MONACO • Lewis Hamilton has said that he has no intention of entering a psychological battle with his Formula One world championship rival Sebastian Vettel as the duo prepare to battle each other in the unique challenge of the Monaco Grand Prix this Sunday.
Just six points separate the two drivers at the top of the table and, with their respective Mercedes and Ferrari cars closely matched, the season is likely to be nip and tuck between the pair throughout.
But Hamilton, who has been revelling in the competition, is insistent that he does not want mind games to detract from their on-track fight.
That there is still so little to choose between the pair was clear in Monte Carlo yesterday, with the Briton topping the first practice session, only two-tenths ahead of Vettel.
The German then topped the second practice session, with Hamilton down in eighth.
Both drivers have two wins apiece this season, with Hamilton on the front foot going into this weekend's race, having won at the last round in Barcelona.
Now in his 11th season in F1, the three-time world champion, who has grown in maturity considerably during that period, believes he is well prepared psychologically for a long struggle.
"I take a lot of pride in the fact I am very strong mentally," he said. "I think that's something you can admire when battling someone else like Sebastian or Fernando Alonso."
Over the previous three seasons his relationship with his former team-mate Nico Rosberg deteriorated and there was an element of mind games between the pair, but Hamilton has already stressed that the competition with another team makes for a very different dynamic.
Specifically, he has been clear that he is enjoying this competition, in stark contrast to the battle with Rosberg and that he wants his fight to remain above board with Vettel, who is hoping to end his team's long drought in the most glamorous - and slowest - race on the calendar with a first Ferrari win in Monaco since 2001.
"I want him to be his best when he gets in the car so I don't have any intention of playing psychological wars outside the car," he said.
"I want to beat him in the car because when he's at his best and I beat him, that says what it needs to say rather than having him on the back foot."
Hamilton did acknowledge that an element of mental competition would likely become part of their contest as the season went on.
"It's definitely going to be part of it this year for both of us," he said.
"It's such a long year, just like it is in golf over 18 holes - whoever is the most consistent generally ends up winning. I am excited about that, it's an all-round battle, physically, mentally, technically and I think that's why it's a great battle."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS