not being Raikkonen-friendly.

In this week’s episode, we discuss the long and short of wheelbases, Jenson Button’s return to Formula 1, Carlos Sainz Jr.’s most-certain departure from Toro Rosso for 2018 (and how he should NEVER take career advice from a certain Fernando), Pastor Maldonado’s misconception, Hamilton’s love for Indian food and how we hope and pray for a combined racing weekend of MotoGP and Formula 1 action at the same venue. Now, wouldn’t that be most epic?

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Five key talking points ahead of Monaco Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has arrived in Monaco just six points behind championship rival Sebastian Vettel following his victory at last Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Here, we look at the key talking points as the southern French port plays host to the most famous race on the Formula One calendar.

BUTTON IS BACK

Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, will take centre stage in Monte Carlo this weekend as he prepares for his Formula One comeback. The 37-year-old, who called time on his career in Abu Dhabi last November, will make a one-off appearance for McLaren with Fernando Alonso in America competing at the Indianapolis 500. Button, yet to test this year’s car, will be given his first taste of action in practice on Thursday. The low-powered nature of the Monte Carlo street circuit means there will not be as much emphasis on McLaren’s lacklustre Honda engine and, as such, could play into Button’s hands. So, could the veteran Englishman spring a fairytale result on Sunday?

Jenson Button.

Jenson Button.

HAMILTON TO MATCH SENNA

Hamilton is just six points adrift of Vettel following his win in Spain to leave the championship rivals on two victories apiece this season. And the Briton is now just one pole position shy of equalling the number achieved by his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna, too. Senna is widely considered as arguably the greatest one-lap specialist of all-time, and where better than Monaco for Hamilton to match his pole tally? Senna won more races in Monte Carlo (six) than any other driver – including five consecutive victories between 1989 and 1993 – while a statue will be unveiled at the Fairmont Hotel on Wednesday to celebrate 30 years since his first win here back in 1987.

Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton.

MERCEDES READY TO “BRING DOWN THE GARAGE ROOF”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff revealed that his team’s battle with Ferrari has helped him rediscover his love for the sport. Wolff’s Mercedes team are this season bidding for a fourth consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship following an unprecedented run of success. But this marks the first campaign in which another team has been on a level playing field. “I love the intense competition,” said Wolff. “This competition means that you won’t be winning easily, but that you’ll have a fierce fight on your hands. The feeling is even greater when you manage to come out on top, as we did in Spain. If we get the job done in Monaco, I’m pretty sure we’ll bring down the garage roof.”

Mercedes.

Mercedes.

ALL EYES ON ALONSO

The eyes of the motor racing world will turn to Alonso on Sunday evening as he takes to the famous brickyard for the 101st running of the Indy 500. Around 300,000 spectators are expected to watch the two-time F1 world champion bid to complete the second phase of the so-called ‘Triple Crown’ – that of winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 hours race. Unsurprisingly, Alonso has impressed during his time in America and will start from fifth on the grid. The F1 paddock will descend on his McLaren team’s motorhome in Monaco for a special screening of the race which gets under way at 5pm BST.

Fernando Alonso.

Fernando Alonso.

HAMILTON LEADS HAYDEN TRIBUTES

Motorsport bid a tragic farewell to former MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden who died on Monday. The American, nicknamed the Kentucky Kid, collided with a car while cycling in Italy last week and succumbed to his injuries. Hamilton posted a message to his Instagram followers as Britain’s triple world champion led the tributes. “Dear Nicky, you will be missed,” he wrote. “May God hold you high, you are forever in our hearts. My thoughts and prayers to you and your loved ones.”

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