We’re all hoping that the upcoming season can deliver a closely contested fight at the sharp end of the grid, and Lewis Hamilton wants the same thing. The four-time world champion set the pace in the W09 on the final day of testing with a 1.19.333 lap on the medium tyres, an early indicator that he will be involved in the title fight this year (if that was ever in doubt).
Interest in the title fight peaked last season when the fight between Hamilton and Vettel was swinging like a pendulum, and we only reached the point in which the fight was all but over very late on in the season. 2017 gave us something that had been missing in recent years, a genuine battle for the championship that involved more than one team. Hamilton sounds like he would prefer this sort of test again, saying:
“The closer it is, the better it is when you win. You want the guys you are racing to have a level playing field that you can really show that there are only small differences between us as drivers, and you want to be able to show that. It’s magnified if the cars are all the same.
“Honestly I just don’t focus too much on anyone else. I think ultimately for me and my mindset, if I am at my best then I should have no problems. That’s how I approach it. If I prepare myself in the best way and am as fit as I can be and I have the most energy and I’m feeling healthy, I’ve come with the right approach, I’m working hard, then I truly believe I won’t have any problems.
That’s generally what all the drivers will think. That’s what you have to think. It’s the same for a tennis player at their best. I’m sure if you asked [Roger] Federer, he will truly believe that if he’s trained hard and arrived feeling great, there’s no-one that can touch him. You have to be convinced that will be the case. That’s what you work towards.
So I don’t prepare myself and then hope that the next guy has issues so I can capitalise on them, I want him to be at his best because then it’s more painful for them when you do out-perform them.”
A Hamilton that sounds as motivated as this is a worrying prospect indeed. He is a driver who has exposed himself as being too influenced by his own mindset in the past, but he seems to thrive on race weekends in which he turns up with focus and a positive mindset, it works for him.
We can dream of a situation in which six cars have a chance of winning by the time the F1 flying circus arrives in Melbourne, but it’s difficult to transfer winter testing times into a realistic running order and we’ll only know part of the picture after the first race. Above the arguments in future regulations, manufacturer fallouts, conversations around broadcasting rights, let’s hope what Hamilton wants is realised. F1 is about the drivers, and if there are a handful who can create a bid for the title, then the sport’s appeal should take care of itself.