Lewis Hamilton is preparing for “war” as he aims to tame his “stubborn” Mercedes ahead of the next round of his title battle with Sebastian Vettel.
The Briton is 34 points clear of Vettel heading into this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, having increased his lead at the last two races despite being off the pace.
Hamilton came home second in Malaysia last week as Mercedes were slower than both Red Bull and Ferrari. Vettel recovered from last on the grid to finish fourth but still lost further ground, having crashed out at the first corner in the previous round in Singapore.
That has left Hamilton in a strong position to claim a fourth word championship but both he and Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff were unhappy with the team’s performance last time out. Now Hamilton wants to be be in peak condition to move closer to the title at Suzuka.
“Still this deep into the season I have no idea where it (the car) is going be good, where it’s going be great – like Silverstone – or where it’ll be a real struggle like Malaysia or Singapore.
“All I’ve got to do is make sure I’m fit, healthy, focused, there on time, at the meeting, understood the car and I’ve done my study. Basically prepare for war. That’s what I try and do, make sure every weekend I’m the best prepared I can be.”
Wolff labelled this season’s Mercedes a “diva” after Monaco but Hamilton has his own interpretation and believes he has plenty in common with his car.
“I didn’t say it was a diva. Toto did,” he added. “I don’t know if I have as good a word as that. Not that’s it’s a diva. Stubborn, but it’s cool because I’m stubborn.
“Me and the car have lots of things in common, because it has got great potential but doesn’t always want to do what you tell it to do. That’s the best way of describing it.”
Vettel started last in Malaysia after an engine problem meant he was unable to set a time in qualifying. He was also involved in a strange incident at the end of the race when he and the Williams of Lance Stroll collided on the cool-down lap.
Vettel’s Ferrari was left stranded as he hitched a lift back to the pits on the Sauber of Pascal Wehrlein – but tests showed he does not require a gearbox change heading into this weekend.
The German believes Ferrari now need to be at their best to overhaul Hamilton after his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was also plagued by issues in Malaysia – qualifying second before a battery issue prevented him from starting.
“We are behind in the championship so we need to score much more than them (Mercedes),” he said.
“How we achieve it doesn’t matter as long as we achieve it. It will be much more straightforward if we get our optimum and ideally win a lot of races, then we have a better chance.”