Lewis Hamilton loving the psychological battle against Sebastian Vettel for the Formula One championship

Sport360 staff 21:21 27/07/2018
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Hamilton and Vettel are locked in a thrilling two-way race to the championship.

Lewis Hamilton insists he is relishing the psychological warfare of his Formula One championship battle with Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton is 17 points clear of his rival ahead of the sport’s final round before the summer break in Hungary on Sunday.

To date, the Englishman, 33, holds the mental edge over Vettel following the Ferrari driver’s fourth, and biggest mistake of the year, when he crashed out from the lead in Germany last Sunday.

Hamilton’s remarkable victory in Vettel’s back yard moved him to the summit of the standings to mark the fifth change of championship leader this season.

For the first time in the hybrid era, Ferrari, who are sporting a black stripe on their cars this weekend in memory of chairman Sergio Marchionne who died suddenly on Wednesday, boasts the strongest package.

That was again on show in practice here as Vettel topped the time sheets with Hamilton only a distant fifth.

By his own admission, the Briton has not been at his very best this year, but it is his lack of mistakes, and flashes of once-in-a-generation brilliance, that ensure he remains the favourite to clinch a fifth world crown.

“The psychological game in sport is the hardest thing,” Hamilton said. “You don’t see me away from the track. I wake up with insecurities.

There has been little to separate the two drivers so far this season.

There has been little to separate the two drivers so far this season.

“The most demanding thing is keeping your mind in the game from the first race in March right through to the November, and arriving at every race 100 per cent.

“I haven’t hit the nail on the head at every weekend this year, but the pressures are huge, and the demand on myself and Sebastian is higher than ever.

“It has swung more in Ferrari’s direction so I am having to over-deliver. The pressure to extract every ounce is greater than ever if I want to be number one at the end.

“That is not something I am fazed by, but something that excites me. I have always felt that I have been at my best under pressure. I welcome it.”

Vettel, but for his mistakes, should be leading this championship. He dropped from second to fourth after running off the road in Azerbaijan.

He collided with Valtteri Bottas in France, and was demoted five places on the grid at the ensuing race in Austria after blocking another driver in qualifying.

Last weekend, with Hamilton catching him in the slippery conditions, Vettel threw away a certain 25 points.

“It is closer than last year, so the smallest mistakes are even more costly,” Hamilton added. “But I take pride in being a perfectionist and not making mistakes.

“Nobody is perfect, but I work to position myself mentally and physically so I am the last to crack.”

There have, however, been signs of the intensity getting to Hamilton. He wildly accused Ferrari of playing dirty at Silverstone (Kimi Raikkonen collided with him on the first lap), while his reaction after his car broke down in qualifying last weekend was as if he had lost the title.

In a deleted Instagram post, he then said he did not get the credit he deserved from Sky Sports for his comeback fight from 14th to first last Sunday.

“Positive headlines don’t sell newspapers, and don’t generate clicks,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said. “In the here and now the great achievements are not recognised how they should be.

“In five or 10 years, we will look back and say we were part of an amazing driver’s journey. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and polarises opinion, but for me that is fine.”

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