French Grand Prix polesitter Lewis Hamilton says he still feels under pressure from Valtteri Bottas even if Ferrari and Red Bull are unable to mount consistent challenges.
Mercedes has enjoyed a comfortable advantage over the rest of the field so far during the weekend at Paul Ricard, with Hamilton beating Bottas to pole position by nearly 0.3s. The gap to Ferrari was over 0.6s, but Hamilton says he is not able to relax even when a race appears to be a battle between the Mercedes pair.
“I definitely don’t feel untouchable — I never have felt that way,” Hamilton said. “I do feel strong but each time I feel I am starting on the right foot Valtteri puts in really good laps every time. So I am constantly being pushed by Valtteri and obviously the last races it has been a lot closer and some races we as a team are not being pushed as hard as we would like to be by the others.
“Nonetheless the battle within us, it feels in a lot of races it has been down to a tenth or a tenth-and-a-half between Valtteri and I, so I still have my work cut out and still have to perform and deliver. The work ethic is exactly the same and the stress is exactly the same as if we were fighting the Ferraris.
“There was pressure on us coming into this season but now I am getting more comfortable with the car and as we get into the season I don’t expect that to stop.”
Hamilton admits the weekend has been a strange one after he arrived late at Paul Ricard due to his attendance at a Karl Lagerfeld memorial in Paris, as well as the saga of Ferrari’s attempts to review Sebastian Vettel’s penalty in Canada.
“I think the weekend started off a little different — we arrive usually on Thursday morning or Wednesday night and I got here on Thursday evening. We got through our program no problem but if you are used to a usual four-day program and you change it, it is not always the easiest.
“It was definitely odd coming here when I heard Ferrari were spending time focusing on something else. Naturally for my team I would have them focus on trying to improve the car but then we came here, when I arrived, I heard it was Karun Chandhok’s video that was the new evidence, so I was pretty relaxed after that!
“So I put it behind me. In the last race it is not always easy — like when you hear boos, for example — but that is part of the game and if anything it spurs me on. I had a great race, I thought, at the circuit and had a lot of great people following me there.”