Current and four-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton wants potential title rival Sebastian Vettel to be “at his best” so the Brit’s successes are “more painful” for the German.
Vettel was in top form last year and had looked like a strong contender for last the 2017 title – finishing first or second in the first six races – however he fell away and was serially bested by the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver.
Though we got few opportunities to see the two drivers fight one-on-one last year, when we did it was usually explosive and usually Hamilton who came out on top.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix saw Vettel run into the back of Hamilton whilst under a safety car, then pull alongside the Brit and drive into him. This earned Vettel a ten-second penalty that, were it not for a mis-placed headrest on Hamilton’s car, would have seen him finish behind the Brit.
Then there was the Mexican Grand Prix. The title on the line, Vettel made a mistake in the second corner, running wide and leaving room for Hamilton to overtake around the outside. Vettel rejoined aggressively and into the back of the Brit’s car, puncturing one of his back tyres and sending both to the back of the field. Once again it was Vettel who finished higher, though it was Hamilton who took the title.
Out-performances like this, Hamilton says, are even better when his opponent is at his best, as it makes the pain of defeat even harder to take – and that’s exactly what he wants to subject the Scuderia Ferrari driver to.
“I want him [Vettel] to be at his best because then it’s more painful for them when you do out-perform them.”
“I’m sure if you asked Federer, he will truly believe that if he’s trained hard and arrived feeling great, there’s no-one that can touch him.
“You have to be convinced that will be the case. That’s what you work towards. I don’t prepare myself and then hope that the next guy has issues so I can capitalise on them.”
Speaking on whether he himself was at his best Hamilton said with his mindset and his physical fitness, he doesn’t think he will have any issues.
“For my mindset, if I am at my best then I should have no problems.
“If I prepare myself in the best way and I am as fit as I can be and I have the most energy and I’m feeling healthy, I’ve come with the right approach as I’m working hard, then I truly believe I won’t have any problems.”