As he continues to search for his first win of the 2018 season at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton downplayed his winless streak by insisting he’s driven by the battle, not the need for victory.
The reigning world champion hasn’t mounted the top step of the podium in six races, with his previous win coming at the United States Grand Prix last October, one race before he defeated Sebastian Vettel for the title.
It’s the longest Hamilton has gone without taking the checkered flag since dropping eight races in a row across 2015 and 2016, a precursor to him losing the 2016 championship to teammate Nico Rosberg.
After years of domination it’s unusual territory for Hamilton and Mercedes, the team having scored only one win in the last six grands prix courtesy of Valtteri Bottas last season, but the Briton says he isn’t feeling the pressure of losing control of the field.
“I never even feel like the favorite,” he said. “There’s no difference being what you call a favorite and not being favorite. I don’t feel anything in that sense, it makes no difference to me.
“I’m enjoying the battle, enjoying the whole experience. That’s what motorsport’s all about — it’s not all about every single race you win.”
Mercedes has struggled principally with Pirelli’s 2018 breed of tires, which have proved difficult to keep in their correct temperature window. Hamilton successfully activated the rubber in qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix, where he took pole by more than 0.6 seconds, but he has failed to recapture that form since.
However, Hamilton said he’s enjoying having to fight for position, highlighting his penalized ninth-place start in Bahrain as a stand-out result of the season so far.
“Coming from ninth to third, that can be a win,” he said. “You move forward multiple positions and you’ve actually driven a good race. It is about the journey.
“It always feels best when I’ve come from further down. If it feels like you’ve had a harder slog to get there it always feels better.
“This year’s it’s going to be tough because it’s so close between us [Ferrari and Red Bull Racing].”
But the Baku City Circuit has been no happy hunting ground for Hamilton. In 2016 he crashed in qualifying and had his race plagued by engine map problems, and last year he was forced to surrender the lead with an unscheduled pit stop to secure a loose headrest, finishing fifth on both occasions.
“I’m definitely hoping this weekend will be different,” he said. “But as I said coming into this weekend, I have no idea where we are going to be.
“I’m hoping that I’ve got a car this weekend to really battle it out with Sebastian, who’s obviously the one ahead of me.
“I have no idea until I get into the car tomorrow, but that’s also quite exciting. If we arrived and we knew we were going to be in front, it wouldn’t be as fun.”