Lewis Hamilton has fired a warning shot as he steamrolls towards his sixth world title, claiming it’s the “strongest” he has felt this far into a season — and the numbers back it up.
Hamilton has won seven of 10 races so far in 2019, and has romped to a 39-point lead over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas has taken more poles than Hamilton this season – four to three – but the Finn has failed to convert three of them into wins, Hamilton taking the flag each time.
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Mercedes has also brought in its highest points haul after 10 races – 407 – off the back of five consecutive 1-2s to start the season.
Already with two wins, Bottas himself is enjoying his best season to date yet finds himself miles behind Hamilton, who – at 34 – is nowhere near slowing down.
“This has been the strongest year – to this point in the first 10 races – that I can remember ever having,” Hamilton said.
“The journey’s been great and we’re going to go from strength to strength. We’ve got improvements coming, we’re understanding the car a lot.”
He’s exactly right. Hamilton’s best of his previous six seasons with Mercedes after 10 races was in 2015, when he had scored 202 points off the back of five wins. In 2019, he’s 21 points better off with two more wins.
Michael Schumacher’s rampant start to the 2004 season – nine wins from the first 10 races – will take some catching, but that was under the old point-scoring system.
This weekend’s German Grand Prix will mark 125 years of Mercedes motorsport, but the focus will quickly turn to the title fight and whether Bottas can claw back any ground, with Hamilton winning four of the last five races.
Years of tense battles with Nico Rosberg, which culminated in a thrilling 2016 title fight, only pushed Hamilton further as he closed out the ‘17 and ‘18 titles in brilliant fashion.
Bottas has long played second-fiddle to Hamilton since arriving at Mercedes in 2017, and suffered another crushing defeat at the last-start British Grand Prix where he again failed to convert pole into victory.
However, Bottas ruled out resorting to a psychologist like Rosberg did to help defeat Hamilton.
“For me it’s the man in the mirror that gives the answers if I had hard times or doubts and so on. I solve that with myself usually,” Bottas said.
“If you look at many other sports, many people use psychologists all the time and get some good help from that, but some not at all.
“I’m not Nico, you know, I’m Valtteri, and I know what works best for me.”
Hamilton and Bottas have always got along – so it seems – and the five-time world champion knows what pressure his teammate is under.
“It’s no secret that Valtteri wants to beat me and I want to beat him,” Hamilton said.
“That fighting spirit is stronger than anything, individually for all of us.
“I think it’s so vital though, to have a respect… I know how hard it is to wake up and deliver every weekend, as do these other drivers, so the respect is there between us.
“I think we want to race wheel-to-wheel and tough. When you’re racing with a teammate it’s on a different level.”