Lewis Hamilton admits that he could sit back and think ‘I’m pretty good’, but that just isn’t how his mind works.
The Briton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven World Championships in a dominant 2020 campaign, while he also surpased the German’s benchmark for most career wins with Hamilton now having 95 to his name.
So, at this stage, it would be easy for Hamilton to sit back and revel in his achievements, but actually he is more focused on the threats that could come from rivals and how he stays ahead.
He also warned that the moment Mercedes as a team start to “rest on our laurels”, then they could be heading down the wrong path.
“I think there’s an under-appreciated workload that goes on for the people in the background and for the drivers in terms of interpreting the tools that we have,” he told Autosport.
“The detail to which we go to try to adjust these small things – a millimetre here, half a millimetre there of ride, for the shift of the front end, whatever it may be. But each year, I get this new set of tools and have to study like anybody has to study to be on top of those things [and] try to be ahead of the [other] drivers.
“I personally just don’t think, ‘Yes, I have six [now seven] world titles’. I could just sit back on them and think, ‘I’m pretty good’. But that’s not how my mind works.
“My mind is like, ‘jeez, these guys are chasing me, how do I stay ahead? How do I stay steps ahead? How do I help push the team to stay steps ahead?’ And that’s a really big process, because we can easily go down the wrong road – if we rest on our laurels.
“If you look at last year, it made the races so much harder for me when I didn’t perform to the best of my ability, generally, on the Saturdays.
“It just meant that the pressure was even higher for the Sunday, which I think is sometimes unnecessary pressure. So, this year, being able to work on that, with Bono [Peter Bonnington] and the engineers to make sure we’re delivering better performances on the Saturdays, that’s been a relief [in that it] makes Sunday generally, not easier, but just less pressured.”
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There’s no denying that, armed with the W11, Hamilton reached a new level of dominance in 2020, though he says it’s the defeats which make him stronger as a driver, rather than the wins.
There’s no greater example than the 2016 title battle with Nico Rosberg, the only season of the turbo-hybrid era where Hamilton has not won the World Championship.
“I am definitely one of those people that thinks the losses have made me stronger than the wins,” he confirmed.
“I definitely say that the hardest races are the ones that you grow from most. And that’s not only on the driver’s side, that’s also with all the engineers and mechanics – we feel it for days. And it definitely feeds you to come back and fight faster, harder the next time.”
“I’d be lying if I was to say that I wasn’t improving, I mean, if I wasn’t getting the results, and then perhaps it wouldn’t be improving, but I definitely am having to… I can’t stay still. This sport doesn’t stay still, technology is constantly evolving.”