Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton concedes his fierce rivalry with Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel "could be worse" in 2018. The pair went head to head for the drivers' title last year, Hamilton ultimately prevailing by 46 points to pull level with the German on four championships. The biggest flashpoint of the title race came in Azerbaijan, when Vettel deliberately drove his car into the Briton, who won six of the 12 remaining races.
Hamilton had become something of an old hand at managing individual rivalries following his difficult relationship with former team-mate Nico Rosberg in previous seasons. And while Hamilton believes his battle with Vettel could intensify as both men chase a fifth title, he feels increasingly well equipped to cope with such situations.
"You have to expect that it could be worse," Hamilton said at the launch of the team's 2018 car. "Always expect the worst and hopefully it will be better. This year, the fact that it is going to be a closer season, we have no idea what we're going to face. But what I can say is that last year was a positive year in respect to handling different situations that I faced. And generally, over the last few years, I've not been too bad at it. I'll be even better this year [at handling pressure situations], so it shouldn't be an issue. I just need to be focused to make sure I'm performing at my best because if I am performing at my best then there will be issues, because then I'll be holding Seb back."
No mind games
Asked whether he was prepared to engage in a psychological battle with Vettel, Hamilton commented: "I don't play mind games, I just drive faster. Simple." But he admits there is always an element of the unknown heading into a new season. Asked who he expects to challenge Mercedes, Hamilton replied: "It's difficult to know. These are very exciting times. I think Ferrari, Red Bull and ourselves are very close. So I think you're going to see a title battle this year. And who knows, there might be another team that I'm not aware of."