Lewis Hamilton is predicting that his championship battle with Sebastian Vettel will go down to the final race of the season – but has warned that his rival may prove difficult to beat.
Hamilton, 32, halved Vettel’s lead at the summit of the title race after he took the chequered flag in Belgium on Sunday to move to within seven points of the Ferrari driver.
The high-speed nature of the Spa-Francorchamps track had been expected to play to Mercedes’ strengths, but Hamilton was required to be at his very best to stave off the threat from Vettel and his resurgent Ferrari team. Indeed Hamilton subsequently claimed that Vettel was faster than his Mercedes in race trim.
Hamilton will head to Ferrari’s home track in Monza – the first of three back-to-back instalments in the concluding half of the season – for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix well aware that is a circuit which again should favour his Mercedes package.
But the ensuing race in Singapore – a high-downforce track where Hamilton has struggled in recent seasons – could again prove his Achilles heel.
“I am cautious knowing that we may not be the quickest everywhere ahead, and I am trying to figure out in my mind how I can apply positive energy to my guys to encourage them to bring some more magic to the next eight races,” Hamilton said.
“I hope we have more to come and we need more to come in order to win this thing. It’s going to take everything from every single one of us to finish these next eight races and come out on top. That’s how a championship should be so I’m really looking forward to that challenge.
“Ferrari have had the most consistent season and while we’ve had a solid and well put together weekend here, it was only just enough to stay ahead.
“It is going to go right down to the wire. It will come down to reliability. It will come down to a shift in pendulum on performance, and it will come down to us with our consistency.”
Hamilton, who this season is bidding to become the first British driver to win four championships, looks set to stay at Mercedes after rival Vettel committed his future to Ferrari with a new three-year deal.
Hamilton’s current contract expires at the end of 2018, but his Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says talks over a new deal will not take place until the conclusion of the current campaign.
“Our relationship is very good and each of us appreciates what we have in the other one,” Wolff said. “But this is not a topic we want to tackle now, or over the remaining races of the season. It is an intense part of the year. We will get that over the line and then we will pick up the discussions.”