Japanese Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton vows to hit back strongly as Ferrari, Red Bull step up challenge
Lewis Hamilton has promised to hit back in Japan this week following frustration in Malaysia as he looks to close in on a fourth Formula One world title.
Suzuka: Lewis Hamilton has promised to hit back in Japan this week following frustration in Malaysia as he looks to close in on a fourth Formula One world title.
The Briton had a three-race win streak snapped by Red Bull's Max Verstappen last weekend but still finished second, extending his championship lead over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel to 34 points with five races left.
But Hamilton, who slammed the performance of his Mercedes after squandering pole position, insisted Thursday he wanted to win the title in style and not crawl over the line.
"I want to win this thing," he told reporters in Suzuka. "I know I might have the nail in a little bit but I need to keep hammering it.
"It's not done until there's nowhere left to push it basically," added Hamilton, who has won seven of the 15 races so far this year.
"In my mind, I need to win every race from now on, it's clear. I'm not here to finish second in every race to do the job — I want to win convincingly."
Hamilton backed Mercedes to deliver in the Cooler conditions in Japan but warned there could still be a twist in the title run-in.
"I'm under no illusion, I'm still hunting for (the title), I'm not defending it," he said.
"Until I've actually got it sewn up, you've got to keep pushing. There are so many points available and you've seen in other years how the pendulum can swing," added Hamilton.
"I'm just hoping if it starts to swing the other way, we have enough force to push it back to where it should be."
Dodged a bullet
Mercedes dodged a bullet in Malaysia as Vettel finished fourth after starting from the back of the grid, while Kimi Raikkonen suffered a calamitous engine failure that knocked him out of the race.
But the pace shown by Ferrari — as well as the Red Bulls — was not lost on Hamilton, whose Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas finished fifth.
"The Ferraris did bring quite a big upgrade," said the Briton, a three-time winner in Japan.
"Obviously with Sebastian having a penalty, you saw him come through but you didn't get to see him unleash that at the front.
"Also the Red Bull is coming back up, so I just hope we have the strength to be able to fight back," added Hamilton.
"But what I do know is this car can win more races and I plan to see that that happens."
Reminded that Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff called the car a "bit of a diva" earlier this year, Hamilton likened it to his own often prickly character.
"I think it's stubborn," said Hamilton. "But that's cool because I'm stubborn. Me and the car have lots in common — it's got great potential but doesn't always want to do what you tell it to.
"I think the team find that with me maybe," he smiled. "But if the car was perfect every weekend, it would be boring."
Verstappen overcame a sequence of problems to lead his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez home and claim the lead in this year's title race on a bad day for Ferrari in Sunday's sizzling Spanish Grand Prix.
Ferrari's world championship leader Charles Leclerc grabbed pole for the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen in qualifying at a sweltering Montmelo circuit on Saturday.