Lewis Hamilton wishes 'psychological war' with Ferrari had gone down to the wire

SUZUKA, Japan — Lewis Hamilton hoped this year’s title fight would go down to the final race of the season after relishing his head-to-head battle with Sebastian Vettel in 2018.

Hamilton took a fourth consecutive victory at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix and has all but put the championship beyond Vettel’s reach, with the British driver able to claim the title if he leads a Mercedes one-two at the U.S. Grand Prix later this month.

Hamilton’s championship lead has been significantly bolstered at the last three races after Mercedes started to outperform Ferrari from the Singapore Grand Prix onwards.

Asked if he felt he could claim credit for “breaking” Ferrari, Hamilton said it has been a team effort: “I think together we can claim credit for applying the pressure, and ultimately maybe that’s what happens in head-to-head battles with top competitors — eventually someone has to, even though they’re still performing great, one of them can’t always be performing the same.

“It’s the psychological battle, war, that we’re in. I think it’s collectively done from everyone. Everyone’s putting in 100 per cent and everyone’s delivered time and time again. I’ve been grateful to have also delivered when the team have delivered.”

Although Hamilton has held a championship lead of over 25 points since the German Grand Prix in July, Ferrari’s performances around the summer break suggested the title fight was far from over. Up until the Singapore Grand Prix in September, Ferrari appeared to have the quicker car and Hamilton took victories against the odds at Hockenheim, the Hungaroring and Monza.

He said those victories had been particularly satisfying and that he is disappointed that the title battle will not go down to the final race in Abu Dhabi next month.

“When we were having the race like Monza – for me, I loved that race. I would’ve been happy to have had that every race following that. I honestly thought that we were going to have that. I thought that was how it was going to be being that they were so strong at the previous two races. But they just lost a lot of performance, and then it’s been obviously a little bit difficult for them. Of course I would love to have the race right to the end.

“Every single race I want battles like Monza and like the other ones that have been like that. Those are the races that I love, and I would welcome them more and more, but unfortunately it just isn’t the case. I can’t let that take away from the great job that we’re doing and from our happiness.”