BUDAPEST, Hungary — Lewis Hamilton says this year’s title fight has put him under more pressure to perform than ever before as he goes up against Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship.
The Mercedes driver leads the Ferrari driver by 17 points in the standings after winning at the German Grand Prix last weekend, but is convinced Vettel has the faster car.
Hamilton goes into this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix as an outside bet on a circuit where Ferrari won last year and Red Bull is expected to be strong, and he says he is feeling the pressure build as he enters the second half of the season.
“Last year I am sure we reached the same high in terms of pressure at some point, but it is just that this year it is even closer than last year, and as you know so the smallest mistakes are even more costly,” he said. “Then there is more pressure.
“That is the same for any sport if you know the last shot or last serve is the most important point it is the most intense battle. We are racing a team that is faster than us this year, last year we were quite balanced I’d say as there were some weekends they were faster than us but some weekends we were faster than them but this year it is swinging more in their direction.
“We are having to over-deliver on race weekends and pull out more on weekends where we are not quick enough. The pressure to extract every millimetre of every ounce is greater than ever if I want to be number one at the end.”
Despite a strong start to the season, Hamilton says he is still has areas to improve.
“Last year I was great in qualifying but this year it has been an area I am constantly trying to work on. Starts were more consistent last year but it is something I am still really working hard on so there are always areas and things I’m working on. I try to play golf and one day my driving is perfect but the rest of the game sucks and then I go practice my driving and then the rest of my game sucks. I should not be a golfer.
“Ultimately I take a lot of pride in being a perfectionist and not making mistakes but nobody is perfect and under the pressure we are under I really work hard to position myself mentally and physically so that I am the last to crack. That is my mentality. My dad always said I was the latest of late brakers and if I went up alongside someone I was going to be the one to brake last. That’s how I try to position myself mentally as well but it is not easy. I am happy with where it is right now.”
But Hamilton is confident he can deal with the pressure as long as he continues with the same mental attitude.
“Well the psychological game is in any sport, in any top part of the sport is the hardest thing and whilst you see me here you don’t see me any of the track or any of us competitors. That’s probably the most demanding thing, keeping your mind in the game from March all the way until the end of November, arriving every weekend 100 percent. I can honestly say not every single weekend I’ve hit the nail on the top of the head but the goal is to try and do that and you have those big setbacks, like qualifying in the last race but dependent on how strong you are up here.
“I always relate to golfers or tennis players, who miss the first serve but then the second one they ace, that’s what we are battling mentally as well, it’s hard to really explain it. The pressures are huge this year. The demands and the desires of the drivers, of myself and Sebastian for example are higher than ever and the pressure is higher than ever as you can see. That’s not something that I am fazed by, it’s something I am excited by because I have genuinely always felt that under pressure that’s when I’ve been at my best. I welcome the pressure.”