Lewis Hamilton continues to keep his powder dry, despite admitting Ferrari’s car has a few new tricks – with a chance to match the Maestro, Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles.
It’s a smart strategy, with this year’s title fight expected to last the distance, and predictions near impossible, given the stratospheric development rate, and the Silver Arrows’ updates out of phase with archrival Ferrari.
“We need to keep our heads down, work hard to eliminate our weaknesses, further build on our strengths, and take the season race by race,” Hamilton said.
Belgium was a difficult round, despite Hamilton taking a record fifth pole there in wet conditions by over seven tenths of a second. The Brit simply unable to match Sebastian Vettel’s searing race pace over the 44 laps...
With a repeat in Monza enabling Vettel to close the gap to Hamilton down to just 10 points at the end of the European season.
The big test, though, will come in Singapore, which is a different challenge – with mechanical grip important, on a track featuring 23 corners, the most of any venue on the 21-stop calendar.
And Mercedes confident it has solved the rear tyre issues it has struggled with at hotter races – a factor of the W09 being easier on its rubber, setup and management from behind the wheel.
… where Hamilton is as hungry as ever to win races and titles, Mercedes’ motorsport chief Toto Wolff backing his man pre-season.
SOUNDBITE (English) TOTO WOLFF,
HEAD OF MOTORSPORT, MERCEDES:
“All these years we've been together, it's the sixth year, [Hamilton’s] he's extremely motivated.”
Hamilton also has teammate Valtteri Bottas to count on as a rear gunner, similar to Kimi Räikkönen at Ferrari, with the Finn 87 points behind, as a result of his early season run of bad luck.
But reliability will be key to maintaining the points gap, with just one DNF able to turn the championship on its head, and the Silver Arrows keen to prevent another double retirement like it had in Austria.
…which was Hamilton’s first since Malaysia in 2016 – ending his 33-race finishing streak. So it’s head down for the final eight rounds, as Hamilton seeks to match Fangio.