Lewis Hamilton finds his World Championship fight against Max Verstappen “much more enjoyable” than the internal conflict of duelling with a team-mate.
This season has marked a change to the last couple of years in that Hamilton has a strong rival to his crown from outside the Mercedes operation as he seeks a record-breaking eighth title.
But due to what he describes as the “confused” nature of Formula 1, Hamilton prefers having the enemy from outside of his camp rather than within it, which was the case with Nico Rosberg when the duo were team-mates and, on a far less intense scale, Valtteri Bottas in the past two seasons.
Asked during a video interview for the official Formula 1 YouTube channel how different a proposition it is to be fighting a title rival who does not have the same equipment, Hamilton said: “It’s much more enjoyable, I think.
“When you’re having an internal battle, because this sport is different to other sports…if you look at football, everyone is working towards the same goal.
“This sport is kind of confused because you have two championships – a team championship, with two drivers hired to score points for the team to win the championship, that’s the priority. Then individually, you have the two drivers that selfishly want to win the championship.
“So you’ve got this battle of tension and when you’re working against a guy opposite you, it’s much different to working with that person and fighting another team.
“I feel that makes better racing, that makes the championship more exciting when it’s team against team rather than internal.”
😱😱😱 Remember this one last year at Silverstone.
The wildest finish to a Grand Prix we've ever seen!pic.twitter.com/GVj7BH4qRA
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) July 13, 2021
The last time there was any real threat to Hamilton’s dominance from outside Mercedes was in 2018 when Sebastian Vettel led him by eight points after the British Grand Prix, but the tide turned as soon as the German crashed out of his home race straight afterwards.
“If I’m honest, it feels very similar to what we had with Vettel at Ferrari,” said Hamilton of the tussle with Verstappen. “Maybe it’s even closer than that.
“When you’re growing up and you’re in karting you have these wheel-to-wheel battles every weekend. It’s great that we are having these close, tight-knit battles.
“Those guys [Red Bull] are a little bit ahead at the moment and so we have a massive challenge to try and just make sure we maximum capitalise on any of their weak moments, if they ever have any, and really just try to extract the best of each and every one of us in the team.”