[F1 2018 VIDEO FEATURE] LEWIS HAMILTON: MAN ON A MISSION

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton heads to Azerbaijan just nine points behind his title rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, but he’s yet to win a race this season. 2013 the last time the Brackley-based team failed to win one of the first three events.

The Silver Arrows began 2018 on top of the world, as just the fourth team in F1 history to secure four-straight world titles, along with Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull Racing.

SOUNDBITE (English) TOTO WOLFF,
HEAD OF MOTORSPORT, MERCEDES:
"My belief is that if you are able to set common objectives within the team members, people that are very skilled superstars in their own rights and you manage to align them for that common objective and put all the energy and all the force into achieving that success, this unlocks the greatest potential."

But, while Mercedes looked strong in pre-season testing – completing the most laps, and headed to Australia with confidence in the W09, with no major upgrades on the car… 

Vettel and Ferrari stole the show at Albert Park, with a lucky pitstop under the Virtual Safety Car, while Bahrain was a masterclass from the German – Vettel switching to a one-stop strategy mid-race and making his softs last 39-laps despite increasing pressure from Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton, though, knew 2018 would be tough from the outset.

SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“It is going to be a closer season, we have no idea what we are going to face. But, what I can say is last year was a positive year in respect of handling the different situations that I faced.”

… and while his toughest situation last year was Azerbaijan, where Vettel bumped him under the Safety Car after suspecting he’d been brake tested, Hamilton responded with consistent performance… 

… winning six of the next 12 events, taking his tally to nine for the season, and points at every round of his title-winning year, a feat only achieved previously by Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.

And it’s a strategy Hamilton will undoubtedly stick with this season to rattle Ferrari as the battle rages on through mid-season.

SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“What’s really focus for me is just making sure I'm performing at my best. Hopefully if I am performing at my best then there will be issues because they'll be upset about it.”

Hamilton will also need teammate Bottas’ support to push the team forward, with the Prancing Horse again on the rise, but, the Finn still needs to up his game on-track – as a more ferocious competitor.

… Bottas coming under fire from media and fellow drivers, for not making a killer move on Vettel in Bahrain.

SOUNDBITE (English) VALTTERI BOTTAS,
F1 DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“I need to try and always perform on a good level, and yes, especially if Lewis is having a bad day or bad race for any reason then I need to be able to fight for the win of the race.”

Three races in, and there’s just a slim gap between Hamilton and Vettel. It’s a mouthwatering prospect for the season with both gunning for a fifth world title to match the Maestro, Juan Manuel Fangio… 

But many, including former teammates, believe that Hamilton has the edge over the German in wheel-to-wheel combat.

SOUNDBITE (English) HEIKKI KOVALAINEN,
F1 DRIVER, 2007-2013:
"He's always been very quick, there's no question about that. But in terms of close battles between [Sebastian] Vettel, for example - last year, he was able to turn them around nearly all the time.”