Lewis Hamilton wary of 2019 threat from Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc

Five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton says he will have to up his game next year in order to hold off the threat from the next generation of Formula One talent.

This year Hamilton took his fourth title in five years with Mercedes and the fifth championship victory of his career. For most of the season he was engaged in a head-to-head battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, but ultimately came out on top with two rounds remaining.

Hamilton is wary that his opposition could be even stronger next year as Sauber’s promising rookie Charles Leclerc moves to Ferrari and Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team joins forces with Honda. He said he would look to improve his own performance by reviewing his 2018 season with his engineers, especially his form at the first three races when he failed to score a victory.

“We will definitely look at the season at the end of the year and there are always areas you look at,” Hamilton said. “We didn’t win every single race, there were some mishaps at the beginning of the year and there is always room to improve. So I expect to do that and that’s my expectation in myself. I have got to work to do over this winter and there will be a slightly amended approach.

“Of course, you have to dig deep because you have these young kids that are coming. Leclerc at Ferrari will be hungry to prove a point and you’ve got Max who is still hungry to prove a point, so I have to make sure I am still there [at the top of my game].”

Leclerc, who has scored 33 points in his debut year with Sauber, said it was an honour to hear the world champion consider him as a threat in 2019.

“It’s definitely an honour to hear that from Lewis,” Leclerc said. “He’s an incredible driver, and I’ve watched him since quite a bit of years before arriving in Formula One.

“I’ll just try to do the best I can next year, but it’s definitely not going to be easy. He’s very experienced and an amazing driver. But it’s definitely good to hear that.”