Lewis Hamilton believes the pressure in this year’s championship battle is greater than last season because Mercedes is having to over-deliver in order to beat Ferrari.
Ferrari has had the fastest car at a number of venues this season, and recently won at Silverstone — where Mercedes was previously dominant — before Sebastian Vettel crashed out of the lead in Hockenheim. Hamilton says such errors are proving significant due to the nature of the title battle, but feels Mercedes is under even greater pressure to perform given Ferrari’s pace.
“Ultimately… last year I am sure we reached just as high in terms of pressure at some point, it is just that this year it is even closer than last year, as you know, so the smallest mistakes are even more costly,” Hamilton said. “Then there is more pressure. That is the same for any sport. 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, 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 millimeter of every ounce is greater than ever if I want to be number one at the end.”
Despite the challenge facing Mercedes, Hamilton says the increased pressure brings out the best in his own performances.
“The psychological game 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 away from 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 [that] not every single weekend I’ve hit the nail on the top of the head, but the goal is to try and do that. 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.”